Southern California Picnic Spots


Cure for the Common Picnic

Hold onto your picnic basket! We’ve got a few ways to spice up your loaf-life. Here are three places that’ll put the zest in your cheese and the pepper in your crackers. Nibble away at them!

Duffy Boat Newport

A Moveable Feast

Forget yachts and sailboats. A picnic at sea is best done on a Duffy! Don your Gilligan’s hat and explore Newport Harbor aboard this 21-foot electric boat that seats up to ten—a perfect (and perfectly quirky) vessel for a family get-together or good times with friends. Duffy of Newport Beach is your outfitter, renting the boats and providing free popcorn at the dock along with a brief driving lesson (no boating experience required). Your group’s "captain" (so official!) will be given a map of the harbor. Bring a home-packed feast: the canopy-covered cruiser offers cushy seats set around a central table where you can spread out your food and drink. Don’t forget to pack a favorite maritime mix, as Duffy’s come with a radio, CD player, and an auxiliary jack for iPods. Turn up the tunes while enjoying the sites on this one, two, or three-hour tour. But don’t expect to rev any engines. Duffy boats are the tortoise to the motorboat’s hare; taking your time, enjoying your meal and a well-deserved breather from rush hour is what this trip is all about. The map points out interesting landmarks and highlights along various routes. The two-hour option completes a figure eight around Lido and Balboa Islands, passing waterfront homes and a few sandy beaches. Wave hello to the sailboats, yachts, kayaks, and stand-up-paddleboarders…your high-style flotation device makes the cut. They get the drift.

BONUS: Don’t feel like packing your own picnic? Reserve party platters from Bluewater Grill or The Cannery through Duffy of Newport Beach.

Duffy of Newport Beach is located at 2001 W. Coast Hwy in Newport Beach (map). They are open seven days a week from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., and parking is free. Rentals range from one to three hours. A two-hour boat rental is $170 from Monday to Thursday and $198 from Friday to Sunday. Call (949) 645-6812 to make a reservation. Bring whatever food or beverage you like. Dogs under 40 lbs. are allowed (bring a bed or blanket for the dog to lie on).

Royal Palms County Beach

Rock and Royalty

Not all regal oceanfront dining spots are reserved for Hollywood A-listers. Nature provides a little royal treatment of its own at Royal Palms County Beach in San Pedro. Drive down to this uncrowded, double-crescent beach at the south end of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. The coast here is rugged, backed by 100-foot cliffs and covered in a cobblestone of large rocks. If you’ve got sturdy sandals, climb around and explore tide pools teeming with sea stars, anemones, urchins, and mollusks. Despite the beach’s wild and isolated appearance, there’s a sublime picnic spot at the north end, where a long and level stone patio with eight table sits just a few feet from the pounding waves. Evenly spaced palms add a dash of tropical whimsy. The tables are spread far apart, so there’s plenty of room for a game of ladder golf, spikeball, Frisbee, or Twister. Old stone fireplaces—remnants of the White Point Hot Spring Hotel which operated here in the 1920s—lend a century-old ambience. This picnic area was once a venue for outdoor dance soirees. If Catalina Island looks larger than usual, it’s because you’re about as close as you can get without jumping in the water. Footpaths lead in several directions along the beach, but keep in mind this is not a good place for swimming. For those itching to stretch their legs a little more, take a short hike to WWII-era bunkers in White Point Park on the bluff just above the beach. King and Queen for a day.

Royal Palms County Beach is located at 1799 Paseo Del Mar in San Pedro (map). There is a $10 fee to park your vehicle. No dogs.

Malibu Wines Outdoor Wine Tasting

Something to Wine About

Most wineries boast indoor tasting rooms accompanied by a lawn and patio for kicking back with a glass of vino; but one local vineyard is letting more than its wines breathe. Malibu Wines uncorks a picnic paradise with a tasting room that’s entirely outdoors. Belly up to a narrow, stone building featuring three open-air counters shaded by a Spanish tile overhang. Start with a four-pour tasting. The flagship is the Saddlerock Cabernet Sauvignon, but the not-too-sweet Semler Viognier is refreshing on a hot day. Choose your favorite, and then sink into one of the Adirondack chairs next to tables created from old wine barrels. Or grab a spot on the green grass. Pair your wine with a home-packed picnic: bringing your own food and non-alcoholic drinks is perfectly okay. On Thursday evenings, Malibu Wines hosts a movie night under the sky. On weekends, live music lures people to linger awhile. If the wine is working, you’ll likely end up grooving to surf rock or Spanish guitar. Bottoms up, tiny dancer.

Malibu Wines is located at 31740 Mulholland Hwy in Malibu. Valet parking is $12 per vehicle, and there is a complimentary shuttle from a free lot just west of Encinal Canyon Rd., at 31779 Mulholland Hwy (map).  Street parking is not permitted. Malibu Wines is open Sunday through Wednesday from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., and Thursday through Saturday from 11:00am to 9:00 p.m.Tastings end at 7:00 p.m. each day, though bottle sales continue until close. Wine tastings are $12 to $14 and bottles range from $25 to $55. Check their calendar for a full list of events. Guests under 21 are not permitted. Outside alcohol is prohibited. No dogs.

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