Catch a wave in this classic Southern California coastal city, anchored by a prime fishing pier, several miles of white sandy beach and eclectic public art. Surfers, body-boarders and swimmers play in the Pacific throughout the warmer months here, while fishing enthusiasts reel in fun year-round. Bicyclists, birders and hikers also love the area for its miles of trails and breathtaking wetlands.
Start a tour of "IB," at locals call it, at the foot of Evergreen Avenue, leading to the entrance to Imperial Beach Pier and its Portwood Pier Plaza. This gathering place celebrates the city's legendary surfers and board shapers with an iconic public art piece titled "Surfhenge" commissioned by the Port of San Diego in 1997. Artist Malcolm Jones created four colorful plexiglass, surfboard-shaped arches along with Art Deco-style letters spelling out Imperial Beach, welcoming one and all to the city's waterfront. The plaza also offers seating areas, various shops and a stage for live entertainment.
Strolling out along the Imperial Beach Pier, which extends 1,491 feet into the 20-foot deep water, enjoy views of the beach on both sides, along with beach houses and beachgoers. To the southwest, check out the Los Coronados Islands. The Mexican border is also visible and within walking distance. At the end of the pier is The Tin Fish, a small cafe built in 2000.
Steps from the pier along Seacoast Drive and stretching on a walk to the corner of Palm Avenue and 3rd Street, enjoy the Outdoor Surfboard Museum, a tour of surfboard silhouettes anchored to the sidewalk. The silhouettes trace the history of surfboard shapers and designs representing a span from ancient time to 1985.
A few blocks north of the pier, discover Dunes Park, a pretty waterfront facility with a playground, basketball court, public artwork and a sandy beach. The park is popular for gatherings or just taking in a golden sunset. A walk away, view the impressive sculpture of a surfer and child. Dedicated in 2009, "The Spirit of Imperial Beach" honors IB surfing and the annual sandcastle festival, hosted by the city until 2011.
Other attractions in IB include trotting along the beach on horseback, an excursion offered by various outfitters; and exploring the the Tijuana Estuary, one of the few salt marshes remaining in Southern California. The reserve offers four miles of walking trails, taking visitors into prime bird-watching areas and down to the river mouth where the Tijuana River meets the Pacific Ocean.
The city's annual events include July 4 fireworks, the IB Sun & Sea Festival, a dog-surfing contest and classic car shows. For more information, contact the Port of San Diego online or by calling (619) 686-6200.