10 Off-Radar Finds Along The Pacific Coast

Photo: Courtesy of Spot.com.
This post was originally published on Spot.com and is reprinted here with permission.
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Over-water cabins, lighthouse hostels, tiny island distilleries — our friends at new travel app Spot.com rounded up a bunch of cool west-coast spots (from southern California all the way up to British Columbia) that just might inspire a quick summer weekender.
Photo: Courtesy of Crystal Pier Hotel.

Crystal Pier Hotel, San Diego, CA

Ripe for a breezy group getaway or a lovebird weekend away, this collection of historic Cape Cod-style cottages sits on San Diego’s retro Crystal Pier. Each one comes with its own kitchenette (convenient for breakfast and lunch prep on the cheap) and private deck (nicely outfitted with chaise longues and an umbrella-shaded table).

Bonus points: Nearby Baked Bear is famous for its custom ice cream sandwiches (seriously a why-didn’t-I-think-of-that concept). First, you choose your top and bottom — mixing or matching from a selection of cookies, brownies, and donuts; then, you pick your ice cream flavor and toppings, which include Oreo crumbs or hot fudge.
Photo: Courtesy of Malibu Farm.

Malibu Farm, Malibu, CA

This farm-to-fork concept has a pair of locations: a sit-down restaurant at the beginning of the Malibu Pier, and a counter-service café at the end of it. The menu is similar at both — sink-your-teeth-in breakfast burritos, all-organic salads, luscious, grass-fed burgers — but the café has outdoor seating right on the pier, which gives it the edge. It’s a magical place at dusk on weekends, when it stays open a little later.

Bonus points:
Hiker-ready Backbone Trail, which winds for 67 miles from Malibu to Pacific Palisades and has been under construction since the ’60s, just opened in June.
Photo: Courtesy of Spot.com.

Olivas Adobe, Ventura, CA

Only a stone’s throw from the bars and boats and seafood joints of the Ventura Harbor, this 1800s hacienda feels like a throwback, a place where Old California lingers, trapped in some kind of time warp. Thick, adobe walls keep cool an interior that's filled with period furniture — and the surrounding grounds hold a rose garden, fountains, and an impressive number of cacti. Wandering the grounds is free, while tours of the house go for $5.

Bonus points: On Saturday evenings in summer, Olivas hosts a Music Under the Stars concert series featuring an eclectic lineup that spans classic-rock tribute bands, salsa, and zydeco.
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Photo: Courtesy of Spot.com.

Nepenthe, Big Sur, CA

On a sunny day, an hours-long lunch at one of Nepenthe’s alfresco tables is one of life’s purest pleasures. The restaurant is a classic — serving since the 1940s — and the view and vibe are so good, you won’t at all mind the inevitable weekend wait (plus you can order a drink and chill out on floor pillows while you do). A chimichurri-doused rib eye and pan-seared tuna make an appearance on the surf-and-turf-heavy menu, but the most famous dish of all is the Ambrosia burger, named for a “secret” sauce that’s a spicy-creamy mix of mayo, tomato sauce, and salsa.

Bonus points: Just down the road, you’ll find the Henry Miller Library in a tree-shaded cabin that once belonged to Emil White, a longtime pal of Miller’s who resided in Big Sur for 18 years. In keeping with the artistic leanings of its former owner and his devil-may-care tribe of creatives, the library is now a cultural hub, bookshop, and venue with an outdoor stage where bands play on summer evenings.
Photo: Courtesy of Spot.com.

HI Point Montara Lighthouse, Half Moon Bay, CA

A lighthouse-turned-hostel, with nothing between you and the big, blue Pacific. What more do you need to know? That you can spend the night in a 1875 lighthouse station? That there are both shared and private rooms? That the sound of the ocean crashing will lull you to sleep? That whale and dolphin sightings are frequent? The lighthouse is a quick drive from SFO, but even if you’re from the area, a staycation is in order.

