San Diego County has a large reputation to match its physical size - about the same square mileage as Connecticut.
For those on the other side of the U.S., though, the idyllic weather is what fills our imagination about the area. We hear about it so much that our mental picture of the San Diego area is replete with palm fronds and sun-baked beaches. It would seem to be boating's version of Oz.
Turns out, imagination isn't far from reality. In fact, if you leave the growing populace of San Diego proper and head 30 minutes north, you wind up in a place that captures the classic, pre-21st century SoCal scene: Carlsbad. Not to say it's old-school; it's just dominated by beaches and boating instead of industry and commerce.
Check it out:
The average high temperature in Carlsbad has a range of only 10 degrees from July (75) to January (65). When the thermometer reads 68, which it consistently did every day on a recent trip there, it is perfect to the skin, without necessitating even a thin jacket on the water. The Pacific coast and Carlsbad Lagoon shoreline are just as the travel brochures depict, with palms jutting above all the structures into a high blue sky.
The lagoon itself is easy to access for runabout owners, and it registers a zero on the intimidation scale. This is one of the few places south of Los Angeles where boaters can play without checking tide charts and surf conditions. Also known as Agua Hedionda, it's much like a small lake in that the water is calm enough to encourage slalom skiers onto a six-buoy course. Lick some spray off your lips and you realize it isn't a lake at all - it's a protected body of salt water.
The scent of strawberry fields reminds boaters when the plants on the hills of the south shore are in season. In fact, hills envelop three sides of Carlsbad Lagoon, with Interstate 5 running along a ridge on the west side. The highway is all that separates the lagoon from the biggest ocean in the world - that and a log boom at the end of a canal.
At the end of each day during this visitor's spring trip to Carlsbad, a subtle breeze washed in from the Pacific - not enough to stir up the lagoon, but just enough to bring in evenings as promised by the travel brochures. Then, upon retreat to the Grand Pacific Palisades Resort, a mile from the lagoon, drive up a hillside where a spectacular 50-acre spread of 12 million flower bulbs is still in its 8-week bloom. At the top of the hill, the ocean will come into view ... and the palm trees ... and the California sunset. Hype? Hardly. I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't soaked it in for myself.