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Southern California's 300-mile playground...the beach.

Southern California's 300-mile playground . . . the beach

Here it is. The place where, about 1 P.M. any July afternoon, Southern California loosens ties and sheds shoes, exhales a collective sigh of relief, and becomes most itself. It's the biggest swimming pool of all--the beach.

Between Point Conception and the Mexican border stretch 300 miles of coastline. Along it lie 5 counties, 35 state beaches, 65 county and city beaches. This month you can expect water temperatures of around 68| in San Diego; expect 13 days of sunshine and 12 days of partial sunshine along Santa Monica Bay.

But numbers make inadequate measure of this shore. The Southern California beach is also the battling pungencies of churros and calamari on Redondo Pier, the tumble you take bodysurfing at Carlsbad, the glinting windshiclds of cars parked bumper to bumper on the Pacific Coast Highway at Zuma, the solitary pleasures of tidepooling at Palos Verdes.

Everyman's playground

The summer day starts early on these beaches, especially on the popular crescent of Santa Monica Bay and the white strands of the Orange County coast. By 7, fleets of machines are raking the sand of yesterday's debris; they're joined by prework joggers and--if radio prognostications are favorable--by surfers wearing kneebuster trunks in retina-shattering colors. Later come the inland teen-agers, mothers with toddlers, retirees. Then, if it's a weekend, comes everybody else.

This may be the salient point about the Southern California coast: it's intensely peopled. Last year between Memorial Day and mid-September, Los Angeles County beaches received some 50 million visitors. Huntington State Beach alone had 1.8 million.

You can avoid some of the crowds by hitting the sands on a weekday (at a beach like Huntington, weekday crowds may be 30,000 less than weekend ones).

Or relax and enjoy the human parade. Critics have belittled Los Angeles as a city rich in private pleasure but poor in great public spaces: a city without a Champs-Elysees or a Central Park. Have they set foot on Venice Beach?

A coast in contention

With so many people using this coast, it shouldn't be surprising that demands placed on it are often competing ones.

Offshore oil is one contentious topic. Though proposed drilling off Northern California has received more publicity, Southern Californians worry that additional platforms in the Santa Barbara Channel will worsen South Coast air quality, and that future rounds of lease sales (allowed when Congress let a moratorium lapse last fall) will bring platforms to the San Diego and Orange County coasts and to Santa Monica Bay. And they're concerned about onshore facilities going up in now lightly developed stretches of coastline, like that between Santa Barbara and Point Conception.

This year also marks the 10th anniversary of the California Coastal Act. A model for coastal protection around the country, it has become a hot election issue at home (see page 75).

Still, despite crowds and concerns, this coast remains an unmatched recreational resource--the one place Southern California visitors shouldn't miss. In the next six pages, we'll show you the best of it.

1 Point Conception marks the northern end of the Southern California coast. Above it, the California Current dominates, bringing cooler water temperatures--55| is the July average at Pismo State Beach. Below it, the Southern California Countercurrent warms up the water to a July average of 63| at Gaviota State Park.

2 Beach camping. A tent and a table within sound of the surf (here, at Gaviota State Park) can hardly be bettered for camping, which is why such sites can be so hard to find. MISTIX, the new reservations system for the California Department of Parks and Recreation, may make the hunt easier. Now you can charge (with Visa or MasterCard) reservations by calling (800) 446-7275. Or reserve at MISTIX's 34 walk-in outlets; for locations, call (800) 952-5580. Reservation fee: $3.75 per family campsite. Reservations are accepted two days to eight weeks in advance. If your first choice is full, the system searches for two nearby alternatives. You'll still have to plan early, or trust to luck. Many beach parks operate at 95 percent capacity summer weekends, with sites reserved weeks in advance. For best odds, plan to come Sundays through Thursdays.

3, 4 Two pleasant shore-hugging restaurants are tucked away in two Santa Barbara County parks. At Goleta County Beach, The Beachside Cafe is open 11:30 A.M. to 10 P.M. daily; (805) 964-7881. At Arroyo Burro County Beach, The Brown Pelican is open 7 A.M. to 9 P.M. daily; 687-4550.

5 Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History has good exhibits on the marine ecology of Santa Barbara Channel, including the skeleton of a 72-foot blue whale. At 2559 Puesta del Sol Road, it's open 10 to 5 Tuesdays to Sundays. July 24, you can join a museum-sponsored beach walk and breakfast; (805) 682-4711.

