North County San Diego
The North County area of San Diego is the second-largest region of the San Diego metropolitan area and is more wealthy and socially conservative compared with the rest of San Diego. There is an estimated population of 826,985 residing in North County.
The top twenty-five employers in San Diego County are closer to the North County city of Carlsbad than San Diego proper.
The terrain here is incredibly diverse, differing greatly from the coastal to the inland areas. The North County Coastal areas are generally flat with low rolling hills. There are mostly sandy beaches with a few tide pools and even some rocky reefs. Some coastlines have steep bluffs, where the terrain drops off sharply into the ocean with little or no beach. Most beaches and lagoons are well protected to help maintain a pristine environment.
Mountains, green valleys and open spaces are abundant as you move inland towards the east. The rocky peaks are visible from far off, including San Marcos Mountain, Palomar Mountain, Twin Peaks in Poway, Mount Woodson in Ramona, and Iron Mountain. The Santa Margarita Mountains dominate coastal area to the north and there is more rugged terrain as you head toward Camp Pendleton (the 125,000-acre Marine Corps Base Camp, separating North County from neighboring Orange County).
Several rivers and creeks begin in the inland mountains and flow west towards the coast, draining into four main lagoons. These also form many lakes and reservoirs which support a diverse range of native wildlife.
Famous landmarks in North County include the Del Mar Racetrack, Mission San Luis Rey de Francia, Lake San Marcos, the Oceanside Pier, Stone Steps, Twin Peaks, and Palomar Mountain (home to great hiking) and the Palomar Observatory. Another ideal hiking and exploration destination, Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve Park preserves over 2,000 acres and 3 miles of unspoiled beaches and cliffs overlooking the Pacific.
The historic Pacific Coast Highway, route 101 stretches from Mexico to Canada and passes along the Pacific coastline connecting the beautiful beach communities, from La Jolla to Oceanside. This pristine strip of the “PCH” is largely unaffected by modern construction and development and maintains it’s picturesque, original character.
Well known for its beaches, the area’s 30 miles of shoreline stretch from Del Mar to the north boundary of San Onofre. The beaches bring a huge flood of tourism typically from June to November. North County’s surf culture is evident and various surfing inspired statues and symbols dot the shorelines of the communities. The ever-present beach scene, is filled with opportunities for ocean excursions, fishing, watersports, and amusements along the piers and boardwalks.
Equestrian culture is also a large influence here. Multiple equestrian centers are spread across the region, including the Del Mar Fairgrounds, Rancho Camino Equestrian Center, and San Diego Country Estates International Equestrian Center.
Forty golf courses are in North County San Diego, including the famous Torrey Pines, host of 2008 U.S. Open.
With a central location and easy highway access, it’s only a 30 to 40-minute drive to downtown and every recreation activity in San Diego is easily accessible. Some include: San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido, LEGOLAND in Carlsbad, the Del Mar Racetrack and Fairgrounds, Torrey Pines Golf Course and Birch Aquarium in La Jolla, SeaWorld and Petco Park Downtown.
And who could forget Balboa Park? This cultural park is home to playing fields, gardens and 15 museums, including the San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego Natural History Museum, Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, San Diego Air & Space Museum and of course… the San Diego Zoo!
North County is also home to several colleges including:
- California State University, San Marcos (CSUSM), four-year university offering undergraduate, graduate, and doctorate programs.
- Palomar College, a community college in San Marcos.
- Mira Costa College, another community college with multiple campuses and off-campus sitesthroughout the region (Carlsbad, Oceanside, Encinitas and Cardiff).
In addition, 15 school districts serve North County and overlap various city boundaries, and depending on the zip codes serve multiple cities.
Moving Eastward… a New Dimension to San Diego.
The town of Ramona is an example. As one of the oldest communities of San Diego County, famous for antique shops and fishing in Lake Sutherland Reservoir, this horse-friendly community is open to riders in the city limits and is known as the “The Valley of the Sun,” considered to be the gateway to the Inland Mountains.
Even further east you find the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park (the largest state park in CA with 500 hundred miles of dirt roads and hiking trails, with 12 wildlife areas) and Cleveland National Forest.
There are 18 Casino Resorts in the North County Inland and East San Diego County regions that can be reached quite easily as well.
Also, this is a true wine country. There are dozens of wineries across the North County Inland and Coastal communities as well as in East County San Diego and over in Temecula Valley, too.
In our next segments, we will explore the locations of major cities and towns of North County San Diego.
