Nationally recognised Heysham cafe owner says he “only came to windsurf and sell a few sausages”

Tony Smith, right, with staff at Half Moon Bay Cafe
Tony Smith, right, with staff at Half Moon Bay Cafe
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The owner of a a beachside cafe in Heysham says he is “chuffed” to have been included in a national newspaper’s list of 20 of the top coastal cafes and restaurants in the country.

With views out across Morecambe Bay, and plenty of opportunities for rock-pooling, paddling and windsurfing just a few metres away, Half Moon Bay Cafe is a little gem of a place.

The covered seating area at the back of the cafe

The covered seating area at the back of the cafe

Whilst the power station and industrial area to the south are apparent, looking north towards a blue and shimmering Morecambe Bay, edged by south Lakeland’s coastal villages, and the Lake District fells on the horizon, the view certainly packs a punch.

Half Moon Bay Cafe owner Tony Smith, 57, says he only came to Heysham to windsurf and sell a few sausages.

The former joiner, a victim of the financial crash that decimated building sites in 2008, has windsurfed for 20 years, and decided on a new, slower paced path, after struggling to find work.

Thus he rocked up onto a grass verge in Smithy Lane with a small sandwich van in 2008 and has never looked back.

Looking out over Morecambe Bay

Looking out over Morecambe Bay

“There used to be a cafe here from the 1930s until 1972, and this cafe is virtually on exactly the same footings,” says Tony, showing me a framed black and white photo from the wall above the entrance door.

“It looks like the wild west!

“After bringing the van down, in between windsurfing, I got a bigger van, and then in 2011, I built the cafe and it’s just gone from there.

“I only came here initially to windsurf in the bay and sell a few sausages!

The original Half Moon Bay cafe

The original Half Moon Bay cafe

“I used to be a joiner but when the recession hit in 2008 and things collapsed I was looking for something else to do.

“None of it was planned really.

“But eventually I’ve been able to buy the plot and build the cafe.

“I think people see it as a relaxing place, we’re very relaxed.

“It’s dog walking territory.

“We’re not upmarket, we like to think that we’re ‘cheap and cheerful’ but good quality as well.

“The regulars keep us going over the winter, and we’re open 360 days a year.

“We close a bit earlier in the winter and I put a log burner in to keep the chill off.”

The Guardian featured Half Moon Bay Cafe in its 20 of the UK’s best seaside cafes and restaurants: readers’ travel tips feature this week.

Tony says he knows the guy, Graham, who tipped them off.

“We’re all really chuffed that we’ve been included in the list. We didn’t expect it”, he said.

“It’s a nice thing to happen, and we must be doing something right!

“We’re a little hidden gem here.”

As for windsurfing, Tony, who commutes from Chorley, probably wouldn’t be here otherwise.

“Windsurfing has shaped my life,” he says, looking out across the water.

“Here is one of the few places in the North West where you can windsurf all day long, even at low tide, because there’s always a small body of water there.

“Anyone who works here knows that if there’s a wind up, I’ll be off out there!”

Half Moon Bay Cafe is open from 9am until 4.30pm in the warmer months, closing earlier in winter.

It is dog friendly and sells a range of hot and cold food including “classic English favourites”.