Our first destination to explore is the town of Hercules, formed during the United States’ Industrial Revolution of the late 1800s. A company called the California Powder Works was a part of this and made mostly black powders that would be used as gunpowder and in sticks of dynamite. The company sold its substance under the name of ‘Hercules Powder,’ an ode to the Greek God as a show of its strength, and the town of Hercules was so named.
Up ahead, you’ll turn right on Sycamore. On the opposite corner you’ll find a bar and restaurant inspired by the town’s explosive history: The Powder Keg. Guests here brag about the “explosively good time” they had and how the craft cocktails are a “blast.” With a predominantly seafood-centric menu, for you land lovers, The San Franciscan Sandwich will blow up your taste buds: a patty melt on grilled sourdough, grilled onions, cheddar cheese, tomatoes, and thousand island dressing. After consuming it there could very well be shrapnel of the San Franciscan sandwich splattered on your face and hands. Let’s bolt out down Sycamore Ave until we arrive at our next destination, Duck Pond Park, and we’ll try to tone it down with the detonating adjectives!
On your left is this lovely park on the south side of Hercules. In addition to the basketball court, you’ll find bocce ball courts and horseshoe pits. There is also a paved trail with a few dirt trails for walking and hiking. Duck Pond Park has also been the destination for some weddings and special occasions. If you are with the kids, consider going right across the street to Frog Pad Park where there is a playground, sundial, and another short trail for biking and walking. Continue down Sycamore until you have reached The Jumping Spoon.
When was the last time you had some buckwheat noodles? This Korean restaurant serves them up daily in dishes such as Mul-naengmyeon which serves the noodles in beef broth or spicy sauce. You can also sample their famous fried chicken which will detonate in your mouth with explosive flavor (remember, we are still in Hercules). What makes Korean-style fried chicken different from American? A frying technique is used that renders out the fat in the skin, transforming it into a thin, crackly, and almost transparent crust. Less fat in our fried foods? Yes, please!
Continue down Sycamore and turn left onto San Pablo. We will shortly be arriving in Victoria By the Bay, our next point of interest on this tour.
The shopping center on the left side of San Pablo Avenue is home to Ta’ere Tia Polynesian Dance and Cultural Arts Center- an award-winning dance group that works to inspire and encourage cultural awareness in the community’s youth in a fun and creative way. Polynesian dance contains cultural multitudes, encompassing Tahitian, Tongan, Samoan, Fijian, Maori (from New Zealand), and Hawaiian styles. Polynesian dance is the art of moving the body as an instrument of expression and communication. It's not only a fun way to stay active, but also a form of exercise that increases strength, stamina, and flexibility. At Ta’ere Tia, students learn the fundamentals of teamwork and focus, while building confidence and cultural awareness.
This northern section of Hercules is also home to numerous essential businesses, like healthcare, dentistry, banks, and other community services.
Continue on San Pablo and make a left onto Victoria Crescent West until you reach the end of the street. This takes us to Shoreline Park, our next destination.
The small planned community of Victoria is entirely residential, with walking trails and parks woven into the fabric of its design. The crown jewel of the town is Shoreline Park.
Here you will find breathtaking views of San Pablo Bay, with opportunities to walk on the beach and sink your toes in the water in designated areas. This includes places to fish and search for seashells. The park also has jungle gyms and athletic fields as well as bbq grills and picnic tables.
Shoreline Park is also along The San Francisco Bay Trail that welcomes hikers, joggers, bicyclists, skaters, and wheelchair users to more than 350 miles of trails that circle the bay. Sections of the Bay Trail exist in all nine Bay Area counties and pass through a whopping 125 parks.
Let’s head back out the way we came and hang a left onto San Pablo. We will be approaching our next destination on this tour, Rodeo.
