Magazine article Sunset

Best Beaches: Southern California

Magazine article Sunset

Best Beaches: Southern California

Article excerpt

Bodysurf, sun with the soccer moms, from Avila Beach to San Diego

Let other beaches brood as solemn as Heathcliff Southern California beaches are the most extroverted coasts on earth. From the body-bruising surf at Newport Beach to La Jolla's decorous coves, these are beaches made for a towel, high-octane sunscreen, and repeated plunges in the Pacific.

BEST BEACH EATS

Olde Port Inn, Avila Beach

When this San Luis Obispo County restaurant says fresh halibut, it means fresh. Olde Port Inn, at the end of Port San Luis Pier, sits next door to a wholesale fish market. And the cioppino is the best south of San Francisco.

Port San Luis Pier. (805) 595-2515.

LEAST CROWDED BEACH Jalama Beach

Yeah, it's a long drive on a winding road. But this Santa Barbara County beach is great for surfing, surf-fishing, and swimming (though water temperatures rise only to the upper 60s, and there are rip-currents but no lifeguards), and blissfully uncrowded. All this, and burgers at the Jalama Beach Store and Grill.

20 miles southwest of Lompoc via State 1 and Jalama Rd. (805) 736-6316.

BEST BEACH CAMPSITE El Capitan State Beach

Under the train trestle, through an oak woodland, and there you are-El Capitan State Beach. Cool, shady, and right on the beach, site 75 is so quiet that all you hear is the ocean roar. A bike path leads to an oak and sycamore glade; the wide beach spills onto a blue nirvana with an unusually gentle surf.

15 miles west of Santa Barbara off U.S. 101; take the El Capitan State Beach exit. $17 Sun-Thu, $18 Fri-Sat. (805) 968-1033. Camping reservations: (800) 444-7275.

Rastafarians on skates, truant teens sunning in jeans, and Pamela Anderson Lee clones everywhere-most out-oftowners could spend two hours at Venice City Beach and truly say they'd "seen" L.A. Strap on some skates and join the show: this is Cirque du Soleil without the big top.

Ocean Front Walk, Venice

BEST KIDS' BEACH Marina del Rey

Officially tagged the Marina del Rey Public Swimming Beach, this quiet cove is known as Mother's Beach to the soccer moms who find it a safe haven for their preschoolers. No waves; just sheltered picnic tables, outdoor showers, and diligent lifeguards.

End of Basin D, Panay Way, Marina del Rey. (310) 305-9545.

BEST TIDEPOOLS & GRUNION RUNS Cabrillo Beach, San Pedro

The crabs scoot, the anemones wave. …

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