December 16, 2020
As California mitigates health risks during the COVID-19 pandemic, some travel restrictions may remain in certain communities. Call the local and regional tourism offices to learn more about the restrictions in your intended destination. Thank you for reading, and stay safe.
Who doesn’t enjoy beautiful beaches, ocean views, arcade games, and delicious food? Boardwalks of all shapes and sizes dot the scenic California coastline; each comes with its own set of fun-filled activities that’ll bring out the kid in anyone.
Whether you enjoy biking, window shopping, people-watching, or savoring local street food, there’s something for everyone to enjoy at the coolest California boardwalks. From the quirky and busy Venice Beach Boardwalk to the understated and calm Trinidad Pier, the possibilities are endless for people looking to spend a day along the panoramic coastlines of the Golden State.
Location: San Francisco County
The creamy clam chowder served in San Francisco sourdough bread bowls around every corner is enough reason to visit this California boardwalk. Located in the famed Fisherman’s Wharf neighborhood, Pier 39 is one of California’s most iconic boardwalks for good reason. There’s so much to eat, drink, and explore along this boardwalk that you can easily make a day out of it. Peruse the many shops and admire views of the San Francisco Bay as you stroll along the pier. Don’t feel like walking? Take a bus or boat tour around the boardwalk for an all-encompassing excursion. Plan your trip now—the wharf is calling.
Location: Humboldt County
The jagged edges of the Pacific meet the majestic emerald forests of the north at this understated California boardwalk. Found 80 miles below the Oregon border the Trinidad Harbor features clean gray sands, rocky headlands, tide pools, and several small islands. Take a walk along the calm beach at Trinidad Pier, feast on a hearty bowl of clam chowder, and go for a short drive into the city to visit the Trinidad Memorial Lighthouse. The varieties of quality dining options close to the pier also make Trinidad a hidden gem on the North Coast.
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
Location: Santa Cruz County
Inviting waves and sandy beaches are always appealing. Add rollercoaster rides, games, music, and theme park food to that combination, and well, how can you resist? This famous California boardwalk is a must-see stop on any Central Coast beach road trip itinerary. The Santa Cruz boardwalk is admission-free, but to enjoy the many rides along the vibrant waterfront amusement park, you can either purchase individual tickets or an all-inclusive day pass.
For a rush of adrenaline, take a ride on the famous Giant Dipper (temporarily closed due to COVID-19), which first opened in 1924. You can take a tamer, less scream-inducing ride on the 1911 Looff Carousel (sigh, also temporarily closed). Best visited during the summer months, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is a can't miss, especially when there is a free outdoor movie screening or a free concert happening on the beach.
Moonstone Beach Boardwalk
Location: San Luis Obispo County
A complete 180 in comparison to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, this Central Coast boardwalk is much calmer and quieter—it’s just as inviting, though. If you forgot to assemble a beach day playlist, don’t fret. The sound of the crashing waves and migrating birds will be the perfect background music for this relaxing getaway.
Get back in touch with nature at the Moonstone Beach Boardwalk; meander along the one-mile pier between Cambria’s north end to Leffingwell Landing and back. Perfect for a laid-back afternoon, enjoying a picnic at the beach—where you can watch whales, dolphins, and birds—is an ideal activity to add to your couple’s road trip itinerary.
Venice Beach Boardwalk
Location: Los Angeles County
Would it even be a complete California boardwalks list if we didn’t include the Venice Beach Boardwalk? This boardwalk won’t give you peace and quiet, but it’s a great spot to shop, walk along the sandy beach, and people-watch. Live entertainment and questionable sidewalk performances are a constant occurrence at this Los Angeles boardwalk, too. The many vendors and local artisans selling art and souvenirs will entertain you for hours.
Surfers, skaters, and cyclists especially love Venice Beach, thanks to the plentiful space to ride around and mingle. If you want to take a souvenir home that’s more meaningful than a tie-dye shirt, you might want to grab a book from Small World Books nearby. Another interesting nearby attraction is The Mosaic Tile House, a 1940s house completely covered in colorful tiles.
Santa Monica Pier
Location: Los Angeles County
Another famous SoCal boardwalk is the Santa Monica Pier. The large double-jointed pier offers world-class shopping, coveted culinary experiences, cultural attractions, compelling historical landmarks, and—thanks to the lively waterfront amusement park—endless opportunities for family-friendly fun.
While many of the attractions are currently closed, there’s still plenty of reasons to visit. Peruse the local shops, grab some souvenirs, indulge in comfort foods, and admire the views of the shimmering waters and pristine sands. You can get a true taste of the Santa Monica lifestyle and fully revel in the relaxing environs at the pier.
Mission Beach Boardwalk in San Diego
Location: San Diego County
At this classic California boardwalk, you’ll find nearly two miles of waterfront walkways, street performers, authentic street vendors, an arcade, and much more. A short walk across Mission Beach leads you to the calm waters of Mission Bay where you can enjoy biking, beach volleyball, boogie boarding, surfing, and more. Enjoy the miles of paved paths at Mission Beach—carry your surfboards and rollerblade through the crowds while the waves crash on the shores nearby.
Newport Beach Boardwalk
Location: Orange County
Newport Beach offers the largest recreational harbor on the West Coast, with over 10 miles of shoreline to enjoy fishing, swimming, surfing, and other aquatic activities. There are endless pastimes on the Newport Beach Boardwalk that’ll help you relax, unwind, and enjoy picturesque views of California’s sunrise and sunset. Visit the Balboa Island Museum and Historical Society (when open during normal circumstances) to learn about the interesting history of the area. To get into the Christmas spirit, head to the Lighting of the Bay at Newport Dunes, and enjoy the festive light displays of holiday trees and floats across the clear waters.
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