Cardiff by the Sea, CA 92007

Note: this is part of my Town-by-Town Description series.

classic view of cardiff driving up hwy 101


  • Classic flip-flop culture meets beautiful upscale architecture.
  • Ranges from country-like, multi-acre parcels approximately two miles inland… to thickly settled residences the closer you get to the coast.
  • Spectacular homes sitting right alongside multi-unit rentals.
  • The smallest of North County towns, but still has its own 92007 zip code.
  • Cardiff is the only North County town that doesn’t have structures built on the west side of Hwy 101… since the ocean cuts east up to the road. But its as if the Man Upstairs tempered this feature by tilting the whole setup along a fairly dramatic hill, offering more amazing sunset views per home than its North County neighbors.
  • Passport to North County- living here creates a sense of belonging to each of the neighboring towns too… its about 17 miles from the tip of Carlsbad to the bottom of Del Mar, and most of your frequented destinations will be within two miles of the coast.
  • Visitor Factor- the campground keeps a steady stream of visitors flowing, but also lends a special sense of ownership to the locals. If you are thinking about avoiding out-of-towners by choosing a different town instead… fagedabouddit… they get pressure too.
  • Cardiff… funky, real, cool.


Sample Architecture

Features & Attractions

  • Composer District– named by its developer after the musical composers he loved, these coveted streets offer a sort of throwback to olde San Diego. The streets are winding… the views are spectacular… the architectural design is straight from a magazine. Here is a good article about is origins. Located north of Birmingham, west of I5.

    sample composer district street

  • Walking District– highly sought after homes, plotted in a grid that surrounds Town Center. Walking distance to beach, shops, restaurants, and parks. Located south of Birmingham, west of I5.

    street view overlooking the walking district

  • Crest Drive– a street that runs parallel with the coast, east of I5, along the highest point on the hill, overlooking the Pacific Ocean to the west, and mountain ranges to the east.

    ocean view from crest drive

    inland view from crest drive

    random street between i5 and crest drive

  • Cardiff Campground is one of the best places in America to pitch a tent. Its like being in Big Sur, but warmer, without the cool redwood trees, and closer to gourmet food. The oceanfront bluff offers breathtaking views… the cost is nominal… the experience is memorable. I actually camped here 10 years ago for four nights when I first landed in Cardiff (from back east). I used it as home base until I found a killer rental that allowed dogs. Speaking of dogs, they are welcome at the Campgrounds (on leash). The surf ranges from ok to epic.

    lifeguard tower by “campgrounds”

  • Cardiff Town Centre– located in the heart of Cardiff by the Sea, my Pacific Coast Homes office is based here, right next to Seaside Market. We get foot-traffic of 17,000 people per week! …of which I estimate 16,000 wear flip-flops. You will also find here the best pizza place and dry-cleaner in North County, along with a Starbucks, surf art gallery, and several shopping boutiques. A new sushi restaurant is also being built in the former location of Yogi’s (see below).

    cardiff town centre

  • Seaside Market– the best gourmet food source in North County. Everything you (not so much need as) want at high (but not obnoxiously) high prices. The freshest meat and fish around, albeit sold in cuts so huge, you can’t eat again for days. Hey, maybe that’s how people can afford to shop here! Great produce. Staples you need at convenience store prices. Good wine collection managed by a great guy. In fact all the people who work there are friendly… sort of like “In-and-Out” style only sans the funny hats.

    inside town centre: seaside market and my pch office

  • Patagonia– a high-end surf store, out of which you’d love to buy many artful, enviro-friendly things if you didn’t have to also budget for food and diapers.

    chlorine free merino wool lined wetsuit anyone?

  • Cardiff Lagoon– aka San Elijo Lagoon, contains 1,000 acres, 8 trail heads, 7.5 miles of trails & 700 species of plants and animals. Run by this conservatory.

    cardiff lagoon

    view from solana beach side


  • Glen Park– clean, safe, and beautiful ocean view park with picnic tables, and tennis and basketball courts.

    glen park

  • Train tracks– used by North County Transit District’s Coaster and Sprinter lines.

    even our trains have killer views

  • More features and attractions:

    classic hwy 101

    driving down birmingham

    ancient structure on school grounds likely involving juicy history i don’t know about

    can still park on dirt in some places

    rare plot of land west of crest drive

    standard issue surf van


  • Trattoria Positano– Quiet, cozy, romantic… good ambiance.

    date night

  • Las Olas– the best sit-down style Mexican restaurant in North County. Located on famous Hwy 101, on the strand that connects Cardiff with Solana Beach. Semi ocean views… total beach vibe… better than average food… great margaritas, bloody maries, and bottled beer. And chips and salsa good enough that you never seem to be as hungry as you thought when the burrito comes.

    tacos meet surf

  • East Coast Pizza– the best pizza in Cardiff. I like the sausage, meatball, pepperoni slices best.

    hits the spot

  • Pipes Café– not sure what all the hubbub’s about… but its super popular with the surf crowd. When I first moved here I was excited to not only surf, but do all things surf related… and this includes Pipes for sure. Only the eggs came out steamed, I got like one slice of bacon, the lines were long, and I don’t think I’ve been back since. Note: my opinion here does not reflect consensus.

    steamed eggs, brah!

  • Chart House– you pay more for the ambiance and ocean view than the food. But the food is very good, and view is in fact, killer, so the next time you feel like valet parking your car to enjoy an artfully presented scoop of ahi…

  • Cicciotti’s– formerly the Cardiff location of Vigilucci’s. While its just not the same as when it was Vigiliucci’s, and I honestly can’t put my finger on why… it serves up a diverse and yummy family style meal at “we’re not on a date” prices.

  • VG’s– when you’re in the mood to add back calories burned during exercise, drop by VG’s for the absolute, hands down, best chocolate-glazed donut you ever did scarf.

    best donuts this side of anywhere


  • Yogi’s Sports Bar Restaurant– has sort of a monopoly on Cardiff nightlife. I think it has something to do with it being hard to get a liquor license here. I haven’t been to the new location which is next to Las Olas on the 101 strand that connects Cardiff with Solana Beach, but I imagine it’s pretty much the same. (Yogi’s used to be in Town Centre.)

    your next old stomping grounds

  • The Office– one of those bars you visit when first coming to town and decide whether you’re going to make it a hobby. One of the funniest quotes I can remember hearing about, was said in this bar, by a guy who resembles Cliff Clavin straight out of Cheers, after being asked… “why do you even bother coming in here?” He replied, “because it feels so good when I leave”.

    “honey, i was at the office”

  • The Shanty– even more of a commitment than The Office.

    still here


  • Cardiff Lodge– a place I recommend to my people… but my people tend to stay where they want to stay… and give me my opinion when they ask for it. $185-ish.

    cardiff lodge

  • Holiday Inn Express– an inexpensive alternative… recently remodeled and nicer than you think. $135-ish.

Surf Breaks

  • Pipes– north of the campground… a fun peaky break, south of Swami’s.
  • Campgrounds– the beach in front of the campground that shows why California is better than wherever you come from.
  • Cardiff Reef– south end of the campground, by the river mouth, where grommets and oldie-but-goodies pretend they don’t irritate one another. Mostly long-boardable but can get epically epic.

    cardiff reef

  • George’s– is the stretch of coast in front of the Lagoon, aka “Restaurant Row”… ranges from frustratingly fat tide mush to fast micro-barrels.
This entry was posted in observations and opinion, town-by-town descriptions. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Cardiff by the Sea, CA 92007

  1. Patrick says:

    I love your posts regarding real estate, and this one is so true. Thanks for the post.

    Click here for : Florida Homes Miami

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