This post was most recently updated on October 12th, 2021
Start at the beach
Tucked between the San Dieguito Lagoon at the north end of Del Mar and the Pacific Ocean is the James Scripps Bluff Preserve and Del Mar Dog Beach (or San Dieguito River beach). Even though I’ve lived in San Diego 27 years, I’d never been to this area. I’d see the lagoon nearly every year when we visited the Del Mar Fairgrounds but I had no idea there was such a pretty beach and bluffs there, too!
What to ‘Do’ in Del Mar:
I’d heard about the phenomenal nearly 360-degree views from the point at the James Scripps Bluff Preserve. My husband and I like to replenish our Instagram photo collection, so we agreed this would be a great place to explore and take photos…especially of the sunset. It made for a really fun date to walk to the top of the bluffs and watch the waves crash against the rocks below.
We could also see people playing volleyball on Dog Beach below us…and some great surf rides in the waves that entered the Lagoon.
There was a group of youth playing Pokemon-Go on the beach and lots of happy dogs, as the name of the beach implies. As this beach is a popular destination for bicyclists traveling Highway 101, there was also a bicycle station with tools available for adjusting or repairing bicycles — a nice touch, I thought. There’s a lifeguard tower here as well. Restrooms are portable bathrooms, and the park is open until sunset. Although there is no parking lot, you can park in parking spots along Highway 101 for only $4.50.
If you go, be sure to walk up the stairs and trail from the beach to see the view from the top of the bluffs.
From there, you can see the Del Mar Fairgrounds and horse-racing track to the east, hot air balloons floating inland, and up and down the coastline — several miles north…and then south all the way past Powerhouse and Seagrove Parks.
But of course the best part is the sunset. I never tire of watching the sun set at the beach because every time the view is different…and so spectacular!
Our next stop was the Del Mar village, near Sbicca, the trendy urban restaurant we’ve visited many times. We love its outdoor views and especially its fresh California cuisine. One thing we’d never done there is order dessert. I don’t know about you, but usually a dinner out fills me up and I never have room for dessert. So we planned to go just for dessert this time!
Del Mar Village
We parked free on a side street near the Del Mar library and walked just a few blocks to my favorite corner in Del Mar: 15th and Camino del Mar (also Highway 101). Lots of fun boutiques, restaurants, lights, flowers, and amazing views of the ocean.
Seagrove Park & Powerhouse Park
Walk down 15th towards the water, and you will run into Seagrove Park — a grassy park above the beach with pretty paths along the beach, benches for viewing, and graceful Torrey Pine trees. Right next to Seagrove Park is the Del Mar Powerhouse Community Park with its unique tower. You’ll also find a playground for the kids, restrooms, showers, bike racks, and a perfect venue for special events — it’s very popular for weddings.
Where to ‘Dine’
Right next to the Dog Beach and Scripps Bluff, there’s a Brigantine restaurant ($$). This isn’t a restaurant I’ve visited, but it looked like a nice location overlooking the lagoon and train tracks. Just north of Powerhouse Park are two very popular restaurants right on the beach. Jake’s ($$$) is for special occasions and is the #1 top-rated restaurant in Del Mar. It’s where you go when you want to celebrate an anniversary or impress someone. You almost always need reservations, especially if you’d like to sit near the windows on the beach. And right next door is the more affordable Poseidon ($$), with an equally desirable location and rated #2 in Del Mar.
While it was nice to stroll past these restaurants on the beach, they were not our destination for this ‘Dine & Do’. We walked back up from the beach area two blocks to Sbicca ($$$ and rated #5 in Del Mar) to order dessert. I’d perused the menu ahead of time and was quite excited to try their pots de creme (S’mores style) after having recently purchased pots de creme in Paris.
My husband ordered their blueberry cheesecake. As he said, you can’t ever go wrong with cheesecake! And it really was very good, even if predictably so.
If you’ve never had pots de creme (pronounced po-duh-crem) , you should definitely try it. Pots de creme is a very rich chocolate (almost pudding-like) dessert, made with whole cream, egg yolks, milk, sugar, and chocolate! It is similar to chocolate mousse. I liked the idea of combining an American s’more with a French dessert.
It may not have turned out to be the best idea. The marshmallow on my s’more was burnt (and I never burn my marshmallows when roasting them for s’mores!). The graham cracker crumb layer just tasted dry. But…once I got past the s’more ingredients, the chocolate portion was absolutely amazing. Sbicca should probably just ditch the s’more idea and capitalize on their perfect chocolate with a huge dollop of homemade real whipped cream. Then they would have a winner! Our desserts came to about $20 for both of us. We didn’t spend a fortune, we enjoyed the atmosphere of a favorite restaurant, and we didn’t leave feeling uncomfortably stuffed!
Del Mar Seaside Grill
At a subsequent visit to Del Mar, my husband and I discovered a new restaurant worth mentioning here. The Del Mar Seaside Grill specializes in Mediterrnean and Mexican dishes. My husband ordered their Salmon Kebob entree, and I had the Beef Koobideh with Lentil Rice. Both were delicious meals — a great value for the price! It is also an easy walk from here to the beach or parks.
Overall, we enjoyed a wonderful date night in Del Mar. Combining the beach with sunset and dessert was a perfect combination, without breaking the bank. Have you been to Sbicca or to the James Scripps Bluff Preserve? What did you think? As always, I’d love to hear about your ‘Dine & Do’ activities in San Diego, or wherever you happen to be!
The best part about this article is that you can download it free and take it with you. Just go to this link at GPSmyCity to download; if you pay a small fee to upgrade, it will be your GPS tour guide. Then you can view it without internet or data charges! I’ll get a few cents, and you’ll enjoy a great visit to Del Mar!
Want to see more in the ‘Dine & Do’ series?