Road Trippin / Where To Surf, Eat & Nap Along the California Coast

Posted by Julia Wheeler on

This will definitely be a summer to remember. After staying home for months, everyone is itching to get out and explore. We know that a lot of people will be staying closer to home or opting for a quick weekend road trip so we thought it would be fun to share with you some recommendations from an expert we love in each town along the southern California coast! Please enjoy our road trip guide to the California coast and share any of your own favorites in the comments! Oh and if you want to know what to pack on a road trip with kids, we rounded up a little guide for ya!

SANTA BARBARA with Cait Regan

SURF // 
We love Butterfly Beach in Montecito!

EAT // 
Los Arroyos right down the street from Butterfly Beach has yummy tacos and margs! Cait's fave coffee shops: Dune, Handlebar, Low Pigeon, Dart Coffee Co.

NAP // 
Emma Wood State Beach is fun for camping and El Capitan has beautiful camping too!  There's also the Kimpton Goodland hotel in Goleta, which is so so cute! Hotel Californian in downtown Santa Barbara is freakin gorg and Rosewood MiraMar hotel in Montecito is insane too.

Santa Barbara Pier + sea center for the kiddos, Santa Barbara zoo or exploratorium for the kiddos, the museum of natural history is fun for the kids too! For shopping State Street is where to walk down for all the shops or Paseo Nuevo outdoor mall.


The lovely Kelly Harris shares with us her favorite spots to escape to the sea in bustling LA. As the owner of the super stylish shop Midland and the artisan liquor store, Hi Lo Liquor, she is just the perfect expert to share where to surf, eat, nap and explore in Los Angeles.

SURF // 
We live about 10 minutes from the beach, so our favorite family friendly beach spot is our local Playa del Rey Beach, also known as Toes Beach.  In the winter we descend on this space with our sleds and the kids ride down the berms while the parents catch up.  In the summer it’s all about long, lazy, slow days on the sand.  There are some great rock jettys for climbing and rock/shell discoveries and an expansive deep beach that keeps you from being too close to your sand neighbor.

EAT //
If we head out early, we tend to hit up Playa Provisions on our way to the beach to grab fresh squeezed juices and coffee, then we’ll pop back in again when we’re wind blown and sun kissed for a late lunch / early dinner and a cold beer. It’s got an outdoor space with a fire pit that the kids love and it’s just steps from the sand.  On the days we plan ahead and get out a bit later, we will head to Gjusta to grab snacks and provisions for a full picnic on the sand.  For a local family friendly breakfast, head to Superba and be sure to order the pancake for the table.

NAP //
With three kids we don’t get the opportunity to get away for long periods of time, so my husband and I really relish the opportunity to get away from a weekend away in or close to town.  The Surfrider Hotel in Malibu is owned by a dear friend and one of our favorite quick weekend getaways to reset and recharge.  If we want to drive a bit further we head straight for Korakia in Palm Springs.  We’ve been going for 12 years and it remains a sanctuary for us still.  It’s the kind of place where you check in to check out. With the kids we have a new found appreciation (I was tentative) for camping.  Black Rock in Joshua Tree is stunning and surrounded by incredible family friendly hikes.

You’ve got to come visit us at Midland Shop of course.  And if you’re in Culver City, stop by Hi-Lo liquor to discover some incredible wines and spirits and market items for your trip. General Store is a must, as is Rudy Jude in Venice.   


Our friends, the Wong Family really live up to their Instagram name, The Everyday Adventure Family. When they're not exploring a far-off country, they are doing something fun locally, usually camping or playing at the beach! We asked them for some of their tips for camping at Crystal Cove State Park!

Our favorite family friendly beach spot is Crystal Cove State Park. We love all the different parts of the park, but go to the Historic District the most often. We love going in late afternoon, and bringing a picnic dinner to enjoy as we watch the sun set. 

EAT // 
I love making cheese boards, and have found that they are the perfect light meal or snack at the beach. I prep all the cheese, charcuterie, fruit, nuts, crackers in small reusable containers at home, then lay them out when we get to the beach. I get a lot of the items for my cheese boards from Trader Joe's and my go to items are the: 1) unexpected cheddar - which goes so well with the red pepper jelly and the everything crackers, 2) manchego cheese which go well with the rosemary marcona almonds and prosciutto, 3) St. Andre cheese with pita crackers and salami. Fruits I fill the board with depend on season and may include apples, grapes, or berries.

NAP // 
We are lucky that Crystal Cove is only 15 minutes from our home. However, we love any chance to camp by the beach that we can get. Tent Camping at Moro Campground is one of our annual summer traditions. The Crystal Cove Cottages are super special, and also quite hard to reserve. But if you keep an eye out for cancellations, you might just get lucky! 


