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LA for everyone: Santa Monica

Thursday, September 3, 2009
The reason most people go to Santa Monica — and Catriona Rowntree, Dermott Brereton and Jules Lund were no exception — is for the 5.6km of beautifully maintained beach. Santa Monica averages 340 days of sunshine a year, and evenings are cooled with gentle breezes.

Luxury

Shutters on the Beach has been reinvented by President Barack Obama's White House interior designer, Michael Smith. Guest rooms and suites give the feeling of being in a private beach house. It's close to the beach, bedrooms have fireplaces and its reputation is that it's one of the best hotels around.

Some people just don't like sand — and if that sounds like you there is a beautiful pool with huge deck so you can take a dip or unwind in the jacuzzi and look at the ocean while sipping a cocktail.

Guests enjoy lunch and dinner and Sunday brunch in One Pico Restaurant. Its decor is soft blue and white and views across the boardwalk make for very pleasant dining. Coast, a beachside cafe and bar, serves breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner and they have a happy hour every evening.

Fred Segal began his legendary fashion empire in the late 1950s and it continues to thrive under the direction of his three children who say their dad was the father of fashion denim. The retail haven has the unusual in women's, men's and children's clothing, cosmetics and jewellery, shoes, accessories, cosmetics and gifts. Designers vie to be included in Fred's store and the likes of Jennifer Aniston, Meg Ryan, Britney Spears and Nicole Kidman are all customers.

Catriona recommends you have plenty of time on hand when you visit as you won't want to leave in a hurry!

Viceroy Santa Monica is another little gem. The owners have blended city chic with relaxed coast and offer 162 beautifully appointed rooms. It's restaurant Whist is highly acclaimed, and poolside Cameo Bar is a great place to enjoy a cocktail.

Family

There's no doubt the world-famous Santa Monica Pier is a great favourite with families. It has a huge variety of entertainment, shopping and dining. Go for a ride on the historic 1922 carousel, visit the interactive aquarium and take the thrill rides of Pacific Park. Some carnival rides are free, as is entry. Street performers entertain as you stroll along the pier.

There are loads of eating options along the beach, but Swingers Diner has you thinking you're back in the television show Happy Days. It's a rock 'n' roll coffee shop and diner, with waitresses in go-go boots, fishnets and miniskirts. It feels more like a pop culture museum than a restaurant!

The retro diner serves huge meals for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner, and they serve eggs every way imaginable, along with stacks of pancakes, maple syrup, crisp bacon and endless coffee. It's all there. They also serve organic, vegetarian and vegan meals, so just about everyone's covered. Prices are great — if you are there before 11am, tuck into the early-bird brunch. For around $5 you receive two eggs with two pancakes or thick French toast and either bacon or sausage.

Third Street Promenade is a pedestrian street and a premier shopping destination in Los Angeles. The street has been a centre of business since the town's inception in the late 1800s and today visitors enjoy buskers and street performers. It has an amazing array of shops, theatres, cafes and restaurants and everyone loves it because in the city of cars, on the four-block long promenade there are none.

Budget

The Hotel California. Just the name makes you want to sing the song made famous by the group, the Eagles. The hotel's been there since 1948 and imagine the stories it could tell.

It has cool rooms and warm people, Southern California decor, lush landscaping, is steps away from the beach, close to bars and restaurants and breakfast is included in the tariff.

Rooms have hardwood and tiled floors, leather furniture, mini refrigerators, Beautyrest mattresses made up with 100 percent Egyptian cotton sheets, ceiling fans and California artworks. It's wonderfully nostalgic and is one of the best value-for-money hotels around, in a premium location.

Perry's Café & Rentals

A fantastic way to get around is to visit Perry's bike hire and join the crowds on the Boardwalk. It's a one-stop rental shop for all your beach needs. They rent skates, bicycles (including Schwinn performance bikes) beach cruisers, choppers, mountain bikes, tandems, children's bikes, tricycles, tag-a-longs and kiddy carts.

Perry's has been part of the beachscape since 1976 and has grown from a single hamburger stand to having eight locations along Santa Monica and Venice beaches.

Read Jules' behind the scenes blog from LA

Read the Ninemsn Travel Insiders' Guide to LA

Cost

Shutters on the Beach rooms start at from $650 a night. It includes access to fitness centre, Technogym strength-training equipment, outdoor heated pool and chaise lounges.

The Hotel California rooms start at around $215 a night.

Perry's Café & Rentals bike hire starts at around $12 an hour.

Air New Zealand flies daily to Los Angeles.

One-way fares from:

  • Sydney $1447
  • Melbourne $1429
  • Adelaide $1715
  • Perth $1729
  • Brisbane $1453

On sale until September 8, 2009, and for travel between January 26 and March 27, 2010.

Prices correct at September 3, 2009

For further information

Air New Zealand
Ph: 132 476
www.airnewzealand.com.au

Shutters on the Beach

1 Pico Boulevard
Santa Monica CA 90405
United States
Ph: +1 310 458 0030
www.shuttersonthebeach.com

Fred Segal Santa Monica

500 Broadway
Santa Monica CA 90401-2406
United States
Ph: +1 310 393 4477
www.fredsegalfun.com

Viceroy Santa Monica

1819 Ocean Avenue
Santa Monica CA 90401
United States
Ph: +1 310 260 7500
www.viceroysantamonica.com

Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica CA 90401
Ph: +1 310 458 8900
Fax: +1 310 656 1698
www.santamonicapier.org
info@santamonicapier.org

Swingers Diner

802 Broadway
Santa Monica CP 90401-2711
United States
Ph: +1 310 393 9793
www.swingersdiner.com

Third Street Promenade

Santa Monica CA 90401
United States
Ph: +1 310 393 8355
Fax: +1 310 458 3921
www.thirdstreetpromenade.org
info@baysidedistrict.org

Perry's Café & Rentals

2400 Ocean Front Walk
Ph: + 1 310 939 0000
www.perryscafe.com

The Hotel California

1670 Ocean Avenue
Santa Monica CA 90401
United States
Ph: +1 866 571 0000
www.hotelca.com

Visas: Most Australians do not need a visa, providing they have a machine-readable passport with at least six months validity after the departure date, have a round-trip non-refundable ticket and do not intend to stay longer than 90 days. From January 2009, Australians need to complete a pre-travel authorisation at www.cbp.gov/esta

Electricity: Electric current is 110V to 115v, 60Hz AC. Outlets take two-parallel, flat prongs. Australian visitors will need a US adapter and converter.

Time zone: The United States has nine standard time zones. California is GMT -7 hours.

Currency: The American dollar.

Telephone code: International dialling code is 0011 1

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