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Southern California

Real Estate, Luxcery
Many tourists flock to well-known destinations in Southern California like San Diego, Disneyland, Los Angeles, and Santa Barbara. These are all great places to visit, but if you’re looking for somewhere different that is somewhat off the radar, check out the following incredible 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 stunning photos on the Internet, we took a brief boat ride to Anacapa Island from Oxnard as part of a weekend anniversary trip.
If you decide to go, be prepared and bring supplies. This excursion is for adventurous people in good physical shape. You will have to climb 157 stairs to the top of this rugged little island in which there isn’t any food, water, services, or flushing toilets. I HATE outhouses, but I’m telling you – the views of the rocky shoreline, massive cliffs, and jagged peaks were worthwhile. You can easily hike 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 adorable baby sea gulls were available around every corner. Just beware of the protective mamas who will swoop at your head if you get too near.
We returned a few years later and visited 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. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Some folks consider 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.
The Huntington Botanical Gardens
This is yet another stunning place that we failed to see for decades. Located in Pasadena, the magnificent estate is home to more than a dozen magnificent gardens spread across 120 acres.
We did not even get a chance to check out the art galleries. And to my shame as a writer, we did not visit The Huntington Library itself, among the largest and most complete research libraries in america.
Next time.
Ventura County Wine Trail
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 near the seaside city of Ventura. We visited two of the nearly 20 wineries and tasting rooms.
You can book one of the numerous wine tours offered. But, we decided to get a map and explore on our own. Beginning in Ventura at the junction of Highway 1 and Highway 101, we drove up Highway 33 toward Ojai.
Surprises await on this somewhat lonely but charming street – from the”USA’s Smallest Post Office” to 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 purchased bottle of wine and a picnic outside on tables enjoying the Americana view.
Incidentally, both Ojai and Ventura are rewarding stops with charming inns, luxurious spas, and bed & breakfasts together with a wide array of outdoor activities. In the summer time, the Ventura Harbor Village is a hubbub of activity with festivals and live music on the weekends.
Laguna Beach
This charming beach town is located halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego. With more than 20 different scenic coves, this beach area offers everything from surfing, paddle-boarding, snorkeling, kayaking, and whale watching excursions.
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 entire mishap since they went and romanticized this whole surfer chick thing with tunes I grew up on like Surfer Girl.
However, the scenery can’t be beat. Add ultra-chic restaurants and shops and one-of-a-kind art galleries and you get the picture. There’s 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 start, located just north of the main beach, with a simple half-mile stroll along a paved path with spectacular views of the coastline and the soothing sound of crashing waves. You can take one of the paths to the beaches and tide pools. Hubby and I had a picnic on one of the grass areas and it was perfect!
Treasure Island Park is another great place, located on the grounds of the five-star Montage Laguna Beach, where the truly rich remain. Exquisitely landscaped, several watch chairs line the easy-to-walk winding path. Stairways and ramps lead you down to the shore, where you could walk through a gorgeous rock archway during low tide, find a place in the sand for sunbathing, and a large tide pool. Additionally, there’s plenty 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 nearby 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 small, 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 sky 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 available.
El Matador Beach
On the lookout for a spectacular shoreline with white sands, towering cliffs, crashing waves, and craggy rock formations in a semi-hidden location?
Look no further than El Matador, situated north of Malibu off the winding Pacific Coast Highway. It’s easy to miss the small, brown sign pointing toward the small parking lot at the trail-head, so watch carefully between Broad Beach and Decker Canyon Roads. Once you find it, be prepared to hike down a 150-foot bluff with the support of some steep stairs.
Not for small children or those who are physically challenged, but in case you can make it down the steps you are going to be treated with stunning views. The locals know about this beach 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 beach on accident when looking for a nearby place to stay the night before flying out of LAX the next morning.
The Redondo Pier is a landmark with scenic ocean views and water activities that include harbor cruises, seasonal whale watching, kayaks, paddleboards, and pedal boats. Truth be known, we did not try any 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 affectionately known as Georgette, on screen in a large tank at Shark Attack on the Pier. If you have grandchildren with you or are young at heart, 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 at an airport hotel if you’re 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 typical 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 small beach.
Next time we visit, I want to try out the new zip-line that’s 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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