Playtime need not be limited to the playground. The day we took a leisurely family stroll on the San Clemente Pier was a perfect reminder.
Location: Head towards San Clemente and exit I-5 at Avenida Palizada. Turn south onto El Camino Real (the main street that parallels the freeway). Turn right onto Avenida del Mar and follow it all the way down to just before the pier. Parking is on your right. MAP TO SAN CLEMENTE PIER
Looking north, you can see the Dana Point Headlands.
- It’s a long walk for short toddler legs. Let them go slow and explore.
- We talked about: the weather (which way the wind was blowing the clouds), the physical geography of the coast (how far we could see in all directions), the ocean (tides, waves, and beach shape).
- We looked through the slats in between the boards to see if we could see the ocean below. Also, look for mussels, barnacles, and starfish on the pier.
- We stood at the railing and just watched the birds and listened to the waves.
- We discussed the differences in all the pigeons we saw (coloration, behavior, sounds).
- We watched the surfers and imagined how cold that water must be!
- We talked about the job of a lifeguard and looked at all their equipment. There’s a tower on the pier and their Jeep was parked outside.
- There’s a little tackle shop / gift shop at the end of the pier that serves hot chocolate and chowder, but there’s no seating except for the few benches at the end of the pier.
- We ate at the larger Fisherman’s Seafood Restaurant at the base of the pier because we were cold and hungry. I had an awesome cup of clam chowder and the kids shared a good-size burger. They have a Sunset Hour/Happy Hour with daily specials on M-F from 4pm-7pm.
- Watch the trains go by!
- Have a picnic on the beach. Watch the sunset.
Looking south towards Trestles
- I wouldn’t go barefoot on the pier itself. There’s a possibility of a run-in with splinters, fish hooks, bird droppings, and bait.
- Bring a jacket/windbreaker. You can’t tell from the photos, but the wind was howling and we were cold.
- There is spacing at the railings, so stay close to your littlest ones. Hold hands (if you can) or just use the stroller if you are too nervous. I swear the beach has a calming effect on kids. They can’t go further than the end of the pier and you can get a workout keeping up with them.
- The pier can be busy on weekends and during festivals on Avenida del Mar.
- Watch your kids around the train tracks!
- Parking is near the pier in a pay lot ($1.50/hour). Just walk down the hill where you will cross the railroad tracks. They were doing construction on the tunnel that goes under the tracks.
- There’s a Metrolink stop here, so consider taking the train!
- Restroom buildings at the base of the pier.
- Beach first aid from lifeguards.
Or . . . meet a San Diego friend at the pier for an EARLY morning walk on the trail. Here’s what it looks like at sunrise:
Originally published in June 2011.