At first glance Malibu Seafood Fresh Fish Market and Patio Cafe, with its kitschy sign featuring a lobster lounging beneath a beach umbrella, looks like just another beachside eatery. But if you make a quick turn off Pacific Coast Highway into its packed driveway you'll discover a local institution with high-quality grilled and fried seafood, including seared ahi tuna and succulent swordfish, at reasonable prices in a relaxed outdoor environment. There are ocean views galore from the tables, set on three patios that stagger up the hillside. On a recent Saturday afternoon Colleen Reilly is on the topmost patio, eating clam strips and reading "The Disorderly Knights" by Dorothy Dunnett. "I'm just driving up the coast," she says. "It was my birthday yesterday and I had to work, and now I just want to get some fresh air." Suddenly a man shouts, "Look, dolphins!" Customers turn to catch a glimpse of silvery-sleek dorsal fins playing peekaboo with the waves. The dolphin-spotter, Eric Dugdale, says he often stops by on his motorcycle, lured by the informality of the restaurant-by-the-sea.
25635 Pacific Coast Hwy.
ONE THING TO DO
Home, Home on the Range
Trotting through the electric green of Zuma Canyon on a horse named Ki-Kora is a special kind of heaven. The ride, offered by Malibu Lake Riders, winds three miles through the Santa Monica Mountains and includes views of the ocean. A sign on the horse trailer shows a child in a diaper sitting atop a pony. "Your Guide Today is Chelsea," it reads. Chelsea Toston, daughter of owner Laura Toston, saddles up five riders. "I'm glad my horse was mellow," says Jennifer Tully after the hour-long ride. "It was just so peaceful." Exactly. Reservations required at (818) 510-2245, www.maliburiders.com
SURF, SUN AND SAND
This wealthy 21-mile-long ocean-side community is sliced down the middle by Pacific Coast Highway and famous for a variety of picturesque beaches, including Zuma, Surfrider and Point Dume. Its neighbors are Topanga Canyon to the east and Ventura County to the west. Contrary to popular thought, the Pacific Ocean borders Malibu to the south.
ART & ARCHITECTURE
The clean, white Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art at Pepperdine University recently showcased an impressive collection of 80 drawings by pop art master Jim Dine. Currently it's featuring the work of seniors graduating with fine art degrees from Pepperdine's Seaver College. (310) 506-4851, www.pepperdine.edu/arts/museum/
A tree-shaded wrought-iron gate at Broad Beach Road and Bunnie Lane opens onto a dirt path and 89 wooden steps that lead to an expanse of sand and Big Sur-style rocks. This is Lechuza Beach, a summer wonderland beneath cliffs that support multimillion-dollar homes. The sunny seclusion is priceless.