If you’re dreaming of the ocean but not sure where in the South Bay to build, this post is for you.
When we hear “Los Angeles County,” most of us think about the city of Los Angeles. But Los Angeles County is made up of 88 cities, each with their own distinctive character. Some of these cities have prime real estate right along the Pacific.
Keep It Weird In Venice Beach
Photo by David Cain
Want to stick close to the city? Venice Beach is actually part of Los Angeles, a far west neighborhood, rather than a separate town. It occupies a special place in California lore. Venice Beach is where rock legend Jim Morrison founded The Doors and where mid-century designers Charles and Ray Eames drafted their famous chairs. It’s known for canals that wind through residential areas and a 2.5-mile boardwalk with open-air cafes, street vendors, performers, and tarot card readers.
Venice sometimes gets tourist traffic, but at its root, it’s an art community. Its main drag, Abbott Kinney Boulevard, boasts dozens of restaurants, galleries, and music venues. Venice is also home to huge murals and public graffiti walls. Near the ocean, it’s not uncommon to catch skate-dancers, body-builders, skateboarders, and pick-up basketball games.
If you want pedestrian footpaths, cycle-friendly streets, diversity, and live music, Venice may be the neighborhood for you. It offers amazing people-watching and melted-candy sunsets, served with a side of authenticity.
Clean, Casual Living In Manhattan Beach
Photo by Sergei Gussev
Clean, strollable, and family-oriented, the municipality of Manhattan Beach is five-star in flip flops. Downtown is accessible and friendly, with cute cafes, upscale dining, a local bookstore, artisan ice cream shops, and boutiques full of locally made goods.
Manhattan Beach has pristine views and car-free “walk streets” a short jaunt from the ocean. There’s an international surf fest, a huge annual volleyball tournament, and a health-centric culture. The town is also a stop along a 22-mile bike path known as The Strand. It has eleven different parks with playgrounds, an 100-foot sand dune, a botanical garden, ball fields, a golf course and batting cages. And El Porto Beach is one of the most well-known surfing spots in So-Cal. In other words, local culture is active culture.
If you’re looking for great public schools. Manhattan Beach offers some of the best in the country. It also boasts the oldest pier on the west coast. Built in the 1920s, the pier hosts community events, such as fireworks and concerts, in addition to fantastic sunsets every single night.
Everybody seems to know everybody, and Manhattan Beach residents count multiple professional athletes among their neighbors. Seeking a well-crafted, small-town vibe, with So-Cal flair? Manhattan Beach may be the town for you.
Counter-Cultural Charm in Hermosa Beach
Photo by Scott Taylor
To paraphrase William Faulkner (the Nobel-winning author, who also wrote screenplays during the Golden Age of Hollywood), Hermosa’s counter-cultural past is not even past. The birthplace of west coast punk, Hermosa Beach was also a haven for the Beats, jazz musicians, and early surfers and skateboarders.
Even as it’s known for excellent public schools and great shopping and dining, Hermosa boasts a thriving nightlife and a cultural district with galleries and event spaces. Like Manhattan Beach, Hermosa falls along The Strand bike trail. Its vibe skews younger and more lively, but less touristy and flamboyant than Venice.
Keeping It Real In Redondo Beach
Photo by Paul Hanaoka
Redondo Beach is the largest of the South Bay beach towns. It has a metro line to Los Angeles, if you’re interested in avoiding freeway traffic. It also has galleria malls and plenty of restaurants and bars. Redondo is more diverse and may be more affordable than other South Bay Beach towns.
Until the 1950’s, Redondo’s Moonstone Beach was a popular tourist attraction. Raw gemstones used to wash up in piles following storms. Builders crushed up some of these gemstones and mixed them into concrete that would become streets, foundations and sidewalks. In the ‘50s, dredging and a new harbor reshaped the coastline, and the gemstones stopped appearing. But sometimes the sidewalks still seem to glitter.
Three decades later, Redondo was dramatized in the film Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
A local fishing spot, Redondo’s pier has a retro ambiance, with street food, gift shops, and a brewery. It’s less crowded and more relaxed than some better-known piers, such as Santa Monica and Venice Beach.
Redondo has oceanside marinas, cafes, and commercial water sports, as well as both oceanside and inland residential areas. The Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center is home to the Los Angeles Ballet, in addition to hosting other prestigious art events.
If your ideal beach town is eclectic, convenient (only seven miles from LAX!) and doesn’t take itself too seriously, you may love Redondo.
Privacy and Palatial Living in Palos Verdes
Photo by Dimitry Fimin
The Palos Verdes Peninsula is a rural retreat in a metro area. Want ocean-sprayed bluffs, spectacular views, and roaming wild peacocks? Want to build a big home on a large parcel, free from municipal size restrictions? Want to step outside your door and hit a hilly trail, either on foot or by bike? The Peninsula is worth checking out.
Palos Verdes is often overlooked by tourists, in part because it’s 25 miles from Los Angeles. It has local restaurants, schools, and groceries, but it’s not as bustling as other South Bay beach towns. Palos Verdes is a place to savor natural beauty and seclusion, while remaining part of a major metro area.
Though it has a strong surfing culture, the population skews older, life is slower-paced, fast-food is banned, and day-to-day life is peaceful. As a bonus, Palos Verdes offers some of the most gorgeous vistas in all of Southern California.
Have Questions About Building In A Particular Beach Town?
We have answers! We’ve built custom-homes all over the South Bay. We can answer questions about codes and other building concerns, and we can also help you figure out which town you want to be your town. Get in touch today.
Thanks for reading,
Hawlie Ohe heads White Sands Interiors, and she and her husband are raising two boys along the South Bay coast. Hawlie brings the curiosity that fueled her first career, as a journalist, to her interior design approach: Who are you, who do want to be, and how can this space get you there? Great design makes you feel present and engaged, and Hawlie is here for it. Because she wants to help you be “here” (in this space, in this moment), too.