Leucadia is located on Coast Highway 101 on the north San Diego County coast. Heading south out of Carlsbad, the signs are everywhere, announcing your arrival to this old-fashioned beach town that ranks as the top beach community on the California coast for surfing. If the large surfboard sign that says, "Welcome to LEUCADIA", and attached smaller surfboard that states: "A community of Encinitas", aren't a clue, keep driving just a block or two. Flagpole banners tell you about it, and a road marker points to the beach...you just have to go there!
Californiabeaches.com declared Leucadia the best old-fashioned beach town in California. The city begins with a grove of eucalyptus trees that line the street where traffic lanes are divided and a train track runs right down the middle of the road. Train passenger service to downtown San Diego goes all day long, but more often you'll see groups of bicyclist speeding by in their colorful garb along the thoroughfare. Leucadia, like nearby San Diego, is an outdoor mecca. The coastal region's finest weather in the United States offers many opportunities to stay fit.
What stands out in Leucadia's unique lifestyle is the abundance of sports activities, and a clear focus on surfing. Although cities to the north declare themselves the best surfing spots, the locals in Leucadia simply scoff. "Just look out at the set of waves," one surfer told us. "They speak for themselves."
Leucadia lives and breathes surfing and as such, outranks the other spots for its per capita participation in the sport, and its no-apologies approach to protecting the rights of surfers. From the generous beach hours (open from 4 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily), to the carved, wooden surf signs with cool designs, head for your nearest beach to discover just how big surfing is. First stop: Grandview Beach on the north side of town. From 101, just look for a sign that says Beach Access and follow it up the hill to the parking lot tucked in a neighborhood of expensive homes. If you don't see a surfer somewhere, you probably aren't at Grandview Beach. Park the car and head over to the palm-lined steps that descend to the beach. "This is our stairway to paradise," a surfer told me.
Looking out from a perch on the steps of scenic Grandview Beach, you can clearly see surfers in a row, catching multiple sets of waves. If you stand on the stairway to watch, you'll most likely experience the rush of surfers with boards supported on their heads, going up and down the steps. This serious stuff, you'll find out, if you don't politely step aside. While the surfers I met were polite, most seemed singularly focused on getting in and getting out. Surfing wasn't about socializing, but about living.
As one of 4 communities within the City of Encinitas incorporated together in 1986, Leucadia's surfing charm should be part of you 101 journey, but do stop to eat at the restaurants along the highway. Outdoor cafes and tables allow you to dine and people watch, then shop a little at the cute boutiques or sports stores. You can even combine your beverage with your sports activities in a shop that sells coffee drinks and bikes!
While we bragged about its charm, Leucadia has definitely changed in the past several years. The post office, local markets and small hotels are still there, but many new shops and restaurants have been introduced, replacing businesses that once included services such as tax preparation, for instance. Fortunately, the stores and restaurants moving in retain the flavor of old-fashioned.
Founded in 1885 by British immigrants, Leucadia means "sheltered paradise" and aptly describes this unique area of 6,250 residents. A mix of agriculture (the flower industry thrives here), residential and a few shops make this a highly desirable spot for those seeking a less hectic pace than California's second largest city, San Diego, with its over 1 million people. That's not to say that Leucadians are removed from city life. Many commute daily to jobs in San Diego which can take half an hour or so to get to. There is a train which conveniently passes through town and is bound for San Diego and Los Angeles.
Leucadia State Beach is a small, rocky beach 11 acres in size and is fully utilized for swimming, surfing, fishing and picnicking. The beach access is via an improved trail at the foot of Leucadia Boulevard. On the maps, it's “Leucadia State Beach,” but locals and surfers know it as Beacon's.
Location-Directions: The park is located north of San Diego, west of I-5, at Neptune in Encinitas. State Parks Management District: San Diego Coast, Telephone: 619-642-4200 Operating Hours: dawn to sunset. Call the park to confirm. Seasons/Climate/Recommended Clothing: summer and spring are warm; fall and winter can be cool. Layered clothing is advised.
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