The California Coast: Tawney’s 5 favorites
Oh the California Coastline, it’s what dreams are made of. Sometimes I catch myself driving to Malibu, keeping an eye out for dolphins, with the wind in my hair, and the Beach Boys on Pandora. It’s so magnificently cliché.
For New Years we took a few days to drive the coast south from San Francisco. We spent time in Santa Cruz, Monterey, Pebble Beach, Carmel, up into Carmel Mountain where we stayed with family friends I haven’t seen since I was 6, then to Big Sur with a stop by Half Moon Bay for lunch before we were back to the city. The California Highway 1 is a gift from god. I have some friends who commute to work on the 1. Imagine if this was your drive to work!
I lived, surfed, and sand castled in 90% of the beaches on the California Coast and these are the 5 spots that store some of my favorite memories. To me, they embody what California is and has always been. A visit to any of them will quickly make you a believer in the California Dream.
From North to South
1) Ocean Beach~ Laying a short 20 minutes outside of San Francisco’s city center is chill Ocean Beach. It’s “chill” for a couple reasons… It’s easy to park, it’s quiet and the people are nice, but it’s also hit with the SF fog a lot of the year so late fall and early spring are the suggested times to go. Even if you’re there during the winter take a walk to the beach to see the surfers brave enough to take on the cold, sharky waters.
Ocean Beach definitely didn’t make the list because of it’s warm weather and inviting waters (I’ll get to that further south), OB made the list because of the 3 little stops I always make when I visit there.
The General Store: I like everything in this store. Period. Call me hipster, whatever. They have mostly handcrafted goods that you know would make a great gift, but you’ll want for yourself. This store is so cool in fact, they just opened a second location in Venice Beach.
The Coffee Shop: Trouble Coffee supplies you with the tasty coffee that will also keep your hands warm while you walk the beach. It small, and crowded, the guy behind the counter might be hungover, but they will be cracking jokes and getting their regulars the regular giving you that homey local coffee shop feeling. GET THE CINNAMON TOAST!
And the place with the grilled cheese: Make this your first stop because their will most likely be a wait at Outerlands. With that said, I’d wait any amount of time for that grilled cheese. Enjoy
2) Big Sur~ It’s THE MOST magical stretch of beach in the United States. It doesn’t matter where you go it’s beautiful. So take a hike, eat at one of the many restaurants with a view, go to a show or get a book at the Henry Miller Library, or make a reservation for a message, the baths, or a workshop at Esalen. Big Sur will never disappoint.
3) Malibu~ It’s time to whip out the bikini, you’ve made it to Malibu. Find a spot near the pier and make your way down to the world famous Surfrider beach where the sun is hot and so are the surfers. If you’ve always wanted to try surfing this is a good place to give it a shot. It’s crowded, but the waves are gentle and there are a lot of beginners. Not much else going on in the area besides the sunshine and sea. There are a few pretty hikes and a lot of other beaches that are less crowded and just as beautiful. There’s a great Thai place in Topanga called Cholada if you’re hungry on the way too
4) Venice Beach~ A half hour south of Malibu is a much different beach scene. The Boardwalk brings in an entertaining, but extremely odd and sometimes smelly group of artists. But like Ocean Beach, I don’t suggest Venice for the actual beach as much as what’s near by. First thing to do is walk a few blocks away from the beach on Venice blvd and on the south side you’ll see the beginning of the canals. Venice got it’s name because it has beautiful canals like Italy. It’s a great place to take a stroll. After that you can make your way over to the super hip Abbot Kinney; a few blocks of amazing restaurants, shops, and guys with beards. Make a reservation for Gjelina for the best of the best, if you’re there on a weekend get a pancake at Axe, and if you just want a quick food stop go for the Salad Pizza at Abbot’s Pizza. Then after all that come SAY HI TO ME! That’s where I live.
5) Encinitas~ If I could choose the whole stretch between Oceanside and La Jolla, I would, but anyplace with meditation gardens and an old movie theater that shows surf flicks takes the cake. Like most of these beaches, Encinitas has done a lot of changing, but once you look past the new beautiful Whole Foods and the condos above it you’ll see good ol’ Encinitas. In 1920 Paramahansa Yogananda founded the Self Realization center and behind it are beautiful meditation gardens sitting atop the stunning Swamis Beach. Anyone is welcome to quiet down and walk through or take a seat and stay awhile. After a classic beach day see what films are screening at the La Paloma Theater.
So there it is; my five favorite California costal beaches, today at least. Where is your favorite beach town?
Sending lots of LLYOV from Venice Beach,