It’s windy and the ocean is choppy, the water a dark and menacing colour. It’s easy to forget how the beach culture permeates this city, especially when daily life revolves away from the sea. But for outsiders, the beach is the foremost symbol of this sprawling metropolis, thanks to Baywatch and the Venice boardwalk. And it’s also easy to forget how beautiful the large beaches are, or the tucked away coves on the way to Ventura, or the lagoon by the Malibu City Center. I do have a beach I only take visitors to, a stretch of sand that used to be private until the local residents lost their years long battle with the courts and access was granted to all. Said access is so hidden, though, that unless one knows where to find it, it’s fairly impossible to see it from the street and the beach ends up empty even on July 4th. I am very territorial about my little secret so forgive me if I am not divulging it – only those flying back to different continents can share…
What is definitely not private, open to all and, even better, absolutely free, is the Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica. For decades, anyone driving east along PCH would have noticed a cordoned off decrepit and decaying structure before approaching the incline leading to Santa Monica. It used to be Marion Davies’ former beach house which the Annenberg Foundation took over and transformed in a modern and beautiful beach club for anyone willing to show up. It opened last year and it has proven to be such a great success that venturing over on week-ends can be intimidating. But during the week it’s an oasis and one of the best free places where to sunbathe, enjoy the beach, take a dip in the pool without having to lug chairs, towels, umbrellas and coolers.
There is a pretty cafe with outside tables (such a rarity on these state-owned coastline) that serves simple fare of eggs, salads, burgers and anything else that would beat whatever might be in a cooler. Chairs, umbrellas, boogie boards can all be rented while sitting by the pool is free of charge. Even on this windy day, patrons are enjoying lunch at the restaurant, a bunch of kids are playing in the sand while a film crew is intent shooting by the water. Just another day at the beach.
Annenberg Community Beach House
415 Pacific Coast Highway
Santa Monica 90402
Tel 310 458 4904