There is so much to do in Crystal Cove State Park besides go to the beach. You can explore tide pools, and hike on a number of different trails! Something we enjoy doing in during the summer is to rent a fire pit from the Beachcomber Cafe, and set up a movie night with friends on the beach (we bring our own projector and mini screen) 


Our friend Jacquelyn Kazas of Beijos Events is the world's best party-thrower. She helped us style our launch party and can make dinner at the beach feel like the most special event ever. She also knows ALL of the best places to eat, drink and shop in Newport so it was a no-brainer to have her give us the scoop on her town!


SURF // 
There are quite a few we like!!  A nice quiet spot, that I'm afraid to even share because most of the time there's barely anyone, is China Cove in Corona Del Mar.  There aren't waves so it's the perfect spot to take the kids and has rocks for them to jump off of as well (if your kids are crazy like mine and enjoy that sort of thing, haha). It's enclosed and a trek to get there from parking but worth it! We also love going to Little Corona or Crystal Cove and checking out the tide pools.  Lastly, if my husband wants to surf we usually do the River Jetties on the North side in Huntington.  There's easy parking access and the waves aren't too bad close to shore so the kids can play in the water as well! 

EAT // 
We love getting smoothies at Al Cappuccino on the peninsula in Newport (their peanut butter power is a family favorite) or breakfast burritos at Rose's in CDMSidecar Donuts on 17th St. in Costa Mesa is everyone's favorite if you're craving something sweet. Alta is a great spot for coffee and pastries or a good sit down breakfast.  If you're looking to pick up some picnic goodies, stop by A Market on PCH in Newport Beach - they have great sandwiches and goodies that make for a delicious & tasty spread.  We also love Wild Taco and Bear Flag - there's yummy goodness for both the parents and the kiddos!  This isn't too healthy, but an Orange County staple - TK Burger is right by the pier and has the yummiest post beach hamburger, fries and milkshake situation.  If you have a chance to grab dinner we really like Boathouse Collective, they usually have live music on the weekends and on Wednesday nights they do trivia night! 

NAP // 
In Newport I'd say that Lido House is probably the best new spot.  They have a great pool and are close to lots of amazing local spots - walking distance to the beach and amazing restaurants.  If you are further south in Laguna I love The Montage or Hotel Joaquin - both are amazing in their own ways.  And if you are heading further north to Huntington you should check out The Shorebreak Hotel.  If camping is your thing I can't say enough good things about Crystal Cove.  It has a great beach nearby and The Beachcomber which is a yummy restaurant on the sand that serves some great cocktails as well! (looks like she and Felicia agree!) 

Newport Beach is full of fun things to do, one being riding bikes along the boardwalk!  You can ride from the pier to the Wedge, one of the most iconic surf spots in California.  One of my kids favorite parks in Newport is Marina Park, they call it Lighthouse Park because it has an amazing tall lighthouse slide!  Plus it's right on the beach and has a large grassy area - so you can beach it, picnic it and play all at once!  Down the way is the fun zone on the peninsula with a Ferris wheel and some other little games for kids.  Balboa Island is a great place to visit and is very nostalgic, a must if coming to Orange County.  You can even take the ferry across from Newport if you are staying there. If you are without kids you can have a romantic dinner at Basilic. With kids, I'd recommend a famous frozen banana! I would definitely do a Duffy boat in the harbor and you could take off from Lido Marina Village, which is such a fun and cute area to shop or eat at! They have some yummy restaurants like Malibu Farms, Lido Bottle Works, Zinque and Nobu if you're feeling fancy!  For shopping there's Jenni Kayne, Alchemy Works and Wild Child Party if you want to pick up some balloons for the kiddos.  But a Duffy is a must, bring some wine and small bites and enjoy the sunset with your family!  


Our friends own the super cool vintage trailer park in San Clemente, The Holidays. It's one of the coolest places to camp and SO fun with a group of families and/or friends. We asked them to send over some of their favorite spots in San Clemente and of course try to plan ahead and score a trailer at The Holidays on your trip!

SURF // 
San Onofre
Trestles: best surf spot but a long walk
T street: city beach, good surf spot

EAT // 
Bear Coast Coffee by the pier: breakfast burritos on the weekend, good coffee
The Fuel Shack
Kawamata Poke
Tamarindo (really cute design inside)
South Swell Ice Cream: hand dipped ice cream bars and bananas (our FAV!)
The Fisherman’s on the pier: sit down seafood on the pier, fun brunch, oyster bar, and known for their mud pie desserts!

NAP // 
The Holidays for trailer camping inside state park
Inn at Laguna Beach
Laguna Beach House 

La Casa Verde: fun, unique finds and treasures
Melrose Lifestyle
Moldy Toes for records
Fired Up San Clemente: paint your own pottery and clay shop


Oceanside is your first stop on the coast after a long stretch of military base south of San Clemente. It's packed with new breweries and eateries, some fun indie shops, and some great surf. We chatted with our pal Chrissy Powers who lives here with her three kiddos and husband who grew up in Oside because they know all the good spots!


The Oceanside Harbor Beach

EAT //

Cream of the Crop, In N Out, Captains Grounds, and Board and Brew

NAP //

The Wyndham Oceanside Pier Resort or Ocean Palms in Carlsbad


Ride bikes and run on the Carlsbad Sea Wall, play dodge ball at the beach or park (they love their Yardbird set!) check out sea life at the tide pools at Terramar in Carlsbad, shop at Captains Helm, Friends of Friends Pop Up, Rising Co., Seahive and DAV!


Our friend Cassandra Ross is an artist and vintage slinger who lives in Encinitas, CA. She has two adorable boys, with whom she and her husband most of their time at the beach. She shared with us some of her favorite spots in Encinitas as well as Cardiff, which is just south of Encinitas!

Head down to Cardiff. Drive up and roll out. Lots of good vibes, longboards and smiles. During low tide, littles can find a personal pool to lounge in or you can walk down to Seaside Reef and say hello to some hermit crabs.

EAT //
If you’re in need of a post-beach burrito you can cruise over to Las Olas right by Cardiff. They do a 12 pack of mini burritos that’s pretty awesome for family beach munchies. We also love EVE on the 101 which offers incredible vegan food. They have everything from pizza burgers to Cuban bowls. If you’re in the market for a good old fashion picnic, Seaside Market is also nearby with beautiful produce and a fully loaded deli.

NAP //
Nothing beats camping on the beach at San Elijo! Surf, eat and nap without any travel time or parking issues. The campground is also conveniently placed with restaurants and shops a short walk away.

One must see in Encinitas is the Botanic Garden for lush serene gardens, trails and an entire chunk of property dedicated to kiddos. The Hamilton’s children garden features a three story treehouse, edible kids garden, bamboo music zone, art and more! Surf families have to go peek in at the one and only Bing. Bing features a drool-worthy collection of thoughtfully crafted boards, wetsuits and gear. There's no shortage of style at that shop. If you forgot that one thing your kid absolutely needs, go stop by Magical Child. Be careful, you might want to buy everything. They have it all - from kids swimwear to toys to sunscreen, all with a little magic.


When we thought up doing this guide, we knew we had to include Alexis Garrett. She is our go-to for the best in design, lifestyle and local goodness. Her Instagram aesthetic and all of her design work is like a visual breath of fresh air. You might remember her home from this lookbook we shot there:



Our favorite surf spot is the little cove between Seaside and Table Tops (AKA the stairs in Solana Beach near Robertos Taco Shop). We call our secret spot “Dog Signs” because of the large sign on the hill alerting all dog owners to leash their dog. It is a bit of a hike from the parking lot at Seaside so it is usually pretty quite and there is a perfect wave for all ages. 
EAT // 
Depending on our mood we can either grab a picnic filled with the yummiest things at Seaside Market (I suggest the beet ginger salad, hearst of palm salad, and a Burgundy Beef sandwich (AKA Cardiff Crack sandwich). If you want quick, delicious, and filling  I would grab burritos at Lordes Mexican Food in Cardiff. Next door is a Liquor shop where you could pick up a Hard Kombucha (my summer favorite has been Nova’s Sexy Pina Colada). And if you have a sun dress in the car after the beach you could go to Valentina’s in Leucadia for some Txakolina (sparkling Spanish Wine) and their new ceviche dish that is incredible.
For dessert I highly recommend JoJo’s Creamery in the Encinitas off the 101. They make their own cones and ice cream and you get a little cookie with every scoop. 
NAP //
Since we live in town I have never stayed at either of these spots but I have heard amazing things. They are both in Encinitas and are close to food and the beach; Moonlight Inn and the Surfhouse Boutique Hotel.

If you are in the area a MOST STOP SHOP is Threadspun in Leucadia, it is filled with beautiful clothing, home goods, jewelry, cards, pottery… I could go on and on, all ethically sourced and one of a kind.
It is a bit of a drive south but I think that Torrey Pines State Reserve is so special for a hike along the cliffs right between Del Mar and La Jolla. It really is incredible. 
And finally a fun thing to do is to take a bike ride on the new path that starts at the train track in Cardiff and goes into Encinitas. You can go under the bridge in Encinitas and keep riding into the town of Encinitas. 



Annika and her family are OG La Jolla residents (here is an article in the La Jolla Light about her grandpa!) So I thought of all people, she would be the best to recommend her favorite spots around town. This is her daughter from a Seaesta shoot last season! 


Windansea, but watch the womp! But that’s how the littles learn, right? Sand brushes right off your feet. La Jolla Shores if you’re not feeling like dealing with the locals! 🤪
EAT // 
Pre Beach Pickup meal: The Cheese Shop
Post Beach Spots: Mandarin House for fam friendly local Chinese, Wheat & Water in Bird Rock, El Pescador, Carinos Pizza and of course, The Ranch; I think it’s called El Ranchero for the best margie in town, say "hi!" to Murf if he’s behind the bar!
NAP //
I always recommend La V but that’s a little high end, La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club is the best family friendly spot with access to the private beach club
Mitch’s Surf Shop!

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