Taking San Diego's 59-mile scenic drive is a beautiful way to spend a day. Encompassing a good portion of the city's most outstanding attractions, it can be driven in about three hours - but only if you don't make many stops! For a more relaxed journey, do portions of the tour on different days. The scenic drive is marked by blue and yellow signs illustrated with a white seagull, which are posted every quarter-mile along the route. Note: Some of the seagull signs may be missing or turned; follow the directions as written.
For visitor information, maps, brochures and Visitor Guides, stop at the INTERNATIONAL VISITOR INFORMATION CENTER, an official visitor center of the SAN DIEGO CONVENTION AND VISITORS BUREAU. Located on the northeast corner of West Broadway and Harbor Drive, the Visitor Center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. through May. In June, July, August and September, it's open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Phone: (619) 236-1212.
Start your scenic drive at the foot of BROADWAY and go north on HARBOR DR. On your left is the Broadway Pier, where you can take a harbor excursion or a ferry across to Coronado. Next is the Cruise Ship Terminal, where cruise ships dock when calling on San Diego. Further along the Embarcadero, see one of the world's top collections of historic ships at the MARITIME MUSEUM OF SAN DIEGO. Ships include the ferryboat Berkeley, built in 1898; the luxury yacht Medea, built in Scotland; and the Star of India, built in 1863, which has circled the globe 27 times.
2. HARBOR ISLAND
From this point, drive north along the harbor on HARBOR DR. Drive toward San Diego International Airport, Lindbergh Field, (named after Charles Lindbergh, whose famous flight began in San Diego) until you see the exit sign HARBOR ISLAND. Take the exit and drive along the island, which provides incredible views of San Diego Bay, Point Loma and downtown.
3. SPANISH LANDING & SHELTER ISLAND
Return to HARBOR DR, bear left, and continue driving west along Harbor Drive. Make a left turn on SCOTT ST. Most of San Diego's sport fishing fleet is docked in this area. Make another left on SHELTER ISLAND DRIVE, to visit SHELTER ISLAND, home to hotels, restaurants and marinas. On the tip of the island you will find the "YOKOHAMA FRIENDSHIP BELL" (Yokohama, Japan, is one of San Diego's sister cities).
4. POINT LOMA
From Shelter Island Drive make a left turn on SCOTT ST then a right turn at TALBOT ST and head up the hill. Turn left onto CANON ST and make a left at CATALINA BLVD, where the road eventually turns into CABRILLO MEMORIAL DR. On both sides of the road, you will see the gravestones in Fort Rosecrans Cemetery, a military cemetery, as you head out to the tip of Point Loma.
5. CABRILLO NATIONAL MONUMENT
Continue driving to the CABRILLO NATIONAL MONUMENT, named for Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo. On September 28, 1542, he sailed into what is now known as San Diego Bay. The Old Point Loma Lighthouse began operating here in 1855; though it's no longer in use, it is open for viewing. *Another lighthouse was built at sea level in 1891 and is still in use today.) This area, the most southwestern point of the continental U.S., is an excellent spot to watch the gray whales migrate south to Mexico during the winter months. You can also visit the tide pools, join in a ranger walk, stop at the visitor center and enjoy the panoramic view of the harbor.
6. OCEAN BEACH
Return to CABRILLO MEMORIAL DR; the name changes to CATALINA BLVD. Continue driving along Catalina and turn left at HILL ST. Continue on and turn right at CORDOVA ST which becomes SUNSET CLIFFS BLVD. As you continue along Sunset Cliffs, you will enter the community of OCEAN BEACH. You can make a short side trip to Ocean Beach Municipal Fishing Pier by taking a left turn onto NEWPORT AVE. The pier is an excellent spot for fishing, bird watching and watching the surfers, while Newport Avenue is a popular destination for antique and consignment shopping.
7. MISSION BAY AQUATIC PARK
Return to and continue driving along SUNSET CLIFFS BLVD for your visit to MISSION BAY PARK, a 4600-acre aquatic playground with 27 miles of beaches. To reach the park area, follow SUNSET CLIFFS BLVD to West Mission Bay Drive. Follow signs to West Mission Bay Drive; it turns into INGRAHAM ST. You'll see the exit for Sea World here. Continue driving NORTH on INGRAHAM STREET, across two bridges. At the second bridge, which crosses over Fisherman's Channel, turn right onto CROWN POINT DR. From here you can see wind surfers and catamarans zipping across the water, or enjoy a walk on the pathway around the bay.
8. SOLEDAD MOUNTAIN
Follow CROWN POINT DR and turn left at LAMONT ST, driving through the residential areas of Crown Point and Pacific Beach. At the intersection of BERYL ST, the name will change to SOLEDAD RD. Drive up the hill past KATE SESSIONS PARK and turn left onto SOLEDAD MOUNTAIN RD. Travel .8 mile and turn right onto LA JOLLA SCENIC DR. This is one of many exclusive residential areas of La Jolla. Look for the turnoff to MT. SOLEDAD PARK. From this lookout point, you can see San Diego County for miles in every direction.
