San Clemente's train "station" deposits you right in front of the pier.
  • San Clemente's train "station" deposits you right in front of the pier.
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Halfway between San Diego and Los Angeles is the charming coastal town of San Clemente, CA. Somewhat akin to San Diego in its wholesomeness, San Clemente also boasts beachside ambiance without the pretensions commonly found in more posh Southern California destinations.

The Amtrak Surfliner stops right on the beach a couple of times a day, so a train adventure up the coast is a definite go. On the other side of the tracks is the wooden-planked San Clemente Pier (at left) with the wonderful Fisherman's Restaurant (611 Avenida Victoria) perched right above the waves. A walk on the pier is a great way to work off some calories before or after dinner and enjoy some fresh air and beautiful scenery.

I stayed at the Spanish-themed Beachcomber Motel (533 Avenida Victoria) overlooking the train tracks. The themed gardens and exotic landscaping were entrancing. Across the street is the quaint Seahorse Resort (602 Avenida Victoria), and very close by you’ll find the most delicious crepes ever to find their way into your mouth at La Galette Creperie (612 Avenida Victoria)! Beach Ice Cream (624 Avenida Victoria) has the tastiest hot chocolate around.

Winter view of the Pacific from San Clemente's Beachcomber Motel.

If you are detecting that all these business lie within close range of one another, you are correct. It’s possible to kick back right on the beach and have a host of attractive culinary options to chose from.

Up the road, the town's business district holds a few worthy stops. My daughter went crazy at Cottage Bliss (211 S. Avenida Del Mar), a shop full of dazzling and entrancing glittery collectibes and feminine objets d' art.

A getaway to San Clemente is close enough to feel convenient – and just far enough away to pique your wanderlust.

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