I think that no matter where you live, you can find surprises at every turn, if you're the sort of person who keeps their eyes open. But I think it is especially true on the California coast. Out here, if you venture just a tiny bit outside of your usual zone (which, for us, is a relatively normal little neighborhood in the heart of the Silicon Valley tech world), it's wild. It's wilderness. And it's full of colorful and bizarre surprises. A few weeks ago Jordan and I handed Sam over to a babysitter, as we do occasionally, and wandered over to Half Moon Bay to catch the sunset. When we got to the beach I had in mind to explore, we noticed something odd: instead of the usual sights of daytime beachgoers hiking back to their cars at dusk with armloads of beach chairs and surfboards, everyone was wearing galoshes and lugging five-gallon buckets. I stopped someone and asked what was going on (I've been here a year and a half now, but I find that I'm still asking that question constantly), and she said, "Tide is extra low tonight! Everyone's harvesting mussels!" So we made our way out on the exposed reef, and we explored tide pool after tide pool, navigating around mollusks, urchins, anemones, limpets, and the long arms of kelp that stretched across the rocks, and we even found a starfish (pictured below), who got snatched up by about fifteen seagulls at once and carried out to sea in a huge ruckus. (Luckily for him, the gulls fought so hard over him that he got dropped straight back into the water, five arms flailing. Poor dude. He was really beautiful, too; I hope he made it home.)
And then, after the sun went down, we went across the street to Half Moon Bay Brewing Company, for--what else?--mussels and clams and calamari, because, for some morbid reason, looking at sea creatures makes you want to eat sea creatures.
If you're looking for a great adventure, with or without kids (I'm totally going to bring Sam back to this spot and let him experience the joys of stepping on and subsequently getting squirted by sea anenomes), check the tide charts and then go hit Pillar Point. Park in the Tide Pools Parking Lot and then take the flat path down to the beach--it's about a half-mile (I think it would doable with a stroller, provided you could carry the stroller the last 30 feet or so).