All Things Coronado
History, Places to Go, Things to Do, and Reader Stories from the Last 40 Years
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An Insider's Travel and Visitor Guide to Coronado
• Things to do
• Places to go
• Outrageous real estate
• Over 40 original stories about the life, people, and history of the island of Coronado
Charlie Chaplin could have lived anywhere. Since he craved solitude, he spent many a summer on an island reached only by ferry. A famous photo shows him on a stallion at the Coronado polo fields. “That was a joke,” he said. “I was no sportsman. I went to Coronado to rest up.”
Elisha Babcock and Hampton Story, who built the Hotel del Coronado in 1888, wanted the island always to be “a place apart.” Three years later, Charles Dudley Warner endorsed their vision: Coronado is “where the business man dwells in Elysian bowers by the sea, screened from every reminder of business cares, yet barely a mile distant from the office.”
Some say the change resembles Dorothy’s from Kansas to Oz, and that it might underscore the three Oz books L. Frank Baum wrote while staying at the Hotel del – $3.50 per night — and later in the canary-yellow, two-story house he rented on Star Circle.
Emerald Islanders have fought to keep that difference — that separation. Their most vocal instance came in 2002. When the $1.00 toll to westbound traffic on the Coronado Bridge was about to be eliminated, they protested like ’60s radicals. Why? Because without a toll, anyone could cross the two mile-long, prestressed, blue-bottomed expanse with impunity.
But Coronado also encourages visitors. The Independence Day parade is so popular locals arrive at dawn for prime spots on Orange Avenue; since 1922, the Coronado Flower Show has been the “largest tented flower show in the nation”; the Sports Fiesta’s a favorite in July; and Lamb’s Players Theatre’s annual American Christmas, in the Ballroom of the Hotel del, offers the sights, smells, and songs of yuletide on the island a century ago.
Coronado has always been a tale of two islands. Originally a U-shaped bay, called Spanish Bight, separated North Island from Coronado (a 60-yard-wide “sandpit” connected them). Early explorers and settlers often rowed across the bay to North Island, where some of the purest water in the region flowed from a spring on the desolate lump of grainy brown sand.
In 1910, Glenn Curtis chose North Island as the best place in America to test new planes and train plots. Using a barn for a hangar, he experimented with pushers, biplanes, and an 8-cylinder, 60-horsepower hydroaeroplane. Flights were so hazardous, the site became known as Camp Trouble.
Today, Naval Air Station North Island is the home port of aircraft carriers, the base for aviation squadrons, and proud site of the Sea N Air golf course. Its rolling, links-like back nine boasts some of the most spectacular views in golf.
It’s hard to believe the island has such extremes side by side. Golfers at Sea N Air hear the near-constant vwoomp-vwoomp of Navy pilots throttling down as they practice landing.
It’s hard to believe that at night, just a few blocks south of the Hotel del’s Persian red rooftops, Navy SEALs, in black boats with blue lights, undergo training so severe it makes ironman triathlons look like a day at, well, the Silver Strand. A recurring urban legend: island fever. It’s said that some senior citizens love Coronado so much they haven’t left since they were children.
That’s not hard to believe.
Read about the most important annual events, landmarks, and institutions that make Coronado what it is. Plus over 40 original nonfiction stories and outrageous real estate offerings.
Ideal for visitors and locals alike!