Downtown San Diego is such a busy place that it's a shining example of the phrase, “hustle and bustle.” Thousands of people scurry off to work in high-rise buildings, hundreds more attend business conventions, countless tourists explore the city, and baseball games bring downtown traffic to a standstill! Non-stop activity around every corner can overload the senses and cause unnecessary stress, so where can someone find peace and serenity? Across the bay at Coronado Island, that's where!
Less than ½ mile across the bay from downtown San Diego is the beautiful island of Coronado, which was founded in 1885 as a resort community. Currently, Naval Base Coronado takes up more than half of the island while the rest is mostly devoted to restaurants, small shops and beach activities. As a result, life in Coronado feels more like a small town than a big city. Since it has been listed as one of the most expensive cities to reside in the U.S., I guess it's more like an immaculate small beach town where quality trumps quantity. It's a great place to visit, but I'm not sure I want to live there!
There are three ways to get to Coronado, the most convenient of which is by driving over the iconic Coronado Bridge. Due to the immense size and steep angle, this huge bridge is not open to pedestrians. Another reason is because the bridge is very narrow. So narrow, in fact, that an ingenious method is required to move the center dividers to widen the lanes for rush-hour traffic. Visitors can also drive up the Silver Strand isthmus and enter Coronado from the south.
For the ultimate leisurely experience, I suggest riding to Coronado on the ferry from either Broadway Pier or the Convention Center. This short jaunt over to the island offers views of bay activity that are much more enjoyable than looking at other vehicles through a car window. Make sure to bring a bike because not only do they ride the ferry for free, but they're also the best way to travel around Coronado! If you don't have a bike, they can be rented at Holland's Bike Shop as well as Bikes and Beyond. Coronado is one of the only places I know of where top-of-the-line Electra bicycles can be rented; there are so many around every corner that I sometimes refer to it as “Electra Island.”
The Coronado/San Diego ferry docks at Ferry Landing, which has the widest selection of restaurants and shops of any location on the island. How convenient is that? Satisfy your sweet tooth at the Coronado Cupcakery or the Cold Stone Creamery and then grab a quick bite to eat at Lil' Piggy's Bar-B-Q or the Village Pizzeria Bayside. When night rolls around, why not treat yourself or a loved one to a picturesque candlelit dinner with a gorgeous view of the bay at Peohe's Restaurant or Candelas on the Bay? Locally-grown produce can be found at the robust Farmer's Market in the Coronado Ferry Landing parking lot every Tuesday afternoon from 2:30 to 6pm. Ferry Landing is also the home of live music every other week and various fun events like the Coronado Art Walk and Fourth of July celebration!
Several shops that offer everything from apparel to artwork to souvenirs are dotted around Ferry Landing. Treat yourself to fine tobacco at the Coronado Cigar Factory or indulge in over 50 different types of shoes at the French Room. Visitors can even sample the luck of the Irish with kilts, food, pottery and other items from the U.K. at Scottish Treasures. Remember, if it's not Scottish, it's crap!
Follow Orange Avenue to the west side of the island and you'll find the other main hub of activity in Coronado. There are many more shops and restaurants here than at Ferry Landing, but they're spread out over a larger area. Orange Avenue is home to several great bars like the Coronado Firehouse Bar and Grill and Danny's Palm Bar and Grill. Other cool places to visit include: Lamb's Players Theater, FUEL Juice Bar, Orchid Day Spa, Bistro D'Asia and Mootime Creamery.
Of course, the coolest, and most widely known place to visit on the island is the Hotel del Coronado (locally referred to as 'The Del'). Featuring recognizable red awnings set atop white framework, this huge hotel is the quintessential vacation destination! Older visitors will enjoy the vintage style and quality handiwork while couples will appreciate the romantic atmosphere and wide variety of eating locales. Several great activities, like Drive-in Movie Night on inner tubes and Surf Camp, are designed to entertain kids and keep them out of trouble.
It's no coincidence that the Hotel del Coronado faces the beach and offers beautiful ocean views in many rooms. Although the Coronado beach isn't particularly long, it is extremely wide! In fact, it's such a long walk to the beach that you'll probably take a nap as soon as you get your towel settled! However, the beach rarely has a dense population, and that makes the extra effort worthwhile. Yes, Coronado Island is quaint and full of charm, and I appreciate any destination that offers worthy alternatives to driving!
For more information, head over to www.CoronadoVisitorCenter.com