Located about 25 miles north of San Diego, the Coastal North County area is beautiful, family-friendly, and conveniently located. From Encinitas to Solana Beach, there are so many idyllic areas to explore. Are you moving or considering a move from San Diego to Coastal North County? If that’s the case, we’ve compiled a guide to determining which North County neighborhood is right for you.
North County comprises inland and coastal communities above San Diego, including Del Mar, Solana Beach, Encinitas, Cardiff, Leucadia, Carlsbad, and Oceanside. If you’re tired of the hustle and bustle of San Diego, but want easy access to a major city, then one of these areas might be your next move. Let’s explore them:
Credit: City of Del Mar
Driving north from San Diego, you’ll first hit Del Mar — a stunning, historic community that strikes a balance between quaint charm and European flair. With world class beaches, shopping and hotel accommodations, Del Mar, once the destination for Hollywood’s elite, remains a prime vacation destination attracting visitors from all over the world!
Stop by the vibrant Del Mar Plaza, which offers excellent shopping and world-class restaurants in the heart of Del Mar Village. You’ll love browsing the boutiques and trying fantastic gourmet cuisine here! There is also the famous Del Mar Race Track, where thousands gather to watch the most exciting horse races around.
Del Mar Village is an outdoor, walkable area full of unique shops and delicious restaurants. Explore the Del Mar Farmers Market or any of the artisan jewelry options. If you’re looking for a delicious bite, try Del Mar Seaside Grill, brunch at the upscale seaside eatery Jake’s, or coastal cuisine favorite Poseidon Restaurant, which is located right on the beach.
Speaking of beaches: they’re dog friendly! Walk your pup, and enjoy the sun and sand. School-wise, Del Mar offers excellent options within the San Dieguito District, including Canyon Crest Academy and East Warren Middle School.
Credit: LA Times
After Del Mar, there’s Solana Beach — a bustling town located on 1.7 miles of coastline. The area’s natural beauty is a major calling card, with unbeatable sunset views at Fletcher Cove Park. The town hosts summer concerts here, which are fun for families.
Grab a cup of coffee and a delicious bite to eat at Claire’s on Cedros, or pay a visit to the quaint French-inspired Madeleine Cafe & Bakery. Both restaurants are conveniently located in the Cedros Design District on Cedros Avenue, just a quick walk from the beach!
When residents are not spectating, they can enjoy wandering through countless little boutiques and art galleries or eating out at one of the town’s many restaurants. The Solana Farmers Market runs on Sundays and is another lovely spot for food shopping. Two of the area’s most esteemed schools are Solana Vista Elementary School and Skyline Elementary School — both prepare young students for strong academic futures.
Credit: New York Times
Between Solana Beach and Carlsbad is Encinitas — a community that’s both historically charming and modernly sophisticated. Encinitas is home to about 60,000 people who have access to breathtaking beaches, world-renowned golf, and an array of lush parks. If you’re a nature lover, then this might be the place for you! Explore the San Diego Botanical Gardens, or try to spot the over 300 bird species that call Encinitas home throughout the year.
The bustling downtown Business District balances the area’s natural appeal with its varied dining and shopping options. Top restaurants include Le Papagayo, Valentina, and Plumeria, a Thai vegan restaurant that locals adore. You’ll have a great time stopping by Encinitas Summer Nights, a summertime celebration where locals and visitors can view vintage cars and Woody Surf wagons at a fun-filled car show along Highway 101, featuring bands and festivities!
Like its neighbors, Encinitas also offers impressive schools, as San Dieguito High Academy and Encinitas Country Day School are two great options.
Cardiff — also known as Cardiff-by-the-Sea — is a small community that was incorporated into Encinitas. As its name suggests, this area is best known for its coastline, which offers sweeping views and fantastic surfing conditions. Some beach areas are also open to campers, with San Elijo attracting the most campers throughout the year.
Although this town’s natural charm is a huge part of its appeal, Cardiff also has a quaint downtown area. The Pacific Coast Grill is an upscale seafood destination, while Las Olas has the best fish tacos in the area. End your active day in the sun with a delicious seafood meal, and say hello to your new, laid-back Cardiff lifestyle.
Another Encinitas community is Leucadia, which is best known for its unbeatable beaches and strong surfing culture. If you’re a water-lover, grab your surfboard and head to Grandview Beach, Beacon's Beach, or Stone Steps.
Some other perks of this small, charming town? The Leucadia Donut Shoppe, which makes fresh, perfectly sweet doughnuts. There’s also the Sunday morning Leucadia/Encinitas Farmers Market and Art Fair, where you can support local vendors and artisans as you shop organic and appreciate original works of art.
Carlsbad is one of the larger coastal cities, offering the Legoland California Theme Park, the Carlsbad Sea Wall, and the ultra-private South Carlsbad State Beach. Most of the area’s beaches don’t belong to Carlsbad itself but to the state of California. They’re excellently preserved, and their surrounding trails are perfect for walks between dogs and owners.
Carlsbad is a great place for people who want to be in a relatively robust city near the water. Families love renting pedal boats to spend the day on the water, as well as exploring the tree-lined streets of art galleries, boutiques, and upscale retailers. Residents also enjoy various restaurants and breweries, including California Beach Bistro and Arcana Brewing — try their locally made craft beers. Parents can also rest assured they’re children will be well-educated in Carlsbad, as Aviara Oaks Elementary School and Sage Creek High School are just two of the area’s most esteemed educational institutions.
Oceanside is all things ocean! True to its name, Oceanside is a lively surf town with an extensive boardwalk and plenty of entertainment options. Oceanside Harbor is best known for its water activities, including deep-sea fishing, paddle boarding, and swimming. While relatively calm, the harbor can sometimes get rough, which makes for perfect surfing conditions.
The oceanside pier offers beautiful views of the Pacific, while the California Surf Museum gives an in-depth look into surfing history. Oceanside is also known for its up-and-coming dining and wine tasting scenes. In terms of educational opportunities, students can attend South Oceanside Elementary or Pacific View Charter School — both of which receive constant A ratings.
Looking to move to coastal North County? Contact Polly Rogers. Polly and her team would be happy to help you find the North County home of your dreams!