6 Santa Barbara beach biking. One of the coast's best bike trips takes you along Santa Barbara harbor and around Andree Clark Bird Refuge. Rent bikes at Beach Rentals, 8 W. Cabrillo Boulevard; 8:30 to dusk daily; (805) 963-2524. A good bike map, Pedal Around Town, costs $1.25. Bikers can snack at the East Beach Grill at 1118 E. Cabrillo Boulevard, in a restored 1927 bathhouse now run by the city.

7 Marriott's Santa Barbara Biltmore. See box at right.

8 "They'll be surfing at Rincon, Ventura County line, San Onofre, and Sunset . . .' The Beach Boys had it right: Southern California is as rich in surfing spots as anywhere in the world. Partly shielded from south swells by the Channel Islands, Rincon's highest surf usually comes in winter from west swells refracted around Rincon Point. In Los Angeles and Orange counties, the unprotected coast sees south swells and high summer surf generated by chubascos--tropical storms off Mexico's west coast--and by storms from as far away as the Southern Hemisphere.

Underwater topography counts, too. A plunging breaker, which crashes like a waterfall into the trough before it, occurs on beaches with a steep regular shelf; "spilling' waves that break one side to the other to give surfers longer rides occur on beaches with irregular underwater obstacles. Our map shows best places to surf--or just watch-- with a white wave symbol.

9 Mandalay Beach Resort, Oxnard. See box at left.

10 Malibu pocket beaches. Among the choicest recent additions to the public coastline are El Pescador, El Matador, and La Piedra beaches, collectively known as the Robert H. Meyer Memorial Beaches. They're intimate coves very unlike the wide beaches farther southeast on Santa Monica Bay. Signs pointing the way westbound on State 1 are frequently painted over; you'll find El Matador 1 1/3 miles west of Zuma Beach, La Piedra and El Pescador each a few hundred yards farther.

11 Point Dume Headlands. Named in 1792 by explorer George Vancouver for Ventura Mission Father Francisco Dumetz (spelling was not Vancouver's strong suit), the headlands are now a 35-acre state preserve, open daylight hours for hiking, coast-gazing, and whale-watching. Park at Point Dume State Beach or Zuma Beach (or as near as you can), then hike over the point. A trail leads to Pirate's Cove beach.

12 Ocean dining is always glamorous, but nowhere more so than on the blessed bend of coastline known as Malibu. Not all your dining companions will possess starring roles in upcoming made-for-TV movies--but most of them will look as if they do. Malibu boasts an unusual concentration of ocean-view restaurants, some with prices up in the Van Allen belt, others where the tab is surprisingly down-to-earth. Except for Splash, all are on W. Pacific Coast Highway.

Splash, 6800 Westward Beach Road; (213) 457-5521. Moderately priced seafood, pasta served at the base of Point Dume. Open daily for dinner, weekends for lunch. Sandcastle, 28128; 457-2511. On Paradise Cove private beach; open from 6 to 3:30 daily for breakfast and lunch, from 5 for dinner. Dinners range from $10 to $25.

Geoffrey's, 27400; 457-1519. Spa cuisine in a cliffside aerie whose whitewashed walls may make you feel you're dining in a monastery devoted to the worship of chic. Dinners average $35. Open weekdays 11 to 9:30, weekends 10 to 10.

Alice's Restaurant, 23000; 456-6646. "California cuisine' has become endemic nationwide, but there's probably no more suitable spot for it than Malibu Pier. Open daily from 11:30 (from 10 Sundays).

Don the Beachcomber, 22878; 456-1818. Lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch, Polynesian-style. Dinners: $10 to $20. Malibu Sea Lion U.S.A., 21150; 456-2810. A longtime landmark, the Malibu Sea Lion serves seafood daily from 10 A.M. to midnight. Dinners average $15 to $20.

Moonshadows, 20356; 456-3010. Seafood and chicken dinners daily; $10 up.

Charthouse, 18412; 454-9321. The Malibu venue of a popular steak and seafood chain; open weekdays from 5 P.M., from 3 P.M. Saturdays, from 9:30 A.M. Sundays.

Gladstone For Fish, 17300; 454-3474. Mainly seafood, as you might expect. Open Sundays through Thursdays from 7 A.M. to 11 P.M., to midnight Fridays and Saturdays. Dinners range from $12 to $25.

13 Malibu Lagoon Museum, 23000 Pacific Coast Highway. A showcase of Spanish-Moorish architecture with 13 acres of gardens, the Adamson House has been restored and opened to the public (by reservation) as a museum devoted to the Malibu coast.

