Biking the Strand: Hermosa Beach to Venice
One of the best things you can do in Southern California is get a bike and ride the strand. There's many a miles of concrete for bikers/skaters/skateboarders/runners to do their thing on and you don't have to worry about any angry drivers trying to run you over (for the most part of it at least).
Last weekend I did the ultimate strand bike ride. The one that I've only done a handful of times before because it takes a little less than forever: my house to Hermosa Beach Pier all the way through to Venice Boardwalk. In total, it's about 30 miles (that's including my house to the pier which adds 2 miles each way). But it's also really one of the best ways to get a feel for how each beach is a little different from the others.
The bike route is really flexible. You can start at Hermosa Pier, or start earlier than that at Redondo Beach Pier. And you can end at Venice Boardwalk, or go further to Santa Monica Pier. I've never been beyond Santa Monica Pier on the bike path, but the Marvin Braude Bike Trail (which is basically what you're taking the whole time) does go all the way through to Will Rogers State Beach in Pacific Palisades. The bike trail in total is 22 miles — but you have to remember that's going to be each way. I don't think you have an option to uber back with a bicycle in tow.
And if you don't prepare for it like I don't each time, you're probably going to start feeling sore about twelve miles in.
This is the route Heidi and I took and the main places we stopped:
I don't know who Google Maps is calculating time for (see map below) — maybe I'm just really slow — but it takes me almost two hours to do this route. Not one hour and eight minutes. But maybe that's just me.
First stop on the ride is Hermosa Beach Pier. I personally love Hermosa Beach the best of the beach cities. It's the smallest, but it's the beach I'm closest to, and I feel some connection with it because of all the beach days I've accumulated in my life there. It's really laid back too — like an in-between of Redondo Beach and Manhattan Beach literally and figuratively.
We were already hungry by the time we got to this beginning point, so we had lunch at one of my favorite go-to lunch places: Martha's 22nd Street Grill, also just called "Martha's." My Nana used to take me here when I was a lot younger and I've always loved their curly fries. But lately I've been going for the Martha's Eggs Benedict, or the California sandwich. Any choice is a good choice.
Manhattan Beach Pier is the next point of interest along the way. You can park your bike and walk to the end of the pier to check out the Roundhouse Aquarium which I wrote about here. It's a cute little aquarium and the only one I know of over water.
If you have more time, you can also go the other way — away from the aquarium — up Manhattan Beach Blvd. Downtown Manhattan Beach has so many shops (a little bit more pricey and high-end than what you'd find in Hermosa Beach) and good places to eat.
As you pass through El Porto, you'll see a power plant on your right and rocks and surfers on your left. El Porto is a prime surf spot. So find a spot on the rocks and watch or join them.
As you approach Dockweiler, there's a hang-gliding area. I've personally never hang-glided here, but it's always looked like a fun thing to do. If interested, you can make a reservation through this website.
This bridge is one of my favorite points of the trip. It's a marker for me of what feels like halfway there, even though that's not confirmed. They've added fencing so the bridge sidewalk is closed — I have a very unvalidated suspicion that it might be to prevent people from jumping off the bridge into the water. I get that suspicion from one of the rides I took a couple years ago where my friend wanted to jump off the bridge (because it looks safe enough), but all I could think of was that scene from "A Walk to Remember" where he jumps into some water that's way more shallow than he realizes and ends up seriously injured. Luckily, some random guy was near us when she was deciding whether to listen to me or not and said that people have gotten hurt because there are things like grocery carts under the water that people can't see.
My point: don't jump off the bridge.
But it's a nice place to park your bike and rest. Obviously Heidi was a little dead at that point/really wanted to take a nap. I gave her ten minutes.
After the bridge, there's a sign that points you down this long stretch of bike path. You have water on either side and pass the UCLA Marina Aquatic Center where you can rent anything from a kayak to a sailboat (on the condition that you know how to sail).
You'll get to a point where the path splits into two and you can either go straight or to the left. Go left.
Marina del Rey's Fisherman's Village reminds me of a small east coast town with a small harbor and beach. It's worth parking your bike and just walking along the harbor. We were lucky enough to be there when a community event was happening! A band was playing and people — mostly senior citizens — were just dancing. Heidi and I joined in and caught on to the rhythm and the moves before wandering over to the water.
We just missed the $1 historic tour on the boat that was going around in the morning. But they do have boat tours here in case you're interested. Check it out.
You'll go from the Fisherman Village and there's still a bike path to follow. Then there comes a kind of detour so just pay attention and follow fellow bikers. You'll follow the path essentially until you come to Washington Blvd. Then you'll be on the street for a stretch of time.
Heidi and I decided to go through the Venice Canals. It's a small but neat area to walk through. It makes you feel like you're in a completely different place with bridges connecting the sidewalks over the water. Paddleboarders. There's gondola rides you can also take through here. Or just admire the people relaxing like the guy we saw just sitting in his little boat working on the computer.
The next and maybe final stop is the Venice Boardwalk. It's super easy to keep going after this and onto Santa Monica Pier. Maybe ride the ferris wheel over there before coming back.
Venice is a fun place to people watch. There's such a wide array of people there. There's also street performers — I recommend sticking around to watch The Calypso Tumblers. Their final act is jumping over like seven people. It's pretty incredible. You can watch also just watch it on YouTube.
By the time we got to Venice we were dehydrated and in need of ice cream. Venice is mostly cash only, and although they have available ATM's, we opted for a gelato place and were able to use our credit cards.
We took our gelato and sorbet over to watch the skateboarders shred it up. They were extremely talented. I've personally never had a knack for skateboarding — something about being completely unbalanced and uncomfortable with nothing to hang on to or strap me in.
On our ride back, I made sure to point out to Heidi my favorite house on the strand in Venice (pictured above) — it reminds me of a birdhouse and I have just always loved it.
We were completely exhausted by the time we got back to my house. I was trying to convince my mom to pick us up from Hermosa Pier (there's a crazy hill we have to climb up on the way back otherwise) but she didn't budge. So we watched most of the sunset and then headed back. Sore bums and ready for a long relaxing night in.
It was a day well spent.