USA Travel Diary Day 4 – Año Nuevo State Park

Today, daughter no 2 has lab time booked so we say we will entertain ourselves, then return via the shops to buy food, so at least when she comes home, dinner is sorted. (This is our intention – in reality, she returns to find us in the jacuzzi drinking cocktails).


We are now well acclimatised to the US; not only do we sleep until 7.30, but we have blueberry waffles for breakfast. Waffles consumed, and daughter no 2 despatched, we head to the west coast, driving down Route 1 to Año Nuevo State Park where, you can follow a trail to a bay where elephant seals breed.


Our first stop is at Pescadero State Beach, where a rock just out to sea is covered with pelicans, resting in between diving missions into the sea in search of fish. I don’t feel I’m properly on holiday until I’ve spotted pelicans. We descend onto the beach where I manage to slip off the edge of a sand mound and land on my arse. Not quite what I planned – plus it scares the pelicans into inertia.

We continue to Año Nuevo Sate Park. Seal mating season is in December. Our visit, right at the end of November, is just as the male seals are starting to come ashore to find good spots on the beach to wait for the ladies – it’s a bit like Germans getting up early to put their towels on deckchairs. First we must obtain the necessary permits to access the observation point (and visit the gift shop for the obligatory fridge magnet). It’s a two mile hike along a trail and then across sand dunes to the viewing point.

Pelican flight path

The first part involves walking between the ocean and a lake, basically under a pelican flight path. We watch the birds as they come overhead so low that water dripping out of their bills drips onto our heads.

Ano Nuevo State Park
Año Nuevo State Park

At the first viewpoint, there are telescopes pointing at an island so you can view sea lions on the rocks. At sea, daughter no 1 spots a sea otter. The telescope is powerful enough that we are able to watch the otter lying on its back washing its face as it bobs around in the waves.

Seals on the beach
Seals on the beach

After a bit of a clamber over the dunes, we reach the edge of the beach where the seals congregate before moving on to the breeding beach. At first I think the beach is empty, because the seals are (a) much paler in colour than I’d realised and (b) they cover themselves with sand to protect their skin from the sun. In fact, there are around 70 seals lazing around in the sun, just chilling before the action of mating season begins. There are very informative wardens on hand, so by the time we leave, we are elephant seal experts.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse

After a quick stop at Pigeon Point to see the 19th Century lighthouse, we drive back up Route 1, taking a 2 mile detour inland to Arcangeli’s grocery store. According to Lonely Planet, a trip to Arcangeli’s to buy their speciality garlic and artichoke bread is a must. We order build-your-own sandwiches from the deli. I opt for herb focaccia with Swiss cheese, Pepper Jack cheese, chipotle mayo, pickles and sweet peppers – a winning combination. Daughter no 1 is so hungry she wants to sit in the car park outside the store and eat. I want to return two miles up the road to eat by the ocean rather than a car park. After a brief hangry argument, I win and we eat our lunch at Pescadero Park, watching pelicans swooping off the rocks in search of their own lunch.

Arcangeli Garlic and Artichoke Bread

We drive back to Palo Alto, stopping at the farmers market to buy vegetables to go with our garlic and artichoke bread. Back at the flat, we decide that we’re on holiday and a trip to the pool/jacuzzi is in order. We finish our swim, and are in the jacuzzi sipping cocktails when daughter no 2 finishes work and tracks us down. Then it’s back to the flat for dinner and check out if the bread is worth the hype – it is indeed very tasty. To be honest, at $7.99 a loaf, it’s probably the most expensive loaf of bread I’ve ever bought, so it ought to be!


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