Coronado, California: An Insider’s Guide

For Glorietta Bay Inn general manager Claudia Ludlow, simply crossing the Coronado bridge from San Diego is enough to unwind and feel transported to another place. She talks to New Zealand travel writer Jacqui Gibson, who recently visited the picturesque beach town of nearly 25,000 people, about why she’s happy to call this piece of California home.

Claudia Ludlow, General Manager, Glorietta Bay Inn. (c) Visit Coronado. FWT Magazine.
Photo: Claudia Ludlow, General Manager, Glorietta Bay Inn, outside one of her favourite Coronado restaurants – the Bluewater Boathouse Grill (c) Visit Coronado. FWT Magazine.

– As told to JACQUI GIBSON

I was in fourth grade when I first came to elementary school in Coronado. Each day we’d take the 15-minute commute from San Diego, mom driving with me and my brother in the back seat.

We’d drive over the big bridge leaving the city behind us and always, for me, there was the thrill of seeing the ocean and taking in the views of San Diego Bay. We officially moved to Coronado about a year later – and I never really left.

Photo of the Coronado bridge on sunset. FWT Magazine.
Photo: Coronado bridge on sunset (c) Visit Coronado. FWT Magazine.

For visitors and Californian locals alike, Coronado is the place to come when you want to get away from it all and relax. The expansive view of the ocean does it for me, especially the gorgeous pink sunsets we get and the white sandy beach that stretches forever in either direction.

We’ve got that fine-grained, powdery sand that squeaks between your toes. Our climate is lovely – an average of 75-78F (21C) in summer and around 68-72F (13.5C) in winter. And we’ve got a lot of great restaurants, plenty of things to do outdoors and amazing heritage. And don’t be surprised if you bump into an all-American Navy Seal while you’re here. They’re based in Coronado and are very much part of our community.

Claudia’s top 5 things to do in Coronado this Christmas

1. Walk Orange Avenue

Take a stroll down our main street, Orange Ave. It’s a flat, easy walk. And it’s beautiful this time of year with everyone’s Christmas decorations on show. There’s plenty of great shopping and eateries. If boutique shopping is your thing, check out The Attic. If you love old-school diners, then definitely drop into Clayton’s Coffee Shop for an old-fashioned malt, Granny Smith apple pie or something hot off the griddle.

Photo showing a bird's eye view of Del Coronado Hotel. FWT Magazine.
Photo: Bird’s eye view of Hotel del Coronado (c) Visit Coronado. FWT Magazine.

2. Go ice skating at the Hotel del Coronado (the Del)

The Del’s spectacular open-air ice rink is up-and-running! This is a not-to-be-missed annual Christmas event for families, couples and singles. Rug up and head down there on dusk (it’s open late). Positioned right next to the beach, the rink is the perfect place to take in a Coronado sunset.

3. Eat at the Bluewater Boathouse Grill

The Bluewater Boathouse Grill is one of my favourite places to eat in Coronado. If you like hyper-local, sustainably caught seafood, like me, then you’ll definitely want to put this on the list. You can enjoy a dozen oysters, a jumbo prawn cocktail or their award-winning chowder. My personal favourite is the chipotle blackened swordfish with avocado. The restaurant is gorgeous, too, it’s set over the water in the former boathouse of the Hotel del Coronado, built in 1887.

Coronado chefs pride themselves on using only the freshest produce (c) Chef Michael Poompan. FWT Magazine.
Photo: Coronado chefs pride themselves on using only the freshest produce (c) Chef Michael Poompan. FWT Magazine.

4. Stay in a historic hotel

It takes a special kind of resort town to offer such an eclectic range of boutique hotels – and we have some of the best around. There’s the 128-year-old Hotel del Coronado, for one. Glorietta Bay Inn, the heritage hotel and historic landmark built in 1908 where I work, is another. The Inn has 11 historic mansion rooms – and a history linking it to one of Coronado’s founding fathers, sugar baron John D Spreckles. Come and stay – see it for yourself!

Coronado sand castles (c) Visit Coronado. FWT Magazine.
Photo: Coronado sand castles (c) Visit Coronado. FWT Magazine.

 5. Build a sand castle

Our beautiful beach is a great place to entertain the kids for a few hours. I recommend grabbing a bucket and spade for some sandcastle sculpting. Coronado’s soft-grained sand makes it perfect for sandcastles. Just be warned – you may face some stiff competition out there. We have our very own Sandcastle Man – the wonderful Bill Pavlacka – who started building sandcastles down on the beach with his four children more than 30 years ago. Look for Bill’s impressive sculptures outside the Del – that’s his favourite spot. You may even get the chance to meet Bill and ask for some tips.


Photo of Coronado sunset. FWT Magazine.
Photo: Coronado sunset (c) Visit Coronado. FWT Magazine.

Jacqui Gibson

Jacqui is a New Zealand-based freelancer and former blog editor for the International Food Wine and Travel Writers' Association (IFWTWA). She writes for online and print publications in New Zealand, the US and the UK, including the NZ Herald Travel, Wilderness, BBC Travel and AAA Traveler Worldwise. In 2019, she won the IFWTWA Excellence in Journalism Award for a travel feature on the food heritage of New Orleans for Heritage New Zealand magazine.