9. UCSD CAMPUS & SALK INSTITUTE
As you leave the park turn right on VIA CAPRI, drive down the hill, and turn left on HIDDEN VALLEY RD. This residential area of La Jolla offers spectacular ocean views. At LA JOLLA PARKWAY, go through the intersection and follow the signs to TORREY PINES RD. This will take you up a hill through a canyon. Turn left on NORTH TORREY PINES RD; to the right is the UCSD CAMPUS, known for its spectacular architecture, several Nobel Prize-winning faculty members, and contemporary art installations.
10. BIRCH AQUARIUM AT SCRIPPS AND SALK INSTITUTE
While you are in the UCSD area, you can take two short side trips from the marked route. To visit the Birch Aquarium, turn left from NORTH TORREY PINES RD onto Expedition Way and follow signs to the aquarium. When you leave the aquarium parking lot, turn left onto NORTH TORREY PINES RD. Then continue north along NORTH TORREY PINES RD to the SALK INSTITUTE, named after Dr. Jonas Salk, who developed the polio vaccine. Just beyond the institute is the Torrey Pines Glider Port where you may see hang gliders soaring along the cliffs. Make a U-TURN and return south, down the hill, along LA JOLLA SHORES DRIVE.
11. LA JOLLA COVE PARK & LA JOLLA CAVE
Continue in the same direction along LA JOLLA SHORES DR and turn right onto TORREY PINES RD. Turn right at PROSPECT, an upscale shopping street sometimes called the Rodeo Drive of San Diego. Turn right onto COAST BLVD and drive down to the LA JOLLA COVE, a favorite spot for swimming, snorkeling and kayaking. Further south along the coast is the Children's Pool, a popular gathering place for harbor seals. From the Cove, you can walk up Cuvier Street to the elegant shopping and dining district around Prospect Street and Girard Avenue. Near the corner of Herschel & Prospect streets is the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau's La Jolla Visitor Center, which is open daily.
13. LA JOLLA RESIDENTIAL AREA
Continue your drive along COAST BLVD. Turn right at OLIVETAS STREET; the street name will change to PEARL STREET. At the stop light, turn right onto LA JOLLA BLVD. At the stop light, turn left onto NAUTILUS , drive up the hill and turn right onto LA JOLLA SCENIC DR. Turn left onto LA JOLLA MESA DR and drive down the hill. Beautiful homes line the road, and the view of Pacific Beach and the coastline is magnificent.
14. PACIFIC BEACH
As you reach the bottom of the hill, the street name will change to MISSION BLVD. As you proceed, on your right is PACIFIC BEACH, a popular place for sunbathing and surfing. If you wish to walk along the ocean front, use OCEAN FRONT WALK (stop and make a right at DIAMOND STREET). It's a great spot for people watching, skateboarding, biking and roller skating.
15. MISSION BEACH
The next community is Mission Beach, which has the highest population density in San Diego. Continue driving along MISSION BLVD and just past the ROLLER COASTER, turn right at the light, and park your car in the lot. Ride the coaster, take a dip in the ocean, visit Belmont Park, or stop at one of the seaside restaurants or shops located along the boardwalk.
16. SPORTS ARENA
Exit the parking lot and drive east on WEST MISSION BAY DR. Follow the signs for SPORTS ARENA BLVD. Drive under the freeway overpass and turn left at the first stoplight to continue along SPORTS ARENA BLVD. On the left you'll see "ipayOne Center," an arena where KOBEY'S SWAP MEET (San Diego's largest open air market) is held in the parking lot Thursdays through Sundays, 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
17. OLD TOWN STATE HISTORIC PARK
On SPORTS ARENA BLVD, drive straight through the intersection from the right-hand lane, bear left onto ROSECRANS ST and go under the freeway overpass. At the stoplight the street name will change to TAYLOR ST. On your right is OLD TOWN STATE HISTORIC PARK. The park represents San Diego's Hispanic heritage from 1821 to 1872, when the area was the center of San Diego. Free walking tours are offered daily at 2 p.m. from the park headquarters. You can also visit charming Heritage Park Row, where a number of Victorian buildings scheduled for demolition were relocated.
18. JUNIPERO SERRA MUSEUM
Continue driving along TAYLOR ST. Turn right on PRESIDIO DR, drive up the hill and turn left on PRESIDIO DR. Visit the JUNIPERO SERRA MUSEUM, which displays artifacts and photographs depicting the early days of San Diego.
After visiting the Serra Museum, continue up PRESIDIO DR and turn left at ARISTA ST. Turn right at FORT STOCKTON. You are now driving through Mission Hills, one of San Diego's first suburbs, and a charming residential area. Turn right at GOLDFINCH. Continue one block and turn left onto WASHINGTON ST. You are now in HILLCREST, which attracts a large gay and lesbian community, as well as many others drawn by the rich selection of clothing shops, trendy boutiques, art galleries and restaurants.
20. BALBOA PARK
Turn right on FIRST AVE. Turn left onto LAUREL STREET, which becomes EL PRADO, and drive into BALBOA PARK, the largest urban cultural park in North America. It was named for the Spanish explorer Vasco Nunez de Balboa, who discovered the Pacific Ocean in 1513. Many buildings in the park are Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, constructed for the Panama-California Exposition (1915-16), and used for the California-Pacific International Exposition in 1935. The park, which covers 1,400 acres, includes 15 museums, lush gardens and the Old Globe Theater complex.
