Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Encinitas CA
Families, surfers, kayakers, and body-boarders congregate at Cardiff on summer weekends. Cardiff lies north and west of the San Elijo Lagoon (a naturally occurring inland waterway fed by the ocean) and consists of Cardiff State Beach to the south and San Elijo State Beach to the north. Those looking for a low-key beach for swimming, surfing, and sunbathing will enjoy Cardiff’s casual attitude.
This beach community is primarily residential and offers great views of the Pacific Surfliner train, which parallels the beach. The San Elijo Lagoon is an ecological reserve administered by the San Diego County Parks. It is an excellent spot for bird watching and catching a glimpse of natural coastal habitat in Southern California before the advent of 20th century development. Curious children and adults will want to explore the tide pools at the south end of Cardiff State Beach.
Locals and tourists enjoy the mexican and seafood restaurants located at "Restaurant Row" on the beach at the north end of San Elijo Lagoon. This laid-back beach area lacks the hustle and bustle of city beaches, making it popular with tourists seeking a more low key beach experience.
Lifeguards, showers, and restrooms are available at both state beaches. San Elijo State Beach offers overnight camping. Paid parking is available inside San Elijo State Park. However, ample free parking can be found outside the park along the highway.
The south end of Cardiff State Beach ("Seaside" parking lot) is a favorite surf break periodically hosting surfing events and contests.
For an interesting twist to your vacation, visit the beautiful gardens at the Self Realization Fellowship Retreat located near "Swami's" parking lot north of San Elijo State Beach (look for the gold domed roof). The retreat, built by followers of Paramahansa Yogananda in 1937, opens its gardens to the public Tuesday through Sunday during daytime hours.
Seaside Market, located on San Elijo Ave. just north of Chesterfield Dr., offers a wide assortment of ready to go, healthy snacks and food items including a full service deli. Seaside Market is a great place to stop before spending the day at the beach.
Directions to Cardiff-by-the-Sea
To get to Cardiff, take I-5 north from San Diego and exit at Manchester Avenue. Take Manchester west; it will turn into San Elijo Avenue. From San Elijo Ave. turn left on Chesterfield Dr. which will take you to Highway 101 (Coast Highway).