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Cardiff-By-The-Sea - The Quintessential Southern California Beach Town

Real Estate Agent with eXp Realty of California, Inc. CA DRE #01490977

 Downtown Cardiff by the Sea CA


Cardiff (see slideshow at bottom of page) is a quaint and charming seaside village with a long surfing history, located about 20 miles north of San Diego, and sandwiched between Solana Beach (to the south) and Encinitas (to the north).


Cardiff has gorgeous views of the Pacific as well as the San Elijo Lagoon which forms the south border, and is a popular tourist and surfer destination.


Cardiff views of the lagoon


Cardiff is a community of approximately 4550 housing units, both owner occupied and rentals, with over 11,500 (2007 census) residents, with about 56% of them owning their homes, and the rest renting.


The town was founded by J. Frank Cullen, a Boston painter turned developer. He purchased the land (about 600 acres) originally developed as farmland and sold off lots. Cullen supposedly selected a Spanish name for the town (common in the area) but was persuaded to name it Cardiff, after the town in his wife's native Wales.


Driving through Cardiff you will notice that many of the streets have English names (Oxford, Cambridge, Manchester, Glasgow, and so on). Victor Kremer developed the area north of Birmingham now called the Composer District (again, the names are a give-away - Mozart, Verdi, Chopin, Rubinstein). It is believed he may have added the By-The-Sea to the name, although most people simply refer to it as Cardiff.


A bit more history...Cullen built a hotel in town which still stands at the corner of San Elijo and Chesterfield (now called the Mercantile Building). The building has housed many different businesses over the years, including a grocery store and library. Patagonia, an upscale retail store, currently occupies the ground floor. The pier built by Cullen, just north of today's Restaurant Row (right middle photo), was destroyed in a storm in 1916.

 Cardiff by the Sea views


Cardiff's history as a popular spot for surfers has added to the charm that continues today, and a quick drive through town will show you why.


There are occasional surfing contests in Cardiff that, in addition to surfing, offer a number of vendors and plenty of entertainment - one event attracted 20,000 visitors.


If you spend any time in town, you will see lots of surfboards heading down the hill under arms, on bikes, in the backs of trucks and running across the coast highway to the beach. There are a number of surfing related shops and eateries, too.


 Homes in Cardiff by the Sea CA


Cardiff real estate, like other coastal communities, offers a range of housing but at a hefty price tag, at least near the coast and when the property has ocean and/or lagoon views. For up to date market information please reach out to me at (760) 840-1360 or watch for my monthly market reports. Prices vary depending on inventory and buyer demand. Limited inventory, beautiful views, and overall desirability combine to keep home prices in Cardiff high on average.


You will find Cardiff homes in a variety of styles, including bungalows and cottages, twin-homes, contemporary and Spanish, as well as apartments and condominiums; there are several gated communities of attached and detached homes. Reverse floor plan homes are common on the hill (living space is upstairs, bedrooms down) to take advantages of the glorious views, and many are 3 stories.


In order to preserve beautiful ocean views, Cardiff has enacted building height restrictions to prevent owners from adding on too much space above existing levels to take advantage of the views, and thereby blocking views of neighbors.


 Restaurant Row in Cardiff by the Sea, CA


While Cardiff may not be known as a gourmet food capital, there are a number of places to dine, especially if you want to eat while looking at the ocean.


Restaurant Row, on the Coast Highway just south of downtown, offers a number of different restaurants (e.g., Chart House in CardiffLas Olas,  and Pacific Coast Grill), several of them directly on the ocean where you can enjoy watching the surfers, the surf, and take in spectacular sunsets. Mexican, California, and seafood are primary offerings.


Pipes Cafe is one of the best known breakfast places around, and  Trattoria Positano in the heart of downtown is also quite good and popular with locals and visitors.


 Kite Flying at Cardiff State Beach, Cardiff CAThe Cardiff beaches are spectacular, and offer great surfing, sunbathing, kite flying or just enjoying the views.


You will often find stone sculptures along the Coast Road created by seasoned sculptors and beginners, which disappear over time, only to re-emerge as new creations.





Some of the parking along the Coast Highway/historic Route 101 in Cardiff is free and fairly easy to find in the off-season, but in the summer you can expect to find parking more difficult. There are pay parking lots at the state beaches, by Restaurant Row, and at the far south end bordering Solana Beach.


Children attend 1 of 2 elementary schools depending on their grade - they both have great reputations. Older students attend Encinitas schools.


