A day on California’s storybook island

By Ivy gillette | Photos courtesy of San Diego Tourism Authority

SET DIRECTLY ACROSS THE BAY from the city of San Diego, Coronado Island offers plenty of ways to spend a summer day. It has miles of glistening beaches, walkable neighborhoods, unique boutiques, imaginative restaurants, vibrant entertainment venues, a popular public golf course, and an iconic hotel—all waiting to be explored.

Coronado is reachable by land and by sea and both routes are magnificent. Drive across the magnificent two-mile long Coronado bridge or take the ferry. If you own a bike, consider bringing it along, or plan to rent one on the island.

The Ferry Landing is the ideal place to start the day, as you admire the stunning skyline of downtown San Diego. Grab a cup of coffee and stroll through The Ferry Landing Marketplace with more than 20 shops, including one of the island’s bicycle rental shops.

When Coronado Island was first developed, an alluring row of orange trees was planted along the main thoroughfare, which was renamed Orange Avenue. Unfortunately, the sweet-scented trees proved to be too alluring to the island’s native jackrabbits and had to be removed, but this beautiful boulevard hasn’t lost its appeal. Stretching a mile from bayside Coronado to the Hotel del Coronado, it is lined with shops, eateries, galleries, and the Coronado Museum of History and Art. Before you start to explore, download the museum’s new Coronado Historical Walking Tour that highlights 15 of the island’s most memorable spots.

Affectionately known locally as “The Del,” the majestic Hotel Del Coronado is a stunning seaside hotel with a history dating back to 1888. Through the centuries, The Del has hosted 16 American presidents, countless celebrities, and 12 movie productions. It is a National Historic Landmark and rumored to be haunted. The hotel recently completed a phased master plan for rejuvenation and preservation to make it more of a treasure than ever. Non-overnight guests are welcome to come inside and browse through the fascinating exhibits and to enjoy a meal.

Ferry Landing Marketplace | COURTESY OF SANDIEGO.ORG
Ferry Landing Marketplace | COURTESY OF SANDIEGO.ORG

If you’re not already on a bike, now is the time to rent one at Little Sam’s Island & Beach Fun, across the street from The Del. From here, the sparkling isthmus called Silver Strand stretches six glorious miles to Imperial Beach. The flat, well-paved bike path is part of the Bayshore Bikeway. It winds past the award-winning Lowes Coronado Bay Resort, Crown Cove Aquatics Center, and the Coronado Cays. If you’re feeling romantic, you might want to arrange for a gondola ride through the Cays in advance. You can take Silver Strand all the way to Silver Strand State Beach and San Diego National Wildlife Refuge and experience all the joy found in sea, sand, and fresh air.

No visit to Coronado is complete without a little beach time. Coronado’s beaches provide the perfect vantage point for a breathtaking sunset. As you make your way back through town, stop somewhere along the main expanse of Coronado Beach. If you have a burst of energy or feel like freshening up, there are volleyball nets and shower facilities at the lifeguard tower. Linger at the beach and watch the sun sink into the sea, stop along Orange Avenue for dinner, and poke your head into the shops at Ferry Landing.

“The Del” and Coronado Beach | SAN DIEGO TOURISM AUTHORITY
“The Del” and Coronado Beach | SAN DIEGO TOURISM AUTHORITY
Venetian-style gondola rides through the Coronado Cays | COURTESY OF SANDIEGO.ORG
Venetian-style gondola rides through the Coronado Cays | COURTESY OF SANDIEGO.ORG

When You Go

Coronado–San Diego Bridge
The magnificent two-mile-long bridge, completed in 1969, gives you a spectacular preview of the island from the beautiful bay to its sparkling sandspit. Take the MTS Bus 901 to Orange Avenue or drive and ditch the car at a free or metered parking spot. Metered parking is just about a dollar per hour, with a two-hour limit and free on Sundays, holidays, and after 6 p.m. Parking lots at the Coronado Ferry Landing, Coronado Plaza, and Hotel del Coronado are additional options.

Coronado Ferry Landing
The Coronado Ferry is the world’s oldest working wood ferry in the United States. You can cruise to the island from one of two docks located at Broadway Pier alongside the USS Midway, and the San Diego Convention Center. Tickets are just $5 per person and you can bring your bicycle for free. We suggest purchasing your tickets online in advance at flagshipsd.com.

Hollands Bikes and Beyond
(Ferry Landing) 619.435.7180
1201 1st St, #122
(Downtown) 619.435.3153
977 Orange Ave

Wheel Fun Rentals
619.342.7244 | 1019 C Ave

Little Sam’s Island & Beach Fun
619.435.4068 | 1343 Orange Ave

Coronado Historical Association Museum of History and Art
619.435.7242 | 1100 Orange Ave
Admission: Free
Open Thu–Fri 11–4

Hotel del Coronado (The Del)
619.435.6611 | 1500 Orange Ave

Orange Avenue guide

Historic walking tour

Gondola cruise