Moss Beach was founded in the 1880s by German immigrant Juergen Wienke. Wienke saw the area as a vacation attraction and health spa for city dwellers in San Francisco. He built the Moss Beach Hotel which drew overflow crowds even though the only route was a dirt road around San Pedro Mountain. Later, celebrities including Jack London and Luther Burbank boarded the Ocean Shore train to Moss Beach to fish and catch abalone.
During the heyday of this era, many notable marine biologists such as S.F. Lights and Edward Smith studied and collected specimens along the shoreline of Moss Beach. In 1969, the Moss Beach tide pool area, now known as Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, was designated as a natural reserve for plants and animals adapted to live at the edge of the ocean. Today, more than 130,000 visitors come to the reserve each year.