Historic California 101 – A Combination of Sunshine and History

There is nothing like a sunny day in Southern California to encourage a drive down California Highway 1 with the windows rolled down, salt breezes blowing through your hair, and don’t forget your best sunglasses, this is the place of Hollywood dreams after all.

California Highway 1 runs along the coast of California from San Francisco to San Diego. For this trip, we concentrated on the section between Los Angeles and San Diego. Our first stop was Newport Beach. A high surf warning ensured there were plenty of surfers out along this popular stretch of sand. There is something entrancing about watching them carve the waves as you relax on the warm white sand. We stopped at Seaside Bakery and Donuts by the pier for coffee some of their delicious sugar donuts. This little gem of a shop also serves savory croissants and some of the best cronuts around.

Seaside Bakery (from Google Earth, I can’t find my picture)

Besides the surfers, there were plenty of folks out enjoying the sunshine. If you’re into photography, this beach offers plenty of interesting subjects for your photos, both human and architectural, including the historic Newport Pier itself. Rebuilt in 1940, after the original was lost to a hurricane in 1939, the pier is a popular local fishing spot.

Surfers at Newport Beach

We continued our drive down the coast, getting on the I-5 near Dana Point where the California 1 ends. A few miles south you will pass the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station before reaching the Las Flores View Point on the El Camino Real. The ocean views from this spot are amazing, you can see all the way to Santa Catalina Island. Its location at Camp Pendleton also allows you to see U.S. Marines practicing drills both on the water as well as right below you on the beach. Another fantastic photo spot, particularly if you have any children in your group.

Marine drills at Las Flores Viewpoint

Driving again, we arrived at Oceanside, the southern end of Camp Pendleton. Here we left the I-5 for the Historic California 101. This stretch of the old road runs right along the coast through towns that feel as though they haven’t changed much since folks were driving in Cadillacs with fins.

Traveling through Carlsbad and Encinitas you can enjoy Victorian houses and funky little shops and restaurants along the way. We chose one of several take-out spots and enjoyed lunch on the beach.

Our next stop was the Del Mar Fairgrounds and Thoroughbred Club. Celebrities have been a staple there since the track first opened in 1937. Even now, there is an old Hollywood feeling to the place. They have a summer and fall meet where you can take in a pleasant afternoon of horse racing in the historic grandstand.

The historic paddock at Del Mar on a previous visit
We ended our day in San Diego where we visited the famed Del Coronado Hotel. Here you can enjoy Skating by the Sea on the Windsor Lawn with wonderful views of the Pacific Ocean and Coronado beach. A fun way to end the day, they even serve hot cocoa.

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