21. SAN DIEGO ZOOLOGICAL GARDEN
The world famous SAN DIEGO ZOO occupies 100 acres of Balboa Park, and houses 4,000 animals of 800 exotic species. The exhibits feature animals in their natural shared environments, and the zoo is known for its conservation work, especially with giant pandas from China. (For information about visiting the San Diego Zoo's WILD ANIMAL PARK, read about suggested side trips at the end of these instructions.)
22. MUSEUMS, ORGAN PAVILLION, HOUSES OF PACIFIC RELATIONS
Balboa Park's museums are devoted to art, history, space, sports, physical and natural sciences; favorites include the Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Man and the Aerospace Museum. To continue from EL PRADO, turn right to PAN AMERICAN EAST RD. The ORGAN PAVILLION, featuring the world's largest outdoor pipe organ, is on your left. Free concerts are performed here on Sunday afternoons. The cluster of small cottages on your right is known as the HOUSES OF PACIFIC RELATIONS. Each Sunday afternoon, one of the houses sponsors ethnic folk dances, music or entertainment.
23. FINANCIAL DISTRICT
To exit the park, turn left on PRESIDENTS WAY. Turn right onto PARK BLVD. The street name will change to 12th AVE. Turn right at B ST. You are now driving through San Diego's Financial District. Turn left on FOURTH AVE and right on BROADWAY. You are now traveling west towards the waterfront.
24. SEAPORT VILLAGE
Turn left on PACIFIC HWY. About one-half mile farther down, you will reach SEAPORT VILLAGE. Park in one of the lots and visit this charming shopping center located on the waterfront. A little further north, along Harbor Drive, between Seaport Village and the Visitor Center (where your tour began), is the San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum. Berthed along the Navy Pier, the museum pays tribute to the over 200,000 service men and women who served aboard the now decommissioned USS Midway and is open daily.
25. CONVENTION CENTER & EMBARCADERO MARINA PARK
When you leave Seaport Village, turn right onto HARBOR DR. You are now driving east. On your right is the SAN DIEGO CONVENTION CENTER; across the street is the home of the San Diego Padres baseball team, PETCO PARK, which opened in April 2004. Just beyond the convention center visit the Embarcadero Marina Park (turn right on 8th) for a great view of the SAN DIEGO - CORONADO BRIDGE.
26. GASLAMP QUARTER DISTRICT
Return to HARBOR DR, turn left on HARBOR DR, then turn right onto FIFTH AVE and enter the Historic Gaslamp Quarter. During the California Gold Rush, this waterfront section was once known as the Stingaree District, home to saloons, gambling halls and opium dens. As you drive along FIFTH AVENUE, you enter the historic heart of San Diego, the GASLAMP QUARTER. Today, this area is a vibrant entertainment district with over 100 restaurants, 35 nightclubs and 100 retail shops. Weekend guided walking tours of the area start at the WILLIAM HEATH DAVIS HOUSE, which was built in 1859 in New England, shipped around Cape Horn and assembled here.
27. HORTON PLAZA
Continue driving on FIFTH AVE and turn left onto F ST. At the next intersection, you arrive at HORTON PLAZA, a unique shopping, dining and entertainment complex known for its contemporary architecture. Park in the adjacent garage. This marks the end of your scenic journey.
SUGGESTED SIDE TRIPS BEYOND THE 59 MILE SCENIC DRIVE
28. MISSION SAN DIEGO DE ALCALA
To reach the Mission, drive eastbound on INTERSTATE 8, exit MISSION GORGE RD, and turn left onto TWAIN ST, which becomes SAN DIEGO MISSION RD. The Mission is on the right. In 1774, MISSION SAN DIEGO DE ALCALA was moved from its original location in Presidio Park to the valley, where water and grazing land were plentiful. This mission was the first of 21 missions founded in California. Services are held at 7 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. on weekdays, with several services on Sundays. The public is welcome daily from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for docent-led tours.
29. HOTEL DEL CORONADO
From INTERSTATE 5 drive across the SAN DIEGO - CORONADO BRIDGE and turn left at the first traffic light, onto ORANGE AVENUE. You'll drive through Coronado's downtown village before arriving at the Hotel del Coronado, which was completed in February 1888. The "Del" has housed several presidents and visiting dignitaries and been the backdrop for numerous movies. Visit the Coronado Museum of History & Art at 1100 Orange Avenue, to see a collection of memorabilia, then enjoy a stroll along the beach.
30. WILD ANIMAL PARK (35 miles north of downtown San Diego)
Drive north on INTERSTATE 15, exit VIA RANCHO PKWY, turn right and follow the signs to the Wild Animal Park. Set on 2,200 acres, the park has more than 3,000 animals roaming freely in an environment similar to their native African, Asian and Australian habits. You can tour the park by monorail; hike the scenic Kilimanjaro Trail; and visit the exotic gardens and Nairobi Village.