Coronado Used-To-Be-An-Island is really a peninsula; a northward jutting one that forms the western part of the present day San Diego Bay. The locals here still call its blooming upper part Coronado Island, however, and the thin strip of sand bar connecting it to the main land ‘the Silver Strand’.
Coronado ranks right up there with La Jolla as San Diego’s upper (just short of escaping the earth’s atmosphere) class community with broad and perfectly manicured boulevards, old fashioned beach houses with lush lawn and handsome old trees. The main thoroughfare through ‘the island’ is Orange Avenue which used to be lined with blossoming orange trees that had since been eradicated by the hungry native jackrabbits…. No, seriously! Those furry little things can really eat a whole orange grove without gaining an ounce! At any rate, Orange Avenue is still lined with many beautiful fir, eucalyptus, and other sorts of tree, boutique and specialty shops, the Lamb Player’s Theater, and many fine and neighborhood restaurants. It is quite pedestrian-friendly and is where the bus stops are.
Aside from the Silver Strand in the south, the island is connected to Downtown San Diego via the San Diego – Coronado Bridge (completed in 1969); a 2 miles long sleek blue thing with a pronounce dogleg turn in the middle which accommodates its height of 200 ft or 61 m (so that the many aircraft carriers that calls San Diego Bay home can pass underneath). There used to be a $1 toll for using the bridge, but the thing paid for itself and the toll was discontinued in 2002. This bridge is for automobile only, though, if you are on foot or bicycle your best bet of commuting between Downtown San Diego and Coronado is via bus #901 ($5 round trip) or an hourly ferry ($7 round trip) that boards between Broadway Pier and Cruise Ship Terminal on the main land and at Ferry Landing off 1st Avenue on the island.
The Coronado Ferry Landing Marketplace at the foot of 1st Street is a tourist trap. The minute you step off the boat, you’re confronted with cute shops, good restaurants fanning their kitchen’s finest aroma out on the street, and a really camera-friendly view of the downtown San Diego skyline. There’s a strip park that continues on the bay front up to 5th Street or so that allows you a good stroll as you peruse at the pristine water, the ships of various trades, and the light reflecting glass-covered skyscrapers on the other side of the bay. The Coronado Ferry Landing hosts a weekly Farmers’ Market every Tuesday from 2:30 – 6 PM.
The northern tip of Coronado island houses the Naval Air Station (NAS) North Island. Commissioned in 1963 and is recognized at the birthplace of Naval Aviation, this is the home port of many aircraft carriers, other battleships, and a master helicopter base. Another branch of the Navy on the island is the Naval Amphibious Base (where the Navy SEALs call home) on the Silver Strand. Sadly, both bases are now off-limit to civilians since the 9/11 attack on the USA.
The main attraction on Coronado, aside from its wide beach of fine white sand, of course, is the red roofed Hotel Del Coronado. First opened for business in 1888, this stunning Victorian Era complex is a favorite home away from home for many of the rich and famous. It can be seen in various films, most notably in the 1958 Marilyn Monroe flick, Some Like It Hot… and more recently, in 1995 Ellen DeGeneres’ Mr. Wrong. The largest luxury resort in the world when it first opened for business, Hotel Del remains one of the largest wooden structures in the United States today. For $15, those of us who can’t afford to stay at the Del can take the Coronado Museum of History and Art guided tour inside the hotel. Call the Visitor Center at (619) 437-8788 for more info.
Aside from great bay view along the Ferry Landing park and Glorietta Bay, Coronado also offers magnificent view of the Pacific Ocean on its west coast. On a clear day you can even see the Old Light House on top of the southward jutting Pt. Loma peninsula. The Coronado City Beach has perfect sand for beach volleyball and jogging and the surf is great for both swimming and surfing. They even have a Dog Beach your dog can roam freely…. much to the horror of the many local sea gulls that like to sun themselves there.
Those who enjoy camping can do so at the Silver Strand State Beach to the south. It is the only public camping on the island. By ‘camping’ I mean RV camping only, though. No tent camping is allowed there. The Silver Strand also houses Loew Coronado Bay Resort and its one of a kind Gondola Company offering romantic sailing trips around the Coronado Cays.
I may not be able to afford to live there, but a $5 bus trip to Coronado Island has been one of my favorite ‘local getaways’ since I moved here from the Midwest in 2003. The place is just too charming to ever get old on you. If you ever visit Southern California, don’t just limit your trip to Los Angeles to the north. If that’s your plan… watch this Youtube clip and get a glimpse of what you’d be missing!
Some local events of interest (2009):
– Every 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month from 10AM-4PM: Art-in-the-Park at Spreckels Park at 7th Street and Orange Ave.
– Every Sunday at 6PM (from May – Sept): Free Summer Concert Series at Spreckels Park.
– 18, 19 April: Coronado Flower Show at Spreckels Park.
– 4 July: Fourth of July Celebration with a run/walk, art show, and concert at Spreckels Park.
– 2nd weekend in October: The Chrysler Classic Speed Festival road race on the taxiways of NAS North Island.
– 1st Friday in December: Holiday Parade and Open House at the Ferry Landing. The Holiday Parade starts at 6PM on 8th Street and progresses down Orange Avenue to R.H. Dana Place. Lots of concerts and shows, ending with fireworks over the bay at 8:30 PM.