Tourists in Carlsbad often stop and ask me where to go to see the highlights of North County San Diego. For the best tour of Coastal North County San Diego, hop on the Coaster, a regional transit service running from Downtown San Diego to Oceanside. The views from the train are stunning, and coastal lagoons can be seen in a way not appreciated from the freeway or beach. The Coaster allows access to prime beach communities, outdoor activities, and shopping along the way, and is a great way to see what the region offers. Here are some of favorite picks.
The train leaves views of Mission Bay and Old Town to weave through the Sorrento Valley and Eastern Miramar Region. Along the way, keep your eyes peeled for rustic scenes reminiscent of California's ranch days. The satellite dishes near Qualcomm in Sorrento Valley and the occasional fighter jet or helicopter overhead from Miramar Air Station serve as a reminder of the high tech activities of the area.
Leaving the Sorrento Valley behind, the train breaches onto the coast near Torrey Pines. If your eyes are peeled you may see a deer or many birds off to the left. Runners and hikers alike appreciate the trails that run from Torrey Pines to Del Mar along a bluff protected from the hum of cars. The Coaster runs right through Del Mar and the racetrack is visible from the train. Stop in Solana Beach to stay in resorts like the Auberge, or dine along the beach at Poseidon or Jake's. Head to Pizza Port in Solana Beach for grub and grog before hitting the Belly Up for some live music or stroll through the Cedros Design District.
Cyclists love North County for the ability to ride unimpinged by cross traffic from North to South along the Ocean. To get to Cardiff, get off at Encinitas and go south. In Cardiff, you may spot surfer Rob Machado at Swami's , or meditate inwards at the Self Realization Fellowship. At the end of the day, for seafood try the Chart House or the Beach House in Cardiff by the Sea.
Get off the train in Encinitas for shopping at the Lumberyard or Encinitas Main Street, or just walk north up the Pacific Coast Highway and enjoy a coffee at Pannikin in Leucadia. If you are just after some simple eats, stop in Encinitas and you are sure to find what you are looking for, even if it is hard to find a raw food dish. Don't miss Lou's Records or Shatto and Sons Shirts in Leucadia.
The Coaster allows you to see some wildlife that is otherwise vanishing in Los Angeles and downtown San Diego. See birds in the numerous North County Lagoons north of Torrey Pines, and walk alongside coastal sage at Poinsettia Station. It is too far to walk, but from the Poinsettia Station you may access Lego Land, the Four Seasons at Aviara,shopping at the Carlsbad Forumand the Carlsbad Outlets, and the La Costa Resort and Spa.