This Walkable SoCal Island Is the Perfect Weekend Getaway

Ditch the car and embrace the ferry.

Just off the coast of California and connected to San Diego by bridge sits Coronado Island, full of Americana houses and historical California charm. It’s an easy spot to spend the weekend and even easier to ditch the car after you get there to enjoy the very walkable island. (It’s worth noting that general parking on the island is notoriously difficult.) You can also take one of two ferries from San Diego to Coronado: one leaves from the San Diego Convention Center and takes around five minutes, the other is approximately 15 minutes to the Broadway Pier, near the USS Midway.

Hotel Del Coronado

Stay in the Hotel del Coronado

No trip to Coronado can be complete without some acknowledgement of the Hotel del Coronado, the historic and iconic resort by the sea. A sprawling layout of red and white buildings, the hotel is Coronado, as its construction in 1886 led to the development of the island. There’s several accommodation options at the hotel, called Neighborhoods, that run from rooms in the main building to beachfront rentals. Try to be there during the holidays when the property goes all out to celebrate and keep an eye out for the ghost of Kate Morgan, whose presence is said to still grace the property. And if you don’t stay there, at least stop for a drink or a stroll through the shops to soak in the atmosphere.

Coronado Brewing Company
Coronado Brewing Co.

Take in the brews

Head to the local watering hole, McP’s Irish Pub, which has been pouring beer for over 40 years. The establishment was founded by a former Navy SEAL, Greg McPartlin, with a cozy interior that pays homage to the Irish originals. Take a seat at the comfortable bar to peer at all of the personalized beer mugs hanging from the ceiling. McP’s massive patio is also the perfect spot to bring your pooch and watch people traversing Orange Avenue.

On the other side of the island, not far from the ferry landing, is the Coronado Brewing Co. Originally opened in 1996 by the Chapman brothers, who dreamed of having a brew pub in their hometown, the location has expanded over the years, alongside their craft brewed offerings. Their award-winning selection includes the Orange Avenue Wit beer, which has been brewed since 1996. The food menu includes classic coastal pub cuisine, from fish tacos to flatbreads and burgers, all of which pair well with whatever is on tap.

The Hotel del Coronado’s prime placement on Coronado Beach makes it an incredible location to watch the sunset from the Babcock & Story Bar. It’s named after the two founders of “The Del,” Hampton L. Story and Elisha Babcock Jr. and impressively showcases the original mahogany bar. But the outdoor patio is where it’s at, with perfect ocean and end of day views. Try the Some Like It Haute! cocktail as a nod to the film that cemented the hotel’s iconic status.

Clayton's Coffee Shop Coronado Island
Clayton's Coffee Shop

Start the morning right

As you walk up Orange Avenue, you will come across the iconic Night & Day Cafe tucked against the sidewalk. Since 1927, the late night location has served Coronado locals and tourists traditional diner food, adding Mexican items to the menu in 2012. Inside, only a small number of stools are crammed around the counter; with only a couple of tables outside, snagging a space on a busy Saturday morning takes some effort. If you can, try to get a seat at the counter to watch the cooks quickly dish up meals on the 100 year old flat-top grill.

If you haven’t gotten your fill of diner dishes, head to Clayton’s Coffee Shop, a Coronado favorite for over 80 years. Home to the last original horseshoe counter in San Diego County, Clayton’s does comfort food like no other. Expect to see from-scratch corned beef hash and plenty of plates that include gravy, including a Chicken Fried Steak Biscuit Sandwich.

For a taste of Paris in SoCal, saunter over to Little Frenchie, right in the heart of the hustle and bustle of town. This popular bistro offers a beautiful weekend brunch and specialty pastries not available during the week. Traditional French classics like escargot, croque madame and quiche dot the menu alongside short rib hash and steak and eggs.

Courtesy of Discover Coronado

Soak up the sun

With gorgeous views and that San Diego weather, the best way to experience Coronado is outside. A sizable part of the island is home to the North Island Naval Air Station base, which is off-limits to non-military personnel. However, you may spy Navy SEALs training on and around the beach and bay.

If you stick to the main Coronado Beach, it’s divided into 3 sections: North, South and Central. The North Beach is perfect if you’ve brought your pooch along, as there’s a great off-leash section for dogs and a dog shower. Central Beach is the main section that also includes a lifeguard station. The South Beach section runs past where The Del ends all the way to the Navy SEALs training facility.

To see a different side of Coronado, head over to Silver Strand State Beach, which stretches out on the sand-spit that creates the outer of San Diego Bay. The beach is open to a variety of activities, from fishing to volleyball, with spectacular views of the bay. There’s even an RV campground available. Active or retired military can also book reservations to camp at Fiddler’s Cove.

Coronado Historical Association Museum of History and Art
Museum of History & Art | Courtesy of Coronado Historical Association

Absorb a dose of culture

Take advantage of Coronado’s easy to stroll set-up to enjoy some of the culture on the island. The Coronado Public Art app (available on Android and iOS) maps out the approximately 100 pieces contained in the Coronado Public Art Collection with information and photos to guide you on your walk.

You can also stop by the Coronado Historical Association’s Museum of History & Art. Alongside galleries with pieces of Coronado history, the museum is constantly updating its exhibits. Previous exhibitions have included A View from the Periscope about submarines and Wings of Gold: The Centennial of Naval Aviation. Even better, admission to the museum is completely free.

If you want to combine your love of history and the outdoors, try taking one of the association’s Historic Walking Tours. Offered a couple times a week, the easy paced walk covers two miles and lasts about 90 minutes, taking visitors past historic homes that have helped shape Coronado. Tickets for adults are $20 and proceeds help support the association.

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Asonta Benetti is a contributor for Thrillist.