Santa Monica travel guide
Author: Frances Hibbard
Photography: Frances Hibbard
Shutters on the Beach
Shutters' oceanfront position, a block from Santa Monica's famed pier, goes some way to explaining the appeal of this celebrity favourite. As do the guest quarters: compact but supremely comfortable pods with well-curated libraries and bathrooms kitted out with personal bath and beach "medicine cabinets". Almost all have balconies overlooking the Pacific and the beautiful bodies using the sands as their workout world. 1 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica.
Downtown Farmers' Market
Several markets are held weekly in Santa Monica, but for chef and celeb sightings, and the pick of the produce, you need to visit the Wednesday Downtown Farmers' Market, a key part of the city's fabric since 1981. The market stretches four blocks and is one of the biggest in the US. Organics your thing? Try the Saturday version. Arizona Ave, Wednesdays, 8.30am-1.30pm; Saturdays, 8.30am-1pm.
You might have to ply the "but I'm just visiting" line to nab a bike at this, the first West Coast outpost of the cycling class-cum-therapy session that inspires cult-like fervour in its devotees. Ride by candlelight as the high-energy instructors spout yoga-isms and preach the SoulCycle gospel of a harder, faster route to enlightenment. 120 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica.
Santa Monica Place
The buzzy Third Street Promenade retail precinct threads through the heart of Santa Monica and is dotted with the usual suspects. The latest addition, though, is the luxury-leaning Santa Monica Place, an open-air mall with outposts of Louis Vuitton, Burberry and - bless - Barneys Co-Op, with its plethora of denