Although the North Coast offers a plethora of accommodations, ranging from five-star hotels to state-run campgrounds, one particular lodging concept is finding its niche here: the bed and breakfast inn.
Developed in Europe as a way for travelers to experience a region's flavor by offering accommodations with local families, the B&B concept has been Americanized on the East Coast, spreading west to the stately manors of California's wine country and into the gingerbread houses of Eureka.
Only one important difference reflects our abundant American style: practically each room here comes with its own bathroom, a luxury not found in many European inns. Nowadays, "Will we have our own bathroom?" is the first question heard by virtually every B&B host.
The casual beach atmosphere of North County seems a perfect match to the down-home essence of the B&B, and there are several popular inns along the "Gold Coast" between La Jolla and Oceanside. Each provides a personal introduction to its particular locale.
It is the little things that still count, whether you're spending $50 or $250 a night; that is the first rule of B&Bs.
Bed and breakfast inns differ from their motel-hotel cousins in size and to a certain extent, convenience. B&Bs usually consist of 12 rooms or fewer, and the inns surveyed for this story provide continental-style breakfasts only; regulations governing commercial kitchens used to prepare cooked meals are strict, and the permits costly. Visitors looking for complete meals and a few drinks at the bar without ever leaving the premises should avoid B&Bs and check into an all-inclusive hotel complex.
Because of the relatively new arrival of B&Bs to Southern California, organization of a B&B network is still in the infant stages. In fact, several local cities have recently worked with innkeepers to create ordinances governing the zoning, operation and size of bed and breakfast establishments, since none existed before.
(In addition to the concentration of bed and breakfast inns along the North County coast, there are a number in the Julian area. Information on those is available from the Julian Chamber of Commerce at 765-1857.)
A new organization, the Bed and Breakfast Innkeepers of Southern California, is taking shape and provides information and brochures on B&Bs divided into several regions between Cambria and Coronado. The toll free number is (800) 424-0053.
The Bed and Breakfast Directory for San Diego, written by innkeeper Carol Emerick, lists 31 B&Bs in San Diego County alone.
Because of the B&B's relatively new arrival to the San Diego area, several smaller inns are not listed in the B&B directory or the yellow pages. Ask around: competition among the local B&Bs is healthy but friendly and proprietors are comfortable directing you to other inns, some of which are literally single-family homes with a room to rent.
For those looking to immerse themselves in the North Coast, here are several popular inns:
Pelican Cove Inn
In Carlsbad, another couple are living out their fantasies as innkeepers of the Pelican Cove Inn. When Bob Hale retired from his L.A. law practice in the mid-80s, he and his wife Celeste were anxious to get out of the big city rat race. After visiting a B&B on a Utah ski trip, the couple got hooked on the idea of running an inn themselves.
"We'd thought about the bed-and-breakfast business for some time, and Carlsbad is such a delightful little town we figured it was a natural," Bob Hale says. The Hales bought a two-unit apartment on Walnut Avenue two blocks from the beach, and subsequently expanded the inn by buying and remodeling another apartment next door.
Today the Pelican Cove Inn is a striking Cape Cod-style complex sporting observation decks, portholed garages and brightly-painted verandas. The furnishings include antiques, many of which came from the Hales' former residence, Scandia feather beds, televisions, fireplaces and some Jacuzzi tubs. Rooms are named for famous California beach resorts--Laguna, Coronado, Newport, Del Mar, and Capistrano are there--each with an antique photograph of the room's namesake hanging over the mantle.
"Many B&Bs are centered around the old Victorian homes--beautiful and elegant but many times dark and kind of musty," Hale says. "We wanted to do something more along the lines of a California beach bed-and-breakfast inn, so we modeled this a little after the Cape Cod style, complete with a 'widow's walk' on the roof."
The beach is definitely a major attraction for Pelican Cove guests, who can take advantage of beach chairs, towels and picnic baskets for a day in the sun. As with the other coastal B&Bs, Pelican Cove is within walking distance to the center of town, several restaurants and shops of every description. Visitors from L.A. and beyond can take advantage of the Cove's courtesy Amtrak service and leave the car at home, which seems almost incomprehensible these days.