A flat beach with warmer water than its neighbors, Cardiff State Beach is popular among locals and children. Surfing and tidepools are on the south end; wading and sandcastle-building are on the north end.

Atmosphere: The San Elijo bluffs end just north of here, welcoming visitors onto the sand right from the road. Beachcombers love the Riviera-style rocky beach, with most crowds being closest to the Chesterfield Dr. intersection.

Parking and Entrance: Pay lots at both the north and south ends and easy access onto the beach. Parking is also available on the street (Coast Hwy. 101).

Nice Walks and Views: Walk across Coast Hwy. 101 from the north end and over the train tracks to the casual Cardiff-by-the-Sea.

Activities for Toddlers: Wading in the water in summer, rock-collecting or tidepools for older toddlers, dog-watching.

Bathrooms: Bathrooms in the lots and showers on the sand.

Perks for Parents: Cardiff Reef and Pipes are two consistent surf spots. The beach even has surfboard racks. For boaters, there is a launch area for soft-bottom boats at the north end (closed in summer).

Where to Stay with Kids: Holiday Inn Express Encinitas/Cardiff Beach Area. Free breakfast. Easy access to 5 freeway but not on the beach.

Baby-friendly Restaurants: Pipes Café. Casual, dog-friendly café with sandwiches. Walking distance to beach; cash only. Starbucks is also right near Hwy. 101.

What Else to Do: Explore the town, in which the street names are influenced by Cardiff’s British history.