When Merritt Huntley and Rhoda Rindge Adamson built the house in 1929, it sat on the last undivided Spanish land grant in California; Adamson's mother-in-law, May K. Rindge, became known as "Queen of the Malibu' for her battles--fought all the way to the Supreme Court--to keep the land undivided. She blocked a coast railroad, was less successful in stopping the Pacific Coast Highway. When not fighting, she founded Malibu Potteries, which produced the tile seen in the house.

After touring house and gardens, visit the former garage to see exhibits on Malibu-- from Chumash days to its present role as haven for surfers and movie stars. To join a tour, call (213) 456-8432 Tuesdays, Thursdays, or Saturdays from 9:30 to 11:30.

East of the house, at Malibu Lagoon State Beach, restoration has given new life to a 5-acre coastal wetland, resting or living space for more than 250 species of birds; kiosks explain bird and plant life.

The beach fronting the lagoon was formerly known as Surfrider, and its spilling waves have drawn enthusiasts from round the world, including the makers of a half-dozen Beach Party movies. Surfers complained a channel cut for lagoon restoration damaged the famous break; rerouting the channel seems to have solved the problem, as you'll see by numbers of wave-borne boards, usually but not always with surfers attached.

14 The beach town--whether salt-sprayed and ramshackle or palmshaded and subdued--could well be Southern California's most distinctive urban form. You can get an insider's understanding of the beach town's past and present on walks sponsored by California Historical Society: July 26, Rustic and Santa Monica canyons; August 23, Malaga Cove, Rancho Palos Verdes. Write to CHS, 6300 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles 90048, attn. Dan Hoye, or call (213) 651-5655.

15 Santa Monica Pier. Restoration began with the refurbished carousel, continues with a fanciful playground near pier's base. Insurance questions make this year's July 4 celebration uncertain; call (213) 458-8311.

16 Musclewomen (and men) pump iron and flex pecs at "The Pit' (often called Muscle Beach, though Santa Monica fights to reclaim the title) at Venice City Beach.

17 Beach reading. You find your square of sand, spread your towel, then realize your sole reading material is the back of your sunscreen tube. One of the best bookstores within easy reach of the beach is Hermosa Beach's Either/Or, home to magazines foreign and domestic, and books from Krantz to Canetti. At 124 Pier Avenue, it's open 10 A.M. to 11 P.M. daily.

18 Best jazz on the beach can be heard at Concerts by the Sea on the Redondo Beach Pier; call (213) 379-4998 for this month's schedule.

19 Point Vicente Interpretive Center, 31501 Palos Verdes Drive, is open daily 10 to 7; (213) 377-5370. Admission: $1 adults, 50 cents children. Come for geologic displays and fine views of the coast.

20 Cabrillo Marine Museum, 3720 Stephen White Drive, San Pedro; (213) 548-7562. This good little museum, with a wave machine and exhibits on South Coast marine life, will be sponsoring grunion hunts July 9 and 23.

21 Huntington State Beach. At the third most visited park in the state, improvements include doubled parking, new concessions, picnic facilities, entrances.

22, 23 Pier dining lets you surround yourself with water without getting wet. On Huntington Beach Pier (22), just reopened after 1983's storms, Maxwell's is open 8 A.M. to 10 P.M. or later daily; (714) 536-2555. The End stands, as expected, at the end of the pier; it serves breakfast and hamburgers 7 A.M. to 10 P.M. daily; 969-7437. On Balboa Pier (23), Ruby's wears a '40s nostalgic look: Andrews-sister innocent in the daytime, sultry and film-noirish at night. It serves simple fare from 7 A.M. to 10 P.M. daily; (714) 675-7829.

24 Crystal Cove State Park. The latest and perhaps last state beach to be established in Southern California, 4,400-acre Crystal Cove stretches 3 1/4 miles along the coast between Laguna Beach and Corona del Mar, and inland over the San Juan Hills toward Irvine. Three coves-- Crystal, Reef Point, and Treasure--offer swimming, surfing, snorkeling, and tidepooling. Beach strollers will find architectural history in the colony of 1920s beach cottages, recently placed on the national register.

For ampler views, cross the Coast Highway and hike the prickly pear--lined trails up into the San Juans; on a clear day, you can see to San Clemente Island. Thirty-two environmental campsites will come later.

