Moss Beach is a coastal census-designated place in San Mateo County, California, with a year 2010 census population of 3,103. Located in Moss Beach are the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, a marine sanctuary; the Half Moon Bay Airport, the historic Moss Beach Distillery and the Seal Cove Inn, a destination lodging property. Moss Beach is naturally a foggy, drippy microclimate that gives one a sense of isolation from nearby cosmopolitan regions, and assures that summer temperatures are generally mild.
Moss Beach is situated approximately 20 miles (32 km) south of San Francisco and 50 miles (80 km) north of Santa Cruz, California. Nearby towns include Montara to the north, El Granada, Princeton-by-the-Sea, and Half Moon Bay to the south. According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 2.3 square miles (6.0 km2), all land.
In the state legislature Moss Beach is located in the 8th Senate District, represented by Democrat Leland Yee, and in the 19th Assembly District, represented by Democrat Gene Mullin. Federally, Moss Beach is located in California's 12th congressional district, which has a Cook PVI of D +22 and is currently held by Jackie Speier.
Due to the marine air currents off of the Pacific Ocean, Moss Beach experiences above average fog levels, but also superior ambient air quality. Note the everpresent fog in the photo to the right (the circular blotches are not a special effect, but a result of the droplets formed on the camera lens cover). Situated along the coast of Moss Beach is the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, a California designated area of Special Biological Significance. The reserve boasts a scenic blufftop trail through ancient Cypress groves overlooking the Pacific Ocean, historically interesting tidepools and a variety of significant marine animals and pelagic birds. The unique outcroppings along the beach are part of the Franciscan formation, a favorite of local geologists.
Montara State Marine Reserve & Pillar Point State Marine Conservation Area extend offshore from Moss Beach. Like underwater parks, these marine protected areas help conserve ocean wildlife and marine ecosystems.
An occurrence of the rare plant Hickman's potentilla, Potentilla hickmanii was observed by E.C. Suttliffe in 1933 in the vicinity of the mouth of San Vicente Creek within Moss Beach. This colony was not further documented for decades, but another colony was discovered toward the end of the 20th century north of Moss Beach. The plant was listed as an endangered species by the United States government in 1998, and had previously been listed as California endangered in 1973.