Bonus points: An outing to the Half Moon Bay Coastal Trail is a must. The easy-going hike (walk, really) winds past pocket beaches and fantastical artists' studios that look straight out of Hobbiton.
Photo: Courtesy of Spot.com.

Nick's Cove, Marshall, CA

First, the welcome: Other hotels give you a bottle of water (if you’re lucky); Nick’s lays it on with cocktails and a platter of barbecue oysters. Next, the rooms (ahem, try stand-alone cabins): There are 12, with five out over the water, and all with a rustic-chic charm that’ll have you kicking back on your porch with sandy toes and a cold beer one minute, and soaking in your huge, copper tub the next. And, finally, the restaurant: It’s a charismatic community hub that feels like a cross between salty-dog dive and hunting lodge, only the food’s superb. Go late, after the crowds clear out, go for a window seat, and go easy on the oysters (there are many in your future).

Bonus points: Stop by the Tomales Bay Oyster Company, grab a bag of oysters, and take them down the coast about half a mile to Millerton Point beach, which will be far less busy. Of course this means you need oyster-shucking accoutrements and fixings on hand. Bring them with you, grab them at Tomales Bay, or pop into The Marshall Store before you hit Tomales. Your mission for the day: Shuck, slurp, sunbathe. Repeat.
Photo: Courtesy of Spot.com.

Bandon Beach, Bandon, OR

With those offshore rock formations, Bandon is less well-known, but equally as striking as its more famous north-Oregon cousin Cannon Beach, which played backdrop to goofballs and vamps in The Goonies and Twilight. Hit the beach early in the morning, when it will be blissfully deserted (save perhaps one early-rising dog owner and pooch), then commandeer an outside table for fresh crab and smoked fish at Tony’s or Bandon Bait & Tackle, both tackle shops doing a bang-up job with their seafood-shack side gigs.

Bonus points: You can rent the 1905 cobbler-built River House for a one-of-a-kind stay in a lofty, historic space right on the river.
Photo: Courtesy of Spot.com.
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Heceta Head Lighthouse Keepers House, OR

With panoramic vistas of the Pacific, the working 1894 Heceta Head Lighthouse is perched cliffside near the pint-sized town of Yachats. To say the lighthouse gets its picture taken frequently is an understatement; the pop of red and white against an evergreen background is essentially the paint-by-numbers version of a stunning photo. Point, shoot, score.

Bonus points: While many people come for a couple hours, tops, most don’t realize that you can actually overnight in the lighthouse keeper’s home, a Queen Anne-style beauty flanked with a covered porch (pictured).
Photo: Courtesy of San Juan Island Distillery.

San Juan Island Distillery, San Juan Island, WA

You’ll find this charming, family-owned distillery a couple hours north of Seattle on postcard-ready San Juan Island. On Saturdays, its ciders, gins, brandies, and liqueurs, produced French-style in a large copper still, can be sampled in a lovely little on-site tasting room. In keeping with the very PNW all-things-local maxim, apples from a neighboring orchard are the base of most of of this distillery's liquors, and island botanicals like wild roses and blackberries flavor limited releases.

Bonus points: While on the island, drop by Pelindaba Lavender Farm, where 25 dizzyingly fragrant acres of organic lavender fields and a lakefront location make for a magical place to wander.
Photo: Courtesy of Wickaninnish Inn.

Wickaninnish Inn, Tofino, B.C.

You come to this hotel for the storm-watching: Viewing the waves and winds and rain through the floor-to-ceiling windows of the inn’s luxe lobby, hot toddy in hand, made it famous. But when skies are clear, the hotel’s Ancient Cedars Spa, oriented to the open Pacific, has the kind of views you write home about — or at least post on Instagram. This is the spa for the not-a-spa-person crowd, where you can get the Cedar Escape Treatment, a rub-down with organic sea salt followed by an aromatic massage.

Bonus points: The town of Tofino, a short jaunt north, holds a handful of sweet artisan shops, the kind that are curated to a T and bonkers for all things small-batch and handmade. Habit is a goodie, selling an imaginative ensemble of coastal-cool clothing and local jewelry.

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