Even San Diego locals look for something new to do. Try this: a San Diego day trip in a hot, new convertible around one of the most beautiful and distinctive spots in the county: San Diego Bay.

Our trip today does just that, with the destinations are all within a few minutes of the rental car counters at the San Diego International Airport.

Why the airport? Because we first have to secure that convertible and the most reliable spot is the airport. Most of the rental agencies offer convertibles, but be sure they guarantee your vehicle when you reserve. For the day, it will probably cost less than an adult ticket to Sea World.

Get more San Diego drives in Joyrides Around San Diego

Here spots you’ll enjoy visiting with the top down.

Point Loma, Shelter and Harbor islands: The two “islands” in the bay are man-made peninsulas created by bay dredging in the 1950s and 1960s. Both Shelter and Harbor islands offer wide boulevards. Connected to Pt. Loma, Shelter Island is the older of the two, featuring a 1950s Polynesian theme. Harbor Island is located right across from the airport. Both are perfect places for the all-important car selfie.

Downtown: Cruise over Harbor Drive to your choice of the two Embarcadero Marina Parks (North and South) that are mostly blocked from view by Seaport Village, hotel high-rises and and the Convention Center. They’re both man-made peninsulas like Harbor and Shelter islands but smaller; with parking (metered spaces) but are too small for the roads on the other islands. They surround the Marriott Marina and have great views of Coronado. The North park was about the location of the San Diego berth of the old Coronado Ferry. Entrances to both are hidden.

Coronado: Cross the San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge (itself a thrill in a convertible) and turn right in Coronado at Orange Avenue to the other side of what was once the car-ferry route. A park and vintage old ticket booth mark the spot where cars and pedestrians once disembarked. To the south is the Old Ferry Landing shopping and dining complex. The view of downtown San Diego’s skyscrapers is spectacular.

San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge viewing area.
San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge viewing area.

Continue your cruise on Orange Avenue south, past the Hotel Del Coronado to the Silver Strand along state Route 75. Its one of the few spots anywhere that drivers’ view is simultaneously the ocean and bay. Silver Strand State Beach has parking on the ocean side with foot access to the bay ($10 entry). South Bay is best viewed at the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge parking spot near Imperial Beach.

Trust me, when you drop off the convertible, you’ll be smiling, unlike many of your fellow customers, who will be boarding planes to go somewhere else.

Route and Info

Distance: About 30 miles.

Difficulty: Easy, but there is city traffic.

Directions

  • Google Map: https://goo.gl/maps/ks57y
  • North Harbor Drive to San Diego International Airport. Follow signs to Point Loma.
  • Left at Scott Street.
  • Left at Shelter Island Drive. Take loop around island.
  • Right at Scott Street.
  • Right at North Harbor Drive.
  • Right at Harbor Island Drive. Take loop around island.
  • Right at North Harbor Drive.
  • Right at Kettner Boulevard to Embarcadero Marina Park North (between Hyatt Hotel and Headquarters shopping complex, through Seaport Village). Return to Harbor Drive.
  • Right at Harbor Drive.
  • Right at Park Boulevard/Convention Way to Embarcadero Marina Park South. Return to Harbor Drive.
  • Right at East Harbor Drive.
  • Left at Cesar E. Chavez Parkway.
  • Right onto San Diego Coronado Bridge ramp. Continue across bridge on SR-75 to Coronado.
  • Right at Orange Avenue to Centennial Park. Return south on Orange Avenue, continuing to Silver Strand Boulevard (SR-75).
  • Follow signs to Silver Strand State Beach.
  • Return to SR-75 south, Silver Strand Boulevard.
  • In Imperial Beach, make a u-turn at Rainbow Drive to visit San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge viewing area, off of SR-75 north. Continue on SR-75 north back to Coronado and bridge to San Diego.

Websites

Port of San Diego: https://www.portofsandiego.org/wonderfront.html

San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge: https://www.fws.gov/refuge/san_diego_bay/

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