Buzzy Belmont Shore is a rare place in Southern California – a place where you can stay and walk (not drive) to local cafes and shops. It’s a beach side enclave with quirky architecture, great food and better shopping that’s the best place to get out.
Long Beach, a city built around the second busiest container port in the United States, has long lived in the shadow of neighboring Los Angeles (only a half-hour drive away). While Long Beach offers a pleasant enough California waterfront – plus four artificial islands offshore that were built to cover oil wells – its charm has been denied to some of its communities by many.
The Belmont Coast and the neighbouring neighbourhood of super-rich Naples are upscale islands in their own right. At the southern end of Long Beach, a left turn off Pacific Coast Highway onto Second Street will take you across a bridge, across the inland waterway on both sides of the beach, and into the palm-tree divided main street of Belmont Shores.
Belmont Shore’s High Street is a bright and bustling street, a mix of dive bars and gourmet cheese shops, clothing boutiques and ice cream bars. Second Street is a shopping paradise, with fine restaurants and gourmet pizzerias to keep your energy up. Following a path away from the bustle of commerce, you enter streets full of charming cabins (which appear small because they’re long and not very wide), where locals shiver as they ride the sea breeze in front of their doors, rustling the leaves of banana and eucalyptus trees.
If you keep going, the beach you’ll arrive at – Long Beach, named for its name – is wide and flat and often windy, and the best way to enjoy it is to walk/skate/bike along the promenade, or head north into the heart of the city, or to the taverns and galleries of the Fourth Street Arts District and Vintage Street along the way. But as the sun sinks behind the silhouettes of the rocky breakwaters and container ships stacked in the harbor, the bustle of the Belmont Coast remains. The street side tables were quickly filled, accordion vendors packed up, and neon signs shone to life.
The Renaissance Long Beach Hotel (111 E Ocean Blvd) is located in the heart of downtown and offers a comfortable business hotel stay (no breakfast) for the convention market in the nearby convention center, with numerous restaurants and bars (restaurants are available but expensive at the hotel). It’s a half-hour walk from Belmont Shore, but rent a bike from Long Beach Bike Share and you can quickly ride along the beach and be in the thick of things in less than 15 minutes.