It’s neither raining nor freezing — must be spring. Before it rolls out with the fog, introduce your kiddo to a favorite coastal sport: tide pooling.
Herewith, tips from Ann Bauer, director of education at The Marine Mammal Center, and Ellen Gartside, president of the Friends of Fitzgerald Marine Reserve.
Where to Go
The pools at San Mateo’s Fitzgerald Marine Reserve (200 Nevada Avenue, Moss Beach; 650-728-3584) are famously accessible and abundant, but there’s also good tiding to be had at Pigeon Point (South Coastside; 650-879-2120) and Bean Hollow (11000 Cabrillo Highway, Pescadero; 650-879-2170). Closer to the city are Slide Ranch’s coastal trail (2025 Shoreline Highway, Muir Beach; 415-381-6155), Muir Beach’s rocky shore (1 Cove Lane, Muir Beach; 415-561-4700), and Duxbury Reef — all in Marin. Farther north in Sonoma, anemone heads swear by Bodega Bay’s Shell Beach (10439 California 1, Jenner; 707-875-3483).
When to Go
The best (and safest) time of year is right now — at low tide. Check the tide charts online and plan to arrive an hour or so before the lowest tide. This often means getting up at the crack of dawn, but your kids do that anyway.
What to Wear
The rocks, especially where sheltering barnacles or blanketed in kelp, are slippery and sharp. Long pants and grippy, waterproof boots or shoes are a must. And don’t forget a change of clothes in case you all get soaked (you will).
Rules to Follow
At first, mini beachcombers may not realize the colorful creatures below are actually alive and that their homes are fragile. Tell them to step around (not on) sea stars, barnacles, anemones, and other animals. If their hands are lotion free, they can touch the natives lightly with one finger but shouldn’t pick them up or poke them. And if they spot a seal or sea lion (it’s pupping season), make sure they give it a wide berth.
Keep your tots close and one eye on the waves. After the lowest tide, large waves can move in fast. See them coming? It’s time to give your little urchins a break.
Animals of Hyde Street Pier
What: Get an eyeful of coastal creatures in their home — courtesy of low tide.
Why: For this, you don’t have to get up early.
When: Today, 10:15 a.m.; Thurs., 1:30 p.m.
Where: San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, 499 Jefferson St., at Hyde St., at the end of the pier (415-447-5000). Free.
Appel & Frank Babes and Babies
What: A shopping event for new and expecting moms, packed with goods and services from the likes of Origany and Nancy Alcott Photography.
Why: Check one more thing off your list.
When: Sat., 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
Where: Mill Valley Community Center, 180 Camino Alto, b/t E. Blithedale & Sycamore Aves. Tickets online at appelandfrank.com. Preorder, free; at the door, $5.
Short Attention Span Circus
What: A silly, fast-paced show full of juggling and rola-bola feats that’ll leave you gasping.
Why: It’s all in the balance.
When: Sat., 11-11:30 a.m.
Where: Bay Area Discovery Museum, E. Fort Baker, 557 McReynolds Rd., Sausalito (415-339-3900). Tickets online at baykidsmuseum.org. Members, $5; general adult, $12; general child, $10 (includes museum admission).
Photo: Mimi Hadon / Getty Images