A very popular seaside city in North County San Diego, Carlsbad is well known for its beautiful beaches, great climate and as a great place for families. With many attractions and major employers based here too, there’s lot going in Carlsbad. There are 3 hospitals in the immediate area and 18 hospitals within 30 miles of Carlsbad.
A smaller beach community with a very tranquil look and feel, Encinitas residents are easy going people who appreciate the ideal location and high quality of life. A beautiful downtown and surrounding area, great beaches, restaurants, many lively activities and convenient highway access make it a highly desirable place to live.
Centrally located, Escondido is about 18 miles to the beaches. The terrain is more mountainous and desert-like compared to the coastal cities, however it is a fertile area where fruits and vegetables thrive.
Temperatures are also warmer and dryer, especially in summer, however the winters are comfortable and pleasant. Located in a valley, the city has a larger population of roughly 150,000, and you’ll find plenty to do and see. The charming downtown has a historic feel and the city’s numerous attractions and entertainment choices make this a very vibrant place to live.
The Palomar Medical Center is located here and an additional 18 hospitals are within 25 miles of Escondido.
As an inland-community, Fallbrook lies in an elevated, rural location about 30 minutes from the coast and 45 minutes to downtown San Diego. Unlike the coastal cities, there are plenty of wide-open spaces, lush green hills and valleys, and particularly great conditions for growing fruits and vegetables.
Fallbrook is a pleasant place to live, where you’ll find the tight-knit community of 30,000 residents very friendly and laid back. There is also a very strong focus on outdoor activities and the arts, with many diverse performances and events all year round.
The Fallbrook Hospital is a general surgical and medical center located right in town and 2 other major medical facilities are nearby (and 7 hospitals within 20 miles).
The Scripps Memorial General Hospital is located here and with several other facilities within short distance (and 25 hospitals total within 25 miles).
With its relaxed vibe, beautiful beaches and weather and large and diverse mix of residents, Oceanside is a classic California beach town. Being the 3rd largest city in San Diego County, there are huge array of activities, events and attractions, along with a lower cost of living vs. other coastal communities in North County. You can also find many wonderful ocean, mountain, canyon and golf course views.
The Tri-City Medical Center is based here and 9 other hospitals are within 26 miles.
As for living options, Oceanside has no shortage of affordable retirement and non-age based housing:
- 55+ Golf Course communities with attached and detached single story and 2-story condos with land ownership
- 55+ Communities with attached and detached homes with land ownership
- 55+ Gated communities with manufactured homes with land ownership
- 55+ Gated communities with attached homes with land ownership and condominiums
- 55+ Gated Communities with mobile homes and land lease (monthly space rent)
Another inland community of rolling hills and canyons, the scenic views and rural feel make this a peaceful place to live. Rancho Bernardo is officially part of the city of San Diego and located about 20 miles northeast of downtown and a 30-minute drive to the beaches. Typical of most inland locations, the temperatures here are warmer in both the summer and winter vs. the coastal cities.
Easy freeway access makes it a quick drive to any destination in San Diego county. Pomerado Hospital is less than 3 miles away and every other major medical facility in San Diego is within 22 miles. Many major employers are based here too, and you’ll find many shopping centers, restaurants, local events and outdoor activities.
Rancho Bernardo was designed as a master planned community with 7 distinct communities, parks and private community centers spread across 6,500 acres of land. There are a wide range of housing styles in both retirement communities and non-age restricted communities.
San Marcos is a suburban community of roughly 80,000 residents. Located inland but not far from the coast, the weather is a comfortable balance of warm temperatures and nice, cool breezes.
San Marcos is a desirable community, known for its lake resort area, 3 universities, many dining options, wide-open spaces, parks, scenic landscape and nice views. The area is highly active and there are many community events with cultural and outdoor activities. There is quick highway access making any destination in San Diego easily accessible. The Palomar Medical Center in Escondido is 4 miles away and 16 hospitals are within 25 miles.
Vista is a hillside city of roughly 100,000 residents only 7 miles from the coast. Its Mediterranean climate is only slightly warmer than the coastal cities. It’s a very lively community and a very affordable place to live.
The downtown’s entertainment district is home to many festivals, events as well as restaurants, nightlife and music. Many arts and cultural events take place here and there are plenty of museums, parks and recreation activities.
There is a convenient public transit options with bus and light rail lines serving Vista and the surrounding cities. The Tri-City Medical center is 3 miles away and there are 10 hospitals within 24 miles.