As a family of four with two preadolescent children, we’re often looking for fun, active ways to explore our own beautiful city without spending too much money. San Diego’s sunny, laid-back disposition creates an ideal backdrop for our newest form of weekend entertainment: the “bikespedition.”
Recently we decided to map out a route along the Bayshore Bikeway. The Bayshore Bikeway is a 24-mile loop that essentially extends all the way around the San Diego Bay – from downtown San Diego through Chula Vista, Imperial Beach and up the Silver Strand to Coronado. To complete the loop, you have to take the ferry.
You can hop on and off the bike trail at any point, and it makes for a nice, flat, mainly untrafficked ride. Our goal on this particular day was to enjoy some fish and chips from The Tin Fish at the end of the Imperial Beach pier before riding up through Coronado and taking the ferry over to downtown.
We roll out of bed mid-morning on Saturday and have a nice leisurely breakfast at home before hopping on our bikes and riding the mile to our nearest trolley stop. A little known trolley fact – kids ride free on weekends. Yup, it’s true. Any child under the age of 12 rides for free with a paying adult. Like most people, we don’t have a car that can hold four bicycles, but the trolley thankfully has the ability to hold a seemingly unlimited number. (Not true, unfortunately, for San Diego’s buses.)
We decide to access the Bikeway in Chula Vista, since our goal is to make it to the Tin Fish for lunch and there is easy access from the “E” Street trolley stop.
Once we disembark the trolley, we cross over the freeway bridge to the west and turn south on Bay Boulevard, then west again at Lagoon and follow the path. We meander around the bay through a combination of designated biking/walking paths and wide streets with bike lanes. This piece of the Bikeway is my favorite. I love passing through the urban areas, the graffitied walls next to the old railway tracks and suddenly coming to the stark white beauty of the salt flats (left). Past the salt flats comes the bridge (you’ll know it when you see it), then the estuary as you officially enter Imperial Beach. Once you enter IB, there is a left turn off the path to head toward the beach and the pier (a sign points you in the right direction) or you can continue right and hit the nine-mile stretch of Silver Strand into Coronado. We bear left at the sign and snake our way to Palm Avenue, then turn right and head to the pier. The traffic isn’t bad and the streets are wide enough that I feel fine with my eight- and ten-year-old kids riding between us.
The Imperial Beach pier has sufficient bike parking everywhere. We disembark and stretch our arms and legs in the warm January sunlight. The pier reaches far into the ocean, and it's old – the wood long-ago weathered by the spray of the ocean. Here is the quintessential picture of a salty seaside town, complete with a fisherman disemboweling his recent catch and feeding the entrails to a begging pelican. The Tin Fish sits at the end of it and serves up some really tasty fish and chips along with a decent beer selection. Don’t eat here if you are in a hurry; the food takes a while. But the scenery is nice enough to enjoy the passing time.
We hop back on our bikes, making our way over the surface streets and back the way we came, the path that will lead us back onto the Silver Strand. It’s easy to find and we hop on for the long ride north toward Coronado. There's really not much to see here but miles and miles of beautiful beach. It’s a wonderful place to spend some time in your head and fill your lungs with misty ocean air. Breathe. Enjoy it.
Soon enough the outlines of Coronado’s buildings emerge from the haze as we close in on the city. The Bikeway turns right on Glorietta Boulevard, where you ride on the road (don’t worry, it’s super wide and has a bike lane) and pass the golf course. At the very edge of the golf course, keep your eyes opened for the designated bike path that will lead you through Tidelands Park and on to the Coronado ferry landing.
There's a marketplace at the ferry landing, so it’s a great place to stop for a snack or some hot chocolate. The ferry comes every hour on the half hour to take you to Broadway Pier on the Embarcadero, or every hour on the 10 minute mark to take you to the Convention Center. ($4.25 per person, bikes are included in the price.) We opt for the Convention Center because it’s the closest to our trolley line and we want to be home for dinner.
The ferry is brief, but a gorgeous cap to our day. Our kids are spent but happy. And as we close in on the Convention Center, we're satisfied. The ferry drops us right behind the Convention Center and we head south to the bridge by the Hilton. The 12th and Imperial Transit Center is right on the other side of the bridge, and we jump on the Orange Line back home.
Miles covered: approximately 18.8 on bike, 16.9 via trolley and 1 on the ferry.
Money spent:$10 for trolley; $17.00 for ferry; $47.20 for lunch, including one giant beer, plus two cups of coffee and hot chocolate in Coronado = $74.20 for the day.
Family time accrued: 8 hours of quality fun.