 Small community park in downtown Cardiff by the Sea CAThere is some nice outdoor space in Cardiff by the Sea. In addition to the beaches, you can enjoy the community park in downtown, running along the train tracks, and George Berkich Park in the Composer District.


San Elijo Park and campground (San Elijo State Beach, between Cardiff and Encinitas) also offers nice space, a great beach, and is a popular over-night camping destination.


Glen Park, on Orinda Drive, offers a nice play area for young kids, and horseshoes, basketball, tennis and beach volleyball.


Neighboring Encinitas offers many other things to do, including lots of shopping, dozens of restaurants in the downtown area, the San Diego Botanic Garden, and The Self-Realization Fellowship Temple with a beautiful meditation garden (photo below).


Meditation Gardens at Self-Realization Temple in Encinitas


Head south to Solana Beach to enjoy more varied and upscale shopping, especially in the Cedros Avenue Design District, or take in a live music show at the Belly Up Tavern.


Cardiff-by-the-Sea offers the classic seaside town lifestyle with a strong surfing history that continues even today. Perfect weather, a laid-back atmosphere and small-town feel, and a diversity of residents, old and new, provide the perfect mix of Southern California outdoor living in a healthy, but pricey, housing market. Why not dream YOUR dream here!


Are you thinking of a relocation? Give me a call so we can discuss your move - I have relocated 4 major times and have had plenty of relocating clients so I know relocation well. And to learn more about how to relocate successfully visit Relocation Tips and Advice (video series on my YouTube Channel).


Please don't hesitate to ask if I can provide any information or answer your questions about the housing market in in Cardiff or other areas of Southern California.


Feel free to call or text me at (760) 840-1360 so we can discuss your housing needs and budget and I can answer any questions you have.


Posted by

Jeff Dowler, CRS
Certified Residential Specialist / Realtor®

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Brian Brady
Matthews Capital Markets - Tampa, FL
Yogi's may be the greatest sports bar in Southern California.  The Belly Up is often billed as the "king" of the small west coast music venues.  (Just helping you avoid any mixed reviews).  Nice post.
Mar 01, 2007 05:46 PM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

So, Brian, did they let you out, or just give you access to the Internet in the library? LOL

Thanks for your comments. Much appreciated.


Mar 01, 2007 05:58 PM
Kaye Thomas
Real Estate West - Manhattan Beach, CA
e-PRO, Manhattan Beach CA
Jeff- Your city tours are always so nice...I love Cardiff but haven't been there for way too long..
Mar 01, 2007 06:06 PM
Monika McGillicuddy
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Verani Realty - Hampstead, NH
Southern NH & the Seacoast Area
Jeff, Makes me want to come for a visit!!!! Very nice!
Mar 02, 2007 01:47 AM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Thanks, Kaye - so when are you coming back down?

Monika - So come on out - the weather is great this time of year!

Mar 05, 2007 03:37 PM
frances crouch..nee carlson

interesting site...I use to live in cardiff many years ago..went to 1st grade there ( 1947?)..in those days there was not a lot there..we could see the whales migrating from the school yard.. I remember there was a turn off from  old 101 that crossed the tracks and there was a big 2 story building there it had a store and post office on the bottom and apts upstairs...we live up the hill from the school..all the roads where mostly dirt and twisted around and had lots of vegetation..i have a couple of pictures off our old house . we then moved to green valley and i went to school in encinitas..we lived on a dirt road in a old farm house that belonged to the miller brothers..one brother had the feed store by the rail road tracks and the other one ran a butcher shop. I could go on and on ..but lucky you I wont.

I went back in the late 70's I found my way back and some things where still the same but It was starting to change...of course now its all gone.


Jun 03, 2009 02:11 PM
Sharon Alters
Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty - 904-673-2308 - Fleming Island, FL
Realtor - Homes for Sale Fleming Island FL

Jeff, your internet strategy is wonderful. So many blogs to pull from when writing a new post. Brilliant!


Aug 17, 2009 04:02 PM
Jeff your city is very very beautiful I liked your photos I'm brazilian and i like so much USA since I was born i'm 17 years old and I hope a day... move to your country because I S2 USA I am taking english course to move there Bye and congratulations for the blog Guilherme....
Aug 27, 2010 12:04 PM
Marco Giancola
Beachfront Realty - Miami Beach, FL
Realtor (305)608-1922, Miami Beach Florida

Hey Jeff dude-I had never heard of this town but because I know the one in Wales I check it out. This is totally my kind of place to reside! I love the surfer vibe and it looks so laid back.

Jan 04, 2016 07:20 PM