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A barbecue seasoned with scenery

Some of the best in beachfront picnicking is at Leo Carrillo State Park, where the ocean scent enhances everything.

May 21, 2003|Corie Brown | Times Staff Writer

Malibu has a lot of secrets. This one's worth knowing. Hidden behind a hill at the northernmost tip of Malibu, just beyond the stratospheric real estate of Broad Beach, is Leo Carrillo State Park and one of the best picnic spots anywhere.

For a $5 parking fee, you can grill alfresco with an unobstructed view of the ocean and unfettered access to the beach. The park is well-known among campers, but its beachfront picnic area with fire pits for grilling often goes unused. And, unlike the adjacent campground where reservations need to be made months in advance, the picnic area is rarely full at dinnertime.

It's hard to beat that smell of grilling food mingled with the scents of the shore, something you can also find at a few other Southland beaches that have fire rings or grills, including Dockweiler in Playa del Rey, Cabrillo in San Pedro, Huntington State Beach in Huntington Beach and Capistrano Beach and Doheny State Beach in Dana Point. (You can look up some of the beaches on the Web at sites such as or

But this is the simple beach spot often eulogized as vanished from the Los Angeles landscape. Wildflower- and sagebrush-strewn hills protect the pristine white sands from the sights and sounds of Pacific Coast Highway. Yet, in the late afternoon and evening, parking is plentiful and only a few steps from the picnic tables.

Para-surfers flirt with the crashing waves, jumping and spinning, suspended by brightly colored half-moon sails blown high in the sky. Beach casters still catch perch and halibut here and then cook them for dinner as they watch the sunset.

You have to overlook the state of the picnic grounds. But a tablecloth laid atop the tables hides their flaws. Bringing a grilling grate from home and charcoal or wood makes the fire pits downright homey.

In mid-May, a couple of regulars grilling sausages overlooking the beach were reminded why they make the effort to go there. A whale breached just off shore. And no one dining in any of Broad Beach's multimillion-dollar mansions had a better view.

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