Exploring California From Sand to Sea

June 6, 2017 Hilary

Exploring California From Sand to Sea



At 560 miles wide and 840 miles long, The State of California is one of the world’s top tourist destinations, and the third largest state in America. No matter your interest: city, forest, valley, mountain, coast or desert, the Golden State has it all. I’ve lived here in both NorCal and SoCal for the better part of 16 years, and there is still so much left to discover! I’ve hardly scratched the surface! Most recently, we’ve been exploring more of Southern California.

Sand to Sea


A record year of rainfall (yay rain!) and the resulting flower super bloom prompted our visit to the Anza Borrego Desert State Park in the Desert region. I had to see all those amazing flowers! Deciding to go on this little adventure at the last minute meant accommodation choices were somewhat limited, and not finding what I was looking for (yes, I’m a hotel snob) we decided to stay on the coast in La Jolla, the Jewel of San Diego. So, two birds with one road trip… Desert and Coast.


Anza Borrego State Park

Anza Borrego Desert State Park is located in the Colorado Desert in Southern California, that’s not confusing, and is California’s largest state park.


As we arrived in the park we noticed that small groups of beautiful flowers lined the roadside, and the scenery did look more green than we expected, but where was this Super Bloom we’d been hearing so much about?


We only had one day in the area, and Anza Borrego encompasses 600,000 acres, so rather than looking for the proverbial needle in the desert…



We decided some advice was in order and the Park’s visitor center located in the small town of Borrego Springs seemed like the best place to get it! The park rangers gave us very detailed directions to a nearby location where we could easily see the flowers.


There are many hiking trails ranging from easy to difficult as well as camping opportunities in the area, and if you’re interested the rangers will provide maps and directions. March afternoon temperatures were already in the high 90s, so we decided against hiking, and there were plenty of flower viewing options near the visitor center. We saw some pretty neat desert art installations on our way to the fields!

Anza Borrego State Park California#anzaborrego

The flower fields, as expected were stunning, and walking among them was a joyful experience. There weren’t many bees, strangely, but there were a ton of black ants and  caterpillars, which meant my boys weren’t willing to pose for too long among the flowers, and they definitely weren’t willing to sit down. Hoping for sunset photos, we timed our visit for late afternoon and sunset, which worked out perfectly.



Anza Borrego is an official Dark Sky, and while I love night photography, my amateur status meant that I wasn’t exactly prepared to take the night photos I had hoped for. Nevertheless we found ourselves a bench outside the visitor center and enjoyed viewing the stars and hearing the sounds of the desert at night. There was a little Saloon down the street from the visitor center where we enjoyed a meal before setting out for the sea portion of our adventure.

Anza Borrego State Park California


La Jolla The Jewel of San Diego


La Jolla, a lovely little seaside community located within the city of San Diego, was the perfect place to spend the day exploring. We saw Public art, delicious donuts, and a ton of wildlife, and these were just a few of the fun activities available!

La Jolla Mural Project

The La Jolla Mural project started in 2010 as a way to enhance the local community. The murals are painted or mounted on private buildings and are on display for a minimum of two years! We didn’t have time to view all of them, but loved the ones we were able to find.



Children’s Pool Beach

Just steps from the cute downtown area the coast is lined with lovely parks and beaches. We read that Children’s Pool Beach was a worthwhile spot and we were delighted to discover that our visit took place during the Harbor seal pup season! I loved watching the adorable interactions between the mother and baby seals, and we stayed quite a long while before wandering further up the coastline where we saw sea lions, pelicans, and many mischievous squirrels.


There are times during the year when the beaches are open for swimming and scuba diving is permitted as well. We saw divers among the sea lions, and there’s something so special about viewing animals in their natural habitat, but I must admit I’m just fine with my feet on the shore!



Since our move to SoCal, we’ve been on a quest for the best donuts, so when we came across this donut shop, we couldn’t resist!



These gorgeous flowers were alongside the road in San Diego County

Tips & Advice:

  • Anza Borrego Desert State park is a 3 hour drive from Los Angeles
  • La Jolla is a two hour drive from Anza Borrego.
  • The Children’s Pool Beach is closed to public access during harbor seal pupping season, Dec. 15 through May 15, yearly. However, you can view the seals during this time.

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I love to travel & explore the world both near and far! I do my best to make the most out of life each and everyday! I have two boys and they are, at the ages of 13 and 18, world travelers and all around go along guys. There isnt anywhere I cant take them. It is my hope this blog will be a way to share the fun things Ive learned while on our many adventures together!

Comments (50)

  1. Wherejogoes

    Your photographs are stunning! I love the first one with the mountains in the background and the flowers, I love the seals, I love them all! This is a total advert for California I’m refraining from packing my bags – beautiful. #FarawayFiles

    • Thank you so much! I’m so pleased you enjoyed the post!! California is waiting when you’re ready!! ❤️

      • Wherejogoes

        Thanks Hilary I’d love to see the flowers in the desert.

    • Thank you!! Email me if you need any advice I’m always happy to share my love of California!