If swimming or hiking stirs hunger pangs, head back to the highway for shakes and hamburgers at roadside stands that, like the cottage colony, are happily ramshackle remnants of an earlier era of beachgoing. Sunshine Cove, on the coast side, is open daily 10 to 6:30. The Orange Inn, on the inland side, is open daily 8 to 6.

Crystal Cove State Park is open daily dawn to dusk. Nature walks are planned through the summer; call (714) 494-3539.

25 Dana Point. Orange County Marine Institute, 24200 Dana Point Harbor Drive. Brahmin mariner Richard Henry Dana called this coast the most romantic in California; this month Dana Point's marine museum honors him with "Two Years Before the Mast,' a one-man dramatization of his adventures performed aboard a replica of the brig Pilgrim. Performances run Friday and Saturday nights to August 2; tickets are $18. Call (714) 831-3850 for details.

26 The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel. See box on page 71.

27 Scripps Aquarium-Museum, Scripps Institute of Oceanography, 8602 La Jolla Shores Dr., La Jolla 92093; open 9 to 5 daily; (619) 452-4086. A visit to this aquarium will go far toward making the Pacific intelligible, and the bookstore seems to sell virtually every ocean book in print. To join a June 25 tidepooling session in La Jolla or a July 27 walk at Coronado Shores, call (619) 452-4578.

28 La Jolla surfing. Punk-haired surfers crowding among the homes of sedately retired admirals: these incongruities make the Southern California coast what it is. Waves magnified by Scripps Submarine Canyon provide high summer surf at a series of pocket beaches: Marine Street, Windansea, and Bird Rock. Stay a spectator, unless you're very good.

29 San Diego beach biking. If you don't mind jostling among beachgoers, Mission and Pacific beaches are fine places to pedal while surf- and people-watching. Paths lead north to La Jolla and east around Mission Bay. Pause at the Crystal Pier, a 1920s postcard come to life. You'll find rental bikes at:

California Bicycle, 633 Pearl Street, La Jolla; (619) 454-0316.

Hamel's, 704 Ventura Place, Mission Beach; 488-5050.

Old Mission Beach Bikes, 3738 Mission Boulevard, Mission Beach; 272-4612.

Reid's Bike Rentals, 711 Pacific Beach Drive, Pacific Beach; 275-0765.

Essential reading is the San Diego Regional Bicycling Map, free from Caltrans, 2829 San Juan St., San Diego 92110, or call (619) 231-BIKE.

30 Hotel del Coronado, Coronado. See box on page 71.

Photo: Blue-breaking Pacific and pristine Pirate's Cove stretch behind Point Dume headlands; Dume's 35 acres are among coastal lands set aside for public use in the last 10 years

Photo: The crowded curve of coast: Santa Monica and adjoining beaches can draw as many as 300,000 on a July weekend

Photo: Summer pleasures on Southern California beaches include the lithe intensity of volleyball

Photo: Bicyclists glide past East Beach Grill in old bathhouse restored by Santa Barbara

Photo: Elegant old Biltmore has welcomed the genteel and well-heeled to the coast since 1929

Photo: There's good coastside camping at Gaviota State Park. Though far from Los Angeles, it's still 90 percent full most days in July

Photo: Wave upon towering wave lures surfers from around the world to Rincon

Photo: Rocky, intimate cove of El Pescador Beach is among new state lands on Malibu coast

Photo: Trails climb to Dume headlands from Pirate's Cove

Photo: Bright tilework of Adamson House was product of renowned Malibu Potteries

Photo: Fireworks bloomed last July 4 over Santa Monica Pier. Plans this year are uncertain

Photo: Muscled beauty flexes at Venice City Beach

Photo: Manhattan Beach hosts summer surf festival August 1 to 3

Photo: Night and day, Ruby's vends beach cuisine at Balboa Pier

Photo: Marshmallows flambe are served up at Huntington State Beach

Photo: Waders leap to meet foaming waves at new Crystal Cove State Park. Showers and parking lots open this summer

Photo: Great arched windows of The Ritz-Carlton look out over Salt Creek beach

Photo: Otter-like snorkelers sport in tourmaline waters of La Jolla Cove

Photo: Dramatic beam from above reveals the marine life of Southern California, showcased at Scripps Aquarium

Photo: Hanging garden of Hawaiian shirts is ripe for picking at Pacific Beach

Photo: Two-wheel thoroughfare runs along Pacific and Mission beaches
COPYRIGHT 1986 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Jul 1, 1986
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