San Diego is America’s southwestern-most boating destination. During the day, the sun is bewitching; at night, the cool breezes are captivating. The sheltered bays provide superb coastal hopping and easy docking options. Beyond the natural beauty of the coastline and its beaches is the enticing hum of the shoreside world. San Diego has so much to see and do along its 70 miles of coastline, it’s best to make several stops. With more than 100 distinct neighborhoods, unique experiences await just blocks from the dock. It’s time to start cruising southern California!
Starting Point: San Diego, CA
Central San Diego’s attractions offer multiple versions of “wild.” In addition to several museums, Balboa Park is home to the world-famous San Diego Zoo housing over 3,500 animals of 650 species in cage-free exhibits that recreate natural habitats.
The Gaslamp Quarter is a 24-hour playground of 16+ walkable blocks concentrated with Victorian architecture, eclectic cuisine served sidewalk to rooftop and a variety of nightlife. Grab a pint and a partner for an Irish reel at the Field Irish Pub, which was shipped piece by piece from Ireland. Or take a food tour such as the popular Brothels, Bites and Booze that will satisfy your palate and curiosity about the secrets behind the district’s historic buildings. The Port of San Diego provides temporary (up to 72 hours) anchorage areas and docking for Boaters who reserve online.
Leg 1: San Diego to Coronado Island
Estimated Mileage: 7 NM
A short leg but a world away is an island filled with fanciful shops, old-world mansions and graceful gardens. Coronado’s wide sandy beaches of sparkling, mica-laden sand draw international visitors. Ride a bike on the beachfront boards or stroll shop-lined Orange Avenue to the Coronado Museum of History & Art. Experience the magic of Venice via a private gondola ride through the enchanting canals of the Coronado Cays.
The Hotel del Coronado, boasts a colorful past which includes presidents, princes, scandals, ghosts and glamor. In 1892, a young woman ended her life on the hotel’s staircase. Guests have experienced strange breezes, flickering lights and phantom footsteps evidencing her unrest. “The Del” is likely the inspiration for Emerald City in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as author L. Frank Baum spent many winters there. Centrally located adjacent to the hotel, Glorietta Bay Marina features brand new dock systems with 100 slips
to 110 feet.
Leg 2: Coronado Island to Mission Bay
Estimated Mileage: 17.5 NM
While you’re cruising southern California, Minutes from downtown is San Diego’s aquatic playground, lies the 4,600-acre Mission Bay Park. There are water activities for every age and skill level, and shoreside are bikes, barbecues and bonfires. Sportfishing (or whale watching in season) charters leave from Mission Bay daily. The bay has three distinct beach areas: Mission and Pacific Beaches with their miles-long boardwalks attract a younger crowd, and Newport Avenue, Ocean Beach’s main street, is lined with artist studios, funky antique and vintage stores, restaurants and eccentric local haunts.
Slightly south is Sunset Cliffs Natural Park, a 68-acre recreational area of dramatic cliff formations and coastal sea caves with sunbathing sea lions. Visitors and locals gather on the cliffs at dusk to view the Pacific’s stunning sunsets. Dana Landing Marina, one of several marinas in the bay, has slips to 50 feet.
Leg 3: Mission Bay to Dana Point
Estimated Mileage: 49.5 NM
Heading off the coast for a bigger adventure, the natural beauty becomes more spectacular and seductive. When transiting the coastline, be aware of how much container ship traffic is moving through the area. Along the route are charming towns exuding the California vibe. The waters of Encinitas, a laid-back community known for exceptional surfing, is dotted with wetsuits and boards. Near Carlsbad, the subtle scents from nearby strawberry fields often ride the breeze.
Dana Point is nestled into seven miles of prominent coastal bluffs and rolling hills along the Pacific Ocean. Generations of mammal lovers have visited the “Dolphin & Whale Watching Capital of the World.” Graceful giants breaching and frolicking in the waves can be seen from eateries on the harbor or cliffs above. A statue on Bluff Top Trail honors 19th century “hide droghers” – tradesmen who literally tossed hides over the cliffs to merchant ships anchored below. Dana Point is a manmade harbor with slips and mooring for more than 2,500 boats as well as a multitude of restaurants and shops.
Leg 4: Dana Point to Newport Beach
Estimated Mileage: 15.5 NM
Newport Beach is a long, natural harbor extending far into the surrounding countryside with several excellent yacht clubs. It’s the largest recreational harbor on the West Coast and a popular destination for boating activities and competitive events. The annual Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race is the world’s largest sailboat race. The New York Times called their annual Christmas Boat Parade, begun in 1908, “One of the top ten holiday happenings in the nation.”
Both elegant and relaxed, Newport was once a celebrity favorite. Tours of the Wild Goose, John Wayne’s yacht, provide a peek of his former oceanfront home. Despite his cowboy image, “the Duke” was once a bodysurfer. And, at 13, Shirley Temple was crowned the first Miss Newport Beach. Balboa Marina features 132 slips from 20 to 100 feet. The large single slips open directly onto Newport Harbor’s main channel.
Start cruising Southern California and let us know where your journey takes you!