  2. Ruth

    Gorgeous photos! I didn’t get to see the super bloom (or any flower fields). With things like that, you have too act quick but we were pretty busy at that time. I have been to the Anza Borrego area but would love to go back. I remember seeing so many butterflies. It was magical. #FarawayFiles

  3. Donuts, then seals and to top it all amazing flower photos – you’ve outdone yourself here Hilary, the pictures are just incredible.

  4. You have such beautiful photos of the wild flowers! They were amazing this year!

  5. galanda23

    I love Anza Borego State Park. We just visited it in March, when the dessert was in bloom. I haven never seen looking so colorful like then. Very beautiful pictures. #The WeeklyPostcard

  6. You got some amazing superbloom photos! The window is so short, and the bloom areas so isolated, I’m glad you got to see it. I live down in Point Loma but really ought to spend a little more time up in La Jolla. Maybe during the off-season. #TheWeeklyPostcard

  7. Hilary, your photography is improving by the minute. I think you could sell some of these! Love the gorgeous landscapes and the seals too. Thanks for joining #FarawayFiles

  8. It looks like you chose the perfect time of year to visit the desert and the coast. Those desert flowers are beautiful. I’m interested to know what sounds of the desert did you hear in the evenings? And seriously, how cute are those seals/! La Jolla looks like such a fun and family friendly destination.#FarawayFiles

    • We don’t know what was nearby, but we definitely heard scurrying, chirping, and rustling.

  9. Anisa

    I love La Jolla and watching the sea lions. And I have not been to or heard of Anza Borrego! It looks lovely. Pinning for future reference. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

  10. HILARY! This is so stunning! Seeing the desert bloom is on my bucket list for sure – so beautiful! You’ve captured it perfectly. And we love La Jolla as well – what a cozy and gorgeous spot snug against the sea. LOVE this post – thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles, Erin

  11. Sally@Tips 4 Trips

    I’m a bit of a hotel snob too theses days – done my time backpacking and camping 🙂
    Love the photos brings back some lovely memories of travelling down the coast of California especially seeing the sea lions lounging about.

  12. Your photos are fantastic! They capture the essence of being there amongst the Super Bloom plus all the fun to be had in La Jolla. I’ve been to San Diego before but have never ventured east to the Anza Borrego Desert State Park.

  13. Wow! Love the photos! The colors are just fantastic, and the whole post just seems like you guys were enjoying everything on offer. Makes me miss California, and really want to get back. We’ve been having a hard time figuring out where to go this summer…this could be it! Although, by then the Super Bloom will be super dry. 🙁 Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard!

  14. I’m so sad that at the greatest bloom the dessert has seen in years, I wasn’t there to experience it! Sadly, I’ve never been! Your pictures are GLORIOUS and your La Jolla pix make me miss home soooo much! I’m from Vista! Thanks for linking up with #TheWeeklyPostcard!

  15. jennifuchs

    I’ve never been to California before. It looks absolutely stunning from your photos! #citytripping

    • California is certainly worth a visit when/if you get a chance! There are many beautiful places to see!

  16. You’re pictures are stunning! I’ve wanted to visit San Diego since high school. I’m not sure whether it’s the coast or all the fun things to do but it is really calling to me. #citytripping

  17. Awwww…..you are making me so sad! This was the ONE THING I couldn’t fit into our 18 day road trip last month through California. We drove over 2400 miles, but the day we left San Diego, we had to make it to Exeter by night fall. I made the mistake of trying to go to Lancaster to see Antelope Valley, and by the time we got there near nightfall…there were not very many flowers. So either we were a week too late, or we should’ve gone to Anza Borrego instead!! Oh well, there is always next time!! We had a great time in California and the only regret is that we didn’t have longer! Lovely photos! Saving this for my next Cali adventure!

    • That’s the “problem” with California there is just too much good stuff to see and do!! Come back soon!

  18. What a beautiful photo set! I love the super bloom pics, it’s awesome when we can catch a particular place at the right time and see something truly breathtaking. 🙂 I hope to visit CA someday, there truly is much to offer.

    • Thank you so much! We really lucked out getting to see the blooms! It was a spectacular site!!

  19. This is so beautiful – a good reminder of what can come from a little rain (although I would trade some of this summer rain). La Jolla is somewhere I would love to explore, we didn’t quite get that far south on our California trip but maybe next time. Gorgeous photos as ever. Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

    • Thank you! Rain is good at the right time! Although we had so much this winter, it was too much! Sometimes 4-5 inches in a day… I guess it was making up for lost time!

  20. afamilydayout

    The flowers are amazing, it must have been such a special time to visit! #citytripping

  21. pigeonpairandme

    Ah, Anza Borrego sounds very appealing. Here in London we have the very opposite of dark skies, and I’m always keen to find places that are properly dark! I’ve spent time in San Franciso, but there’s clearly so much more to the state. I’m desperate to go back! #citytripping

    • Yes! There is much to discover here! Although… I’m a true Anglophile and am usually working on a plan to get to England.

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