California Dreaming – Southern Beach Towns
Part 2 – Los Angeles and Southern California Beach Towns
As a second act to my return to California, I’m happy to present a tour of the Golden State’s best southern beach towns, along with a tiny glimpse of LA. The Megabus droned on through the night for eight hours from San Francisco, depositing me in the heart of Los Angeles in the wee hours, where my friend Lisa was kind enough to scoop me up. It had been several years since we’d seen each other, but with some friends it’s as if no time has passed at all.
Thus began a two month stretch of various accommodations and adventures, from house and dog sitting to an air mattress at Lisa’s apartment. Lisa was living in Seal Beach, just south of LA, a spot aptly named for their frolicking sea creatures.
It’s small town US at its best, with long stretches of beach, and a sea of waves topped with surfers and kite boarders.
Main Street is lined with quaint shops and restaurants, and on warm summer nights, locals gather in the park for outdoor movies.
Just over the channel, I thought I’d stumbled into Venice, but it was actually a California Naples, complete with canals and gondolas.
Spread between Seal Beach and Naples is a marina chock-full of gorgeous vessels, paddle and sail and power, waiting for seafaring cruises, beautiful on both clear days and cloudy.
Seal Beach was a great home base for visiting other beaches, from Venice Beach to Manhattan Beach, Long Beach to Sunset to Huntington, Newport Beach, and Laguna, all strung like a sandy necklace of pearls on a vivid blue lacy sea gown. In that length of time, we managed to visit them all, each with a different personality.
Huntington boasts, besides a beach with a long finger of pier, an upscale development resplendent with designer boutiques. Fun to look, but with only my small backpack and equally small budget, I contented myself with a brief stint of window shopping. There is also lots of action – people watching and live music – down near the shore.
Newport Beach is rather chi chi, but also with a touristy element. People pack the walks on foot and on bike, as well as packing the sand and waves, and there’s even a Ferris wheel. Depending on which day of the week and what time of the year you go, you may find the beach very crowded, or find yourself almost alone.
You can also take the short car ferry ride over to tiny Balboa Island, for a walk around or a bite for lunch, or surprise, more shopping!
Laguna Beach is one of my favorites, a well-known artist’s colony, with some of the most stunning beach scenery. There are hidden caves to explore and even a carved rock pool!
Venice Beach is a carnival of color, a kaleidoscope of action. Jugglers and bodybuilders, sandcastle sculptors, installation artists and exhibitionists, all vie for attention.
Nearby, the canals of Venice Beach (not to be confused with the canals of Naples) are a great place for a peaceful walk, a short way from the madding crowd.
Twice I took a commuter train from Seal Beach up to LA to see my daughter. Chelsea took me to the new Broad Museum, where we got lost in space in the infinity room and took in some eye-popping art. She lives in the heart of LA in a big old house with twelve people and several egg-laying chickens!
If you love beaches, Southern California should definitely be on your list. From vistas of aqua water to unusual sand formations, seagulls and seashells, to stunning golden sunsets, Southern California won’t disappoint you.
There is so much more to Southern California than LA and beaches. But that will have to wait for another time. For now, I’m off to a tiny fishing village called La Manzanilla in Mexico…