Site of many wedding engagement pictures and even a few movies Montara Beach is a spectacular beach located just south of the City of Pacifica. It is also popular with surfers and those interested in exploring tidal pools. It is also the nearest beach to Devils Slide and the new Tom Landos Tunnels. The beach for years was also referred to as McNee Ranch. The beach is one of the cleanest and best maintained I have seen in California.
There are ways to get into Montara Beach,. One access is across from Second Street in Montara, immediately south of the Outrigger restaurant. The second access is located about a half-mile north on the ocean side of Highway 1. The path down from Highway 1 is steep and slippery. The town of Montara is located just to the south of Montara Beach.
Dogs are allowed if on a leach at the beach. No beach fires are allowed.
Mention a tunnel in California on Virtual Tourist and most likely all but a few will yawn and look for a more jaw dropping location. Growing up in San Mateo County when my father suggested taking a ride past Devils Slide my mother would immediately utter, "why would we want to go on that unsafe road and fall into the ocean." Needless to say I was scared to death and the concept of a tunnel never entered my young mind. However the recently opened Tom Lantos Tunnel over the former Devils Slide area in must be seen.
The tunnel replaced an area of State Highway 1 with both some of the most breathtaking views and dangerous passages in the state. Devils Slide is an area that refers to an unstable area of rocks between the towns of Pacifica and Montara. Similar in some ways to Big Sur in terms of views the Devils Slide area was so steep that there were no areas to pull over and enjoy the view so to many tour books the area was only briefly mentioned. It all started in 1935 when the State of California built a portion of the highway that crossed the Devils Slide area. Over the years rock slides closed the highway for extensive periods of time. Earthquakes along the San Andreas Fault caused portions of the highway to fall into the ocean over the years as well. In 1995 unstable ground caused the road to close for 195 days resulting in commuters having to take a 2 1/2 hour bypass.
Caltrans, the State of California's Highway builders, had been studying the issue of an alternative roadway to Devils Slide since the 1960's. According to an article in Transportation Nation they deemed a tunnel option to costly. However after the five month closure of Highway 1 because of Devils Slide in 1995, a tunnel ballot measure was put on the San Mateo County ballot. The measure calling for construction of a tunnel was approved by 74% of the voters.
However finding money for the tunnel was not easy. In addition, environmentalists argued that construction of the tunnel would result in significant adverse impacts that could not be mitigated. Finally federal funds were received and construction begin in 2007.
Fast forward six years and $ 435 million later and the tunnels were finally finished. This represented the first time in over 50 years that a tunnel had been built in California on a state or federal highway. The engineering is absolutely state of the art and there are 32 large ventilation fans that provide both air and keep out moisture for motorists. The tunnels are named after the late Tom Lantos a congressman who represented San Mateo County.
Driving through the tunnel on its second day of opening at the challenging speed of 30 miles an hour was a reminder of the past with an appreciation of how far technology and engineering have come since I was a boy.
Great place to go and sightsee. Fish for free from the pier. This place can be packed on the weekends but for the most part. Many local fisherman and woman come here to fish, catch up on their week and just plain have fun. You'll see quite a few "tricked out" fishing gear for example, there is a petite woman with a large roller board bag outfitted with PVC pipe on the outside to hold all of her fishing poles. On the inside, there is a "boom box" or stereo system to play all of her favorite music, all of her fishing utensils, flies, weights, hooks, etc and a place to put all of her caught fish of the day. Other people have small set-ups for bar-b-queing their catch on the pier. I'm not sure it that's allowed!! I've seen people catch Crab, Salmon, flounder and anchovies during their seasons. It's a wonderful, vibrant place to be if you're a fisherman.
I do recommend that you layer in clothing, jackets, hats, gloves during the day. It can look sunny and bright but the cold front does move in fairly quickly as well as the fog.
If you don't want to travel too far to Sonoma or the Napa Valley, just down the road (about 1/2 hour's drive), we have the La Nebbia Winery formerly known as the Obester Winery. They do not hold tours there but they do have a tasting room with great quality wines. For just $5.00 a glass, you can taste about 3 wonderfully aromatic white wines, 1 bubbly champagne and 3 full bodied reds and you get to keep the glass!! How good of a deal is that?? It's a wonderful little rest stop before or even after stopping in the sleepy little town of Half Moon Bay. Travelling into Half Moon Bay on Highway 92 on the weekends can be a drag with the long line of cars snaking into town on the two lane road. Which probably is a good thing because if you're going too fast, you could miss the winery and all the other little shops along this way.