Malibu and Topanga — Where Winding Canyon Roads Meet Spectacular Beaches
DELSEY PARIS and THE UNSEASONAL have teamed up
to take a fresh look at travel destinations that go beyond expectations.
Malibu is a small city in Southern California’s Santa Monica Mountains region. Its beautiful beaches stretch 21 miles along the Pacific coast. The area is within the Chumash territory, which extended from San Joaquin Valley to San Luis Obispo to Malibu, as well as to several islands off the southern coast of California.
The Chumash, who thrived until the late 18th century, called the settlement known today as Malibu “Humaliwo,” or “the surf sounds loudly.” Using tomols, plank-built canoes made from redwood, the Chumash traveled to the eight islands that are today known as the Channel Islands, with Santa Catalina being the biggest and most popular among them. Tomols were an integral part of a widespread trading network between tribes, and their style was unique.
Unlike kayaks, where sitting is the norm, tomols are propelled with the user in a crouching position. They are highly maneuverable and have been described by
historians as the single most technologically complex watercraft built in North America. Today, tomol crossings take place annually every August, as Chumash people from San Luis Obispo to Malibu take part in the 24-mile journey to Santa Cruz Island. The yearly event continues their rich maritime heritage and connection with the Channel Islands.
With the arrival of the Spanish missionaries in 1770, several colonies were founded. In the late 19th century, Frederick Hastings Rindge and his wife, Rhoda May, moved to Los Angeles and later made Malibu
their beloved escape. Fighting the development of roads and railways, Rhoda May not only became the Founding Mother of Malibu but also L.A.’s first high-profile female environmentalist. Additionally, in 1926, she founded Malibu Potteries, one of Southern California’s most successful businesses of its kind. Today, it is still an inspiration for current manufacturers in Malibu.
Rhoda May’s designs were influenced by the styles of Moorish, Egyptian, Mayan, and Saracen cultures. Her daughter’s house, the historic Adamson House, displays many examples of Malibu Potteries’ extraordinary tiles. With its marvelous, one-of-a-kind craftmanship, the house was designated a California Historical Landmark in 1977, and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Today, the beach house sits on one of the most idyllic oceanfront spots in all of Southern California, and it still casts a magical spell on its visitors. Part of the Malibu Lagoon Museum, it shouldn’t be missed.
In the ’60s and ’70s, one of the area’s beating hearts
was the Topanga Corral, a nightclub where musicians such as Neil Young, Spirit, Linda Ronstadt, the local band Canned Heat, and many others played. It burned down in the ’70s and was rebuilt — only to burn down again in 1986. It’s rumored that Jim Morrison wrote “Roadhouse Blues” about the drive up to the Corral:
Keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel.
Keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel.
Yeah, we’re goin’ to the Roadhouse.
We’re gonna have a real good time.
The village of Topanga is just a short drive from Malibu and surrounded by Topanga State Park — the largest wilderness area within a city limit in the United States. The wild, wide-open spaces of Topanga Canyon have drawn many artists, musicians, and free spirits to the area, serving as Los Angeles’ vibrant bohemian outpost. Members of The Doors, Alice Cooper, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Bernie Leadon, and Don Henley found inspiration and a home in Topanga. Leadon and Henley wrote the Eagles’ song “Life in the Fast Lane” about gunning their Porsches around L.A. and the Canyon’s winding roads. When exploring downtown Topanga, stop by the gorgeous Cafe on 27, which is perched among the treetops.
Take in the spectacular views from the restaurant’s patio,
as you enjoy brunch, lunch, and coffee specialties such as a Moroccan mocha or turmeric latte. Cafe on 27 is also environmentally conscious: You won’t find any plastic straws or glasses here, and everything is compostable or recyclable. The Inn of the Seventh Ray — a terraced, creek side restaurant that opened in 1973 — is one of the most unique and romantic destinations. The restaurant was supposedly built on the site of the summer home of evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, a popular faith healer in the ’30s. Winding brick pathways, thousands of fairy lights, waterfalls, and candlelight make dining under the grand old sycamores an unforgettable experience.
Topanga, like Malibu, is a surfer’s dream. The ’90s TVseries Baywatch made the area world famous because many of the episodes were filmed there. The beaches are home to some of the most exciting surf spots in Southern California. At Topanga Beach, waves consistently roll in over a mixture of sand and rocky terrain, offering real potential for a varied surf. Plan to arrive as early as you can to not only score a parking space but also a good spot out in the water.
When the sun hits the ocean, visit Cholada Thai Restaurant on the beachside. It serves traditional Thai curries, noodles, and salads in a tiny blue shack; it’s the best Thai food in the area. The wooden pier of Malibu Lagoon State Beach, also known as Surfrider Beach, can be seen in many classic surf movies. It’s a good location for first-time surfers. In 2010, Surfrider Beach was named the first World Surfing Reserve. If you are looking for a less crowded beach, try Paradise Cove. Featured on the album covers of The Beach Boys’ Surfin’ Safari and Surfer Girl, the beach is known for its cinematic views. The crystal-clear water and fine white sand are perfect for a picnic under the stars.
Located right along the coastline and overlooking La Concha Bay, the Nobu restaurant serves unique fusion cuisine, blending traditional Japanese dishes with Peruvian ingredients. The owner, Nobu Matsuhisa, is a renowned chef who has played small parts in such major films as Casino, alongside his business partner Robert De Niro. Due to the restaurant’s popularity, reservation spots fill up quickly. To enjoy its panoramic views, minimalist design, and exceptional food, be sure to reach out well in advance. The restaurant’s luxury atmosphere will round out your trip to Malibu and make it a memorable experience.
Images: Ger Ger Words: Tina Ger
The Unseasonal is a purpose-driven special projects magazine and alternative take on the world – a magazine about passion, travel, beauty, the change in seasons, the unusual, and the human condition. It features timeless pictorials, thoughtful stories, and unique collaborations. The Unseasonal embodies the feeling of a getaway, of slowing down, of exotic places, optimism, breathtaking dreams, unique architecture, and a lightness of being, traced with elements
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