The Pacific Coast Highway is a major north-south thoroughfare that runs along almost the entire length of California. Much of it is accompanied by what is often considered to be the most attractive coastal scenery in the United States. And large sections are considered to be simply stunning. The 123-mile stretch from Monterey (approximately 100 miles south of San Francisco) to Morro Bay (on California’s Central Coast), for example, is rated by The National Geographic as nothing short of spectacular – one of the world’s greatest driving trails. The ‘drive of a lifetime’, no less.
Closer to home (within Los Angeles County), the most impressive stretch of the PCH is in Malibu. Although not as striking as elsewhere, the scenery remains imposing, with the magnificent Santa Monica Mountains giving way to the Pacific Ocean in dramatic – and even at times breathtaking – fashion. It might seem a shame that the area is so developed, urbanized – but of course it’s exactly that coupling (of residential and coastal) that’s come to define Malibu, characterized by celebrity living, and epitomized most obviously in the Malibu Colony.
But there are many reasons to visit Malibu, and I’ve only really started exploring what it has to offer. I’ve yet to visit Malibu Pier, the Lagoon (and museum), historic Adamson House, or the Getty Villa. I’ve yet to go surfing (although it’s likely that I’ll resist that particular temptation altogether). But I have been on some of the hiking trails, got unexpectedly sun-burnt on the beach in late December, and watched dolphins play at the water’s edge. It’s a good start.
I’ve already grown particularly fond of the beautiful Point Dume State Beach and Natural Preserve. Point Dume itself is an attractive promontory at the end of Santa Monica Bay, with a viewing platform that is apparently an excellent place to spot whales as well as dolphins and seals. There are a number of short hiking trails around the headland and along the beaches, and the area is popular with surfers, swimmers, walkers and rock climbers. Once again, it seems impossible in Los Angeles to leave the movie industry behind, and Point Dume is – of course – a popular location for filming (amounting to 163 production days in 2012). It’s also clearly recognisable as the (fictional) location of Tony Stark’s mansion in Iron Man.
I’ve also been – on a number of occasions – to the Malibu Seafood Patio Café. I already know how good their food is, and just how popular it can be. But arriving at just after 2pm on Sunday I was momentarily stunned by the length of the queue. It actually only took about 30 minutes to place our order (which is fine if you’ve got the time), and anyway, standing in the warm sunshine under the bright blue Malibu sky really didn’t seem that arduous. Curious.
The menu is extensive, including a full range of fish and seafood options that can be steamed, grilled or deep-fried depending on your preference. It’s possible to have one of a number of salads, sandwiches, burgers, a la carte or dinner options. A typical selection of fish and seafood includes fresh clams, mussels, crab, lobster, ahi tuna, scallops, seabass and salmon. There are also daily specials, and a full range of side dishes is always available. After ordering, we move to find a seat on their patio and enjoy the view over the PCH towards the Pacific Ocean. It’s incredibly clear and I can see right across to Catalina Island with startling clarity. Looking south I can see Santa Monica and beyond to Long Beach. And beyond… It’s loud – motorbikes and cars on the PCH compete with the laughter and chatter of people at the café. It’s festive. Celebratory. It’s reminiscent of a raucous party and is incredibly good-natured. The sea breeze is perfect. We watch great pelicans with amazing grace sweep along the ocean, and wait a surprisingly short time (about 5 minutes) to be told that our food is ready for collection.
For me, the choice has been – as always here – simple. I can never resist the clam chowder, which is rich, thick and creamy. It’s full of clams – generous – and with just the right amount of potato and onion. The seasoning is perfect. My deep-fried fish and chips (1 piece fish and fries), is equally good. The succulent white fish is encased in a crisp batter that is enjoyable to the very last bite. The chips are slightly crunchy, with a fluffy interior that is just as it should be. The coleslaw is fresh, and good enough. This place is what it is. It sells fish, seafood, fries. And it does it very well. So, if that’s something that you enjoy, then you’re unlikely to be disappointed.