Driving “The Peninsula” of California

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Two weeks ago, I learned that I should call this part of California “The Peninsula.” Quick definition: it’s everything on the peninsular land around San Francisco, except for the city itself.

From Monterey I drove toward and through Santa Cruz. There, I saw the first Safeway in months, a reminder of my northward journey. In Southern California, these stores are named Vons, though they’re laid out in the same fashion and sell the same products. Both logos are cherry red and white, but after staring at the Vons sign for a few years Safeway now feels less polished. Anything outside of Southern California, once you’ve been there for some time, feels less polished, no?


Most of my driving days are full of pit stops, turning out at scenic viewpoints, stopping to explore small towns. Today I stay in the driver’s seat; everything I’m interested in experiencing can be done so from the car. It’s a day of views; to my left is the ocean and one lighthouse, and to my right, a mishmash of hills fluctuating into valleys, then back into hills, and they are often green – yet another sign I am traveling north.

The lighthouse is a part of Pigeon Point Light Station State Historic Park, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a designated California Historic Landmark. An on-site hostel grants a rare opportunity to stay in what were once the lighthouse keepers’ quarters, and the lighthouse itself is tied for the tallest on the west coast at 115 feet. The public hasn’t been allowed inside since 2001, due to a crumbling brick infrastructure.

I make my way through The Peninsula. Distances between towns shorten as San Francisco becomes closer. Half Moon Bay meanders into Pacifica, many more streets and lights come into play as Daly City comes into view, and then, there is San Francisco.

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Learn more about traveling through The Peninsula here.


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