Turn left down Willow Ave which turns into Parker Ave and approaches Garretson Field and the Lefty Gomez Recreation Center. Here you’ll find a great ballpark that is hosted by the Rodeo Pony Baseball league. ‘Pony’ stands for “Protect Our Nation's Youth”, an organization dedicated to coaching youngsters the right way so as to limit injuries. One way of doing this is enacting a ‘pitch-count’ meaning players can only throw a certain number of pitches per game, thus protecting and conserving their young arms.
The park is also known for the car shows that occur during the weekends. Locals and those from surrounding areas show off their hot rods and tricked-out trucks. This also provides the opportunity for chili cook-offs which are common at the car shows at Garretson field.
Continue down Parker ave and bear left onto Pacific Ave until you have reached Four Fools Winery. Overlooking the San Pablo Bay, visitors can relax in the event room, adjacent garden, and breezy outdoor deck. Many of the wines they make are labeled after jesters, clowns, and the like. You know... Fools! There is even a Harley Quinn (the on-again-off-again girlfriend of the Joker) white wine. Four Fools prides itself on offering a unique, romantic setting with a definite alternative vibe on the Bay. There is also an AirBnB on site for those looking to make a night out of it. Bridal showers, receptions, and weddings are popular events that take place at the winery, taking advantage of the ambiance and breathtaking views.
Rodeo, California is known as a ‘Census Designated Place.’ This means information regarding the town and its inhabitants is used for correlating statistical data by the U.S Census Bureau. Unlike incorporated towns or cities, there is no legally defined boundary separating Rodeo from neighboring towns, and no dedicated local governing body. CDPs like Rodeo fall under the legal jurisdiction of their county.
Let’s check out Rodeo’s neighbor to the north, Tormey.
Head north on San Pablo as we hug the coast of the bay and pass the Phillips 66 Refinery Plant. Much like the town of Hercules to its south, Tormey was host to more of the west coast's involvement in the American Industrial Revolution. The company began as Conoco in 1875 and was among the few Petroleum marketers west of the Mississippi. During World War II, Phillips Petroleum and Conoco made high-octane aviation fuel possible, boosting the power of Allied airplanes.
The town is named after its founding brothers, John and Patrick Tormey, who emigrated from Ireland and settled in California in the mid-1800s. Like many immigrants of the era, the brothers experienced many successes and failures. Like many others that settled in the Bay Area, they were attracted here by the gold rush between 1848 and 1852.
Tormey is a tiny community with just a few homes along its streets. Selby, the neighboring community up ahead is also relatively small, but features a few more residences and some spectacular views of the bay.
Continuing north on San Pablo we will come to Vista Point, a scenic view area. This area provides a gorgeous view of the Carquinez Bridge, San Pablo Bay, and Benicia Bridge. Visitors will be delighted to see beautiful wildflowers lining the slope. It is not very touristy so locals go and enjoy a quiet lunch on one of the benches provided at Vista Point.
Let’s keep going down San Pablo and coming up on your left is The Dead Fish. Is it named after The Grateful Dead, the band that called San Francisco home for so many years? Or perhaps a combination of The Grateful Dead and the band Phish, another “jam band” with a cult following. Actually, it's named that because the owner used to ask his grandmother what kind of seafood was for dinner that night and she replied, “Dead Fish.” And so there you have it. Speaking of said ‘dead fish,’ Dungeness crab is the specialty here and is harvested from the nearby Pacific Ocean. The whole crab is roasted and drizzled with their signature crab butter sauce. In and around the bay area, the season usually begins in November, and cracked crab is as much a tradition at some NorCal Thanksgiving tables as turkey.
They host large parties whose visitors, in addition to devouring delicious seafood, enjoy the views which overlook the Napa River as it flows through the Carquinez Straits and into San Pablo Bay. There’s also a view of the Carquinez Bridge, and in the springtime, after fresh rains, the surrounding grassy hills are a bright, lush green.
Continue on San Pablo which will soon become Pomona Avenue as we make our way under Interstate 80 and into the town of Crockett.
Unlike the previous two spots, Crockett is a proper town, with bars, restaurants, shops, parks and schools lining Pomona Avenue. Some standout spots in town:
Toot’s Tavern is a local favorite watering hole, with live music on the weekends and karaoke nights on tuesdays.
