If heading to Los Angeles it’s a must to hire a car. No-one in LA walks or uses public transport and cheap hire cars are readily available. Once you have the car, the famous Pacific Coast Highway will take you north through Malibu up towards San Francisco and south through Orange County towards San Diego.
However just a short distance south of Los Angeles, and the famous resorts of Long Beach and Venice Beach, lies a peaceful little haven with a small town feel.
Seal Beach is the perfect idea of small town America. Just one Main Street, with no strip malls or hypermarkets, leading down to a pier stretching across a wide pale sand beach and over looking the Pacific Ocean.
As you walk down Main Street, where parking is free if you can find it, the owners of the shops and businesses pop their heads into each others premises to shout a message to their neighbour. Bars are lightly occupied with people having a lunchtime drink or sandwich. Everyone seems unhurried and friendly. Who wouldn’t want to be in a place like Seal Beach?
Stop off in one of the bars for a cooling beer while you browse the little boutiques along Main Street. Chat with the bartender and ask about the town and surrounding area to find the stores or food that you are most interested in. Don’t expect to find designer classics here. Save that window-shopping for Rodeo Drive but get yourself some great beachwear, a sunhat or flip flops from one of the casual-wear shops scattered on your way to the pier.
As you reach the west end of Main Street pull your shades down over your eyes to cut the glare from the sparkling blue Pacific rolling in the other side of the 100 metre wide sandy beach. The beach road is lined with painted beach houses, many of which are rented for the summer.
Next to the wooden pier is the police station, a one room hut, increasing the feeling that despite being able to see the high rises of Long Beach through the haze to the north, you have moved on to a one horse town.
Take a walk up the pier and treat yourself to lunch at Ruby’s, a 50’s style tiled and red leatherette diner on the pier end. Have one of the huge burgers or never ending fresh salads and finish up with a malt shake in one of many great flavours, such as Strawberry Cheesecake or Black Forest. Don’t rush. There are no queues and no-one will hurry you for the table. The friendly waitress will come over, only to make sure there’s nothing else she can get for you.
Spend the afternoon on the almost empty beach. It really is the widest, warmest, softest beach with pacific breakers washing in and no matter how many families or groups come down it is never remotely crowded.
Stay on the beach till the sun sinks into the sea, but don’t expect to get a late dinner in this town. Restaurants here are all closed by 10pm and even the bars don’t serve food any later.
You’ll have to really wind yourself back up to stand the pace in LA once you’ve relaxed at the sleepy but wonderful Seal Beach.
Linda is a freelance writer and bookseller who, following 19 years in IT for a large airline, loves to write about the places she has visited. She also adores her other job as a bookseller in a local bookstore.