Del Mar, California is a seaside village about 20 miles north of San Diego, California. It is close but feels like a world away. Del Mar is a place you go to relax and unwind.
I’ve been fortunate to visit Del Mar twice and stayed at the L’Auberge resort on both occasions.
Its location and view of the pacific ocean are ideal. The rooms, spa, dining options, and pool, and inviting spaces throughout the resort make for a perfect getaway.
I took the photo below from just below L’Auberge as I worked my way down to the ocean front for a morning run.
Arriving at the waterfront, I headed south along a still active railway. It is amazing how close this track is to the shore. It doesn’t really come through in the images below but track sits high along a seaside cliff. This is a great place to run but can feel a bit tense if a train happens to pass through while you are running. Some parts of the shoreline and track are quit narrow.
The images below are from a visit to the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. The shoreline cliffs, rock formations, and beach were absolutely mesmerizing.
Del Mar is a destination unto itself if peace and tranquility are what you need. Beyond L’Auberge, Del Mar has plenty of additional lodging options, restaurants (from casual to award-winning), spas, and shopping to round out your relaxing days before and after trips to the beach.
If you want to fill a couple of days with more activities, you are only 20 miles from San Diego and can plan a few excursions into the city for major attractions such as Balboa Park, San Diego Zoo, and the San Diego Harbor.
Monterey, California had always been high on my bucket list, and I couldn’t wait to expose my family to the sights I had long dreamed of seeing. The town of Monterey would be wonderful to visit but what really had my heart racing was finally making the drive along the Pacific Coast Highway towards Big Sur.
It has been several years since we made this memorable journey. Now, I look forward to piecing it back together with this stroll down memory lane.
We stayed at the Monterey Plaza Hotel and Spa with a room overlooking Monterey Bay. Below, my daughter experiments with some creative photography on the balcony.
On the left side of the courtyard (in the image above) is a fire pit and seating where we enjoyed several relaxing sunsets looking out onto the bay. We were also within walking distance of the bustling Cannery Row which is filled with retail stores, restaurants, bars, and the renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Even the early morning runs provided with memorable views:
Taking in the sights and experiences of Monterey were wonderful. However, the trip down the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) was a different kind of wonderful. The Bixby Creek Bridge is a famous landmark along the PCH.
The panoramic cliffside views were breathtaking. I was also able to get a bit closer to the waterline at times to witness and almost feel the powerful force of nature that is still carving her masterpiece.
And even closer…
After dozens of stops at cliffside lookouts, each more visually compelling than previous stop, we reluctantly turned around and headed back to Monterey. But, there is always time for one last photo as I capture my wife and son in a selfie moment.
Along the way back, we stopped for dinner at a seaside restaurant.
While the name of the place is lost to memory, I do have vivid memories of sitting on the patio with my family enjoying a meal while taking in a sweeping view of the Pacific Ocean from our cliffside perch. We were even treated with an all too short but magical whale sighting.
Brief History of the Monterey Area
Native Americans Native Americans first settled the area now known as Monterey and existed in a fishing and gathering-type society when Spanish explorers first arrived.
Spanish Discovery Spanish seafaring explorers first discovered the area known today as Monterey Bay in 1602 and suggested it was a suitable area for a potential port. It would take over 150 years for Spain to dispatch a land expedition to further explore the area in 1769 and establish a settlement – the second city established in California. San Diego is the only California city that is older.
Argentine Invasion On November 24, 1818, Argentina landed a military force that captured Monterey. The Spanish fort was taken and burned along with many of the buildings in this early Monterey settlement. Argentina’s occupation lasted only six days.
Mexico Takes Control In 1821, Mexico gained independence from Spain and Monterey became a possession of Mexico. There was little impact on the area and life continued much as it had while under Spain. One notable exception was the expansion of ranches through land grants.
Mexican – American War The Battle of Monterey took place on July 7, 1846 between U.S. and Mexico. American troops captured the city and claimed California for the United States. California became a state in 1850.
Monterey prospered as a fishing village (driven in large part by Japanese and Chinese migrants) through 1950 before exhausting its most vital resource – fish (especially sardines). Today, the area is more focused on tourism, marine biology, and is part of a marine sanctuary (an oceanic national park) that extends from Santa Barbara to San Francisco. A notable feature in Monterey Bay is the kelp forest which can be viewed up close in a kayak.
Monterey or nearby Carmel are great places for a family vacation. There is plenty to do and see in these two small towns and you can visit each of them easily regardless of which city you decide to stay in. Of course, a drive down the Pacific Coast Highway is a must while you are in the area.
Dinner was still a few hours away so I passed away some time on a sunny Napa Valley afternoon exploring the beautifully landscaped Yountville, California. Napa Valley has several small towns with fine shopping and dining options available. Yountville is one of them.
Earlier in the day, I spent some time at a winery – I have lost the name – just outside of Yountville. The wine was great but its grounds were spectacular to stroll through.
If you are ever planning a trip to San Francisco, consider adding a least a day for Napa Valley. It is about a 90-minute drive as long as you are careful to avoid San Francisco’s morning traffic. A Saturday or Sunday morning trip would be ideal. You might also consider staying in Napa and making several trips into San Francisco.