You may also notice more than a couple art galleries along the road. Crockett has a vibrant art scene, with plenty of storefronts where local artists show off their best work and artisans sell their wares in media such as stained glass and leatherworks.
Up ahead, Crockett Boulevard veers off to the right. Head down that way to see Crockett Hills Regional Park. is a great place to go hiking or mountain biking. The topography of the Park and the adjoining Carquinez Regional Shoreline consists of open, rolling grasslands, wooded ravines, eucalyptus-shaded meadows, and riverbanks. Multi-purpose trails provide access to canyon views and ridgetop vistas. Visitors note that the trails can be muddy so be sure to bring your boots with you.
When you’ve seen enough of the Park, turn around and head back to Pomona Avenue, where you’ll take a right. Directly across the street you’ll see John Swett High School.
On the far side of the school, you’ll find The Old Homestead. As the name suggests, this venue attempts and succeeds at servicing as a charming period home. The house was constructed in 1867 and is a California Historical Landmark and was the first non-native dwelling built in Crockett. It has become a popular venue for events, from informal barbecues to elegant weddings. Its star attractions are the decades-old Redwood Trees that adorn the property.
On your left you’ll pass Rolph Park, where Crockett’s citizens can make use of the community pool and recreational facilities. Farther down the road, Pomona Avenue will change into Carquinez scenic drive, which runs alongside protected park land on the left.
In addition to the much-walked Bull Valley Trail, this park is also where you’ll find Eckley Pier, where you can fish to your heart’s content without having to obtain a fishing license. Salmon, Halibut, Striped Bass, Flounder, and Steelhead are just some of the delicious catches waiting below the surface. It is also a great spot for the whole family as the location offers picnic and park areas in addition to great views of the Carquinez shoreline. There you’ll see the unending flotilla of boats and ships that traverse this inland waterway.
At the turnoff to Eckley Pier you’ll find a parking lot called the Bull Valley Staging Area.This is a nice spot for a shorter hike that is easy to moderate in difficulty and is not heavily trafficked and has well-traversed trails. Keep those eyes peeled for birds that call the area home like western meadowlark and American goldfinch, owls, and hawks.
Okay, let’s head down Carquinez Scenic Drive and make our way to Port Costa, the last town on today’s tour.
We are now towards the end of our tour and it’s time for some spirits and libations. The Bull Valley Roadhouse is just what we need right now and they are serving up early American-style cocktails to help us unwind. The Buster Brown just might be a great choice. It’s Wild Turkey 101 bourbon with lemon, orange bitters, and gum syrup. Another delicious option is the Fog Cutter, which is made with Hamilton Demerara 86 Rum, François Voyer VS Cognac, Ford's Dry Gin, orgeat, lemon, orange, and finally Lustau East India Sherry. Ok after enjoying those craft cocktails, let's make sure someone else is the designated driver as we venture out.
On the water’s edge, you’ll find the San Pablo ferry terminal. It was once a large terminal for the Southern Pacific Railroad. Now there is the partially dilapidated part of what once existed and now is an area providing great views of Martinez, Benicia, and the Benicia Bridge. There is a beach as well as nice spots for fishing and watching boats go by, some of which are large cargo ships making the trip from San Francisco Bay to Sacramento.
Out we go to Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline Park. This parkland provides a gateway to the river delta region along the northern edge of Contra Costa County. The sights and sounds of tugboats along this broad waterway are also part of the charm and excitement of the Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline. Showcasing its role in the Industrial Revolution, the remnants of a former brickworks dating back to the turn of the century, recall the historic character of the site.
Well, that’s all I’ve got for you today! If you want to learn more about the East Bay area, make sure to check out the UCPlaces tours of Central Contra Costa County and the Tri-Valley Area! When you’re ready to start the search for your next home, contact our local expert Barbara Brodrick. You can reach her via email at email@example.com or call 925-403-1213. Have a great day!