Gems in Southern California

California, Sunset, Dusk, Sky, Clouds
Many tourists flock to Famous destinations in Southern California Such as San Diego, Disneyland, Los Angeles, and Santa Barbara. These are all great places to visit, but if you’re looking for someplace different that is somewhat off the radar, check out these amazing destinations:
The Channell Islands
My husband and I have lived in California most our lives, but somehow overlooked these spectacular islands which are categorized as one of the U.S. National Parks. After viewing some magnificent photos on the world wide web, we took a brief boat ride to Anacapa Island from Oxnard within a weekend anniversary trip.
If you choose to go, be prepared and bring supplies. This excursion is for adventurous individuals in good physical shape. You’ll have to climb 157 stairs to the peak of this rugged little island in which there isn’t any food, water, services, or flushing toilets. I HATE outhouses, but I am telling you – the views of the rugged coastline, enormous cliffs, and jagged peaks were worthwhile. It is simple to increase around the rim of the island in only hours with Inspiration Point a grand reward for your efforts.
We visited in June when bursts of bright wildflowers covered the little island and thousands of cute baby sea gulls were available around every corner. Just beware of the protective mamas that will swoop in your head if you get too near.
We returned a few years later and seen the larger Santa Cruz Island for an exciting kayak tour of the historical sea caves. The waters can be rough in certain points, but the caves were amazing.
Some folks believe that these islands desolate, but in case you have an adventurous spirit and love nature, the Channell Islands are considered the Galápagos of North America.
This is still another stunning place that we neglected to see for decades. Located in Pasadena, the magnificent property is home to over a dozen magnificent gardens spread across 120 acres.
We did not even get an opportunity to check out the art galleries. And to my shame as a writer, we didn’t stop by The Huntington Library itself, among the largest and most complete research libraries in america.
Next time.
Napa may get all of the attention as wine country in California, but my husband and I enjoyed sipping our way through the coastal rolling hills close to the seaside city of Ventura. We visited two of the almost 20 wineries and tasting rooms.
You can reserve one of the numerous wine tours offered. But, we decided to find a map and explore on our own. Starting in Ventura at the intersection of Highway 1 and Highway 101, we drove up Highway 33 toward Ojai.
Surprises await on this somewhat lonely but charming street – out of the”USA’s Smallest Post Office” into the last place anyone saw James Dean alive. Our favorite find was Old Creek Winery which felt like returning to a simpler place and time where friendly dogs and folk welcomed us. We enjoyed our bought bottle of wine and a picnic out on tables enjoying the Americana view.
Incidentally, both Ojai and Ventura are rewarding stops with enchanting inns, luxurious spas, and bed & breakfasts together with a wide variety of outdoor activities. In the summertime, the Ventura Harbor Village is a hubbub of activity with festivals and live music on weekends.
Laguna Beach
This charming beach town is situated halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego.
As a teen, I decided to body surf despite the churning waters and wiped out on a enormous wave (think Beach Boys’ song: Heheheheheheee wipe oooout!) . In fact, I blame the Beach Boys with this whole mishap since they moved and romanticized this entire surfer chick thing with tunes I grew up on like Surfer Girl.
However, the scenery can not be beat. Add ultra-chic restaurants and stores and one-of-a-kind art galleries and you understand. There is a Baby Boomer Club with Saturday Night dances. Every summer, they sponsor the Laguna Woodstock where baby boomers party like its 1969.
Heisler Park is a fantastic place to begin, situated just north of the main shore, with a simple half-mile stroll along a paved route with breathtaking views of the coastline and the soothing sound of crashing waves. You may take one of those paths to the shores and tide pools. Hubby and I had a picnic on one of those grass areas and it was excellent!
Treasure Island Park is another terrific place, situated on the grounds of this five-star Montage Laguna Beach, where the truly rich remain. Exquisitely landscaped, several watch chairs line the easy-to-walk winding route. Stairways and ramps lead you down to the shore, where you could walk through a gorgeous stone archway during low tide, find a place in the sand for sunbathing, and a large tide pool. Additionally, there’s loads of grass areas for a picnic. I would suggest bringing some wine and cheese to grab a romantic sunset.
Big Bear Lake
I live in the desert, so neighboring Big Bear is a excellent mountain escape with its stunning lake and pristine forests. Boating, fishing, and hiking are just a few of the activities in this little, laid-back village.
Last summer, my husband and I cycled round the lake, enjoyed a picnic, zipped down an alpine slide, drove go-karts with rates up to 30 m.p.h., and took a ride on the scenic skies chair for excellent views. After watching people take the seat lifts to mountain bike down the paths, we place this on our to-do list for next time.
For the adventurous at heart, parasailing and ziplining will also be offered.
El Matador Beach
Look no further than El Matador, situated north of Malibu off the winding Pacific Coast Highway. It’s easy to overlook the little, brown sign pointing toward the little parking lot in the trail-head, so watch carefully between Broad Beach and Decker Canyon Roads. As soon as you find it, be prepared to hike down a 150-foot bluff with the support of a steep stairs.
Not for small children or people that are physically challenged, but in case you’re able to make it down the steps you are going to be treated with stunning views. The natives know about this shore and you may see some photo shoots taking place – we did!
There’s blissfully little to do on this small but glorious stretch of beach, so bring a picnic lunch or some wine and discover a hidden nook to enjoy a remarkably romantic setting.
Redondo Beach
We found this shore on accident when searching for a nearby place to stay the night before flying out of LAX the next morning.
Truth be known, we did not try one of these out, but we loved the views from Tony’s on the Pier where we enjoyed Happy Hour!
The pier is also home to a 16-foot great white shark known as Georgette, on screen in a huge tank in Shark Attack on the Pier. In case you have grandchildren with you or are young at heart, then you might like the semi-submersible yellow submarine (damn, now I have the Beatles tune stuck in my mind ) for underwater viewing of the local sea life.
Sure beats staying in an airport hotel if you are flying to or from Los Angeles.
Catalina Island
This island is much more well-known than a few of my previous recommendations, but a sentimental favorite. My husband and I spent our honeymoon there 40 years back and have returned several times. A normal traffic jam involves two golf carts and a bike built for two.
On our honeymoon, we blissfully rode bikes around Avalon, went horseback riding, toured the famed casino, and sunbathed on the little beach.
Next time we visit, I wish to try out the new zip-line that is 600 feet above sea level with a single run that’s 1,100 feet long with speeds up to 30 m.p.h. Wheee!
As you can tell, Southern California has so many terrific places to go to, it is impossible to list them all. But hopefully I have given you a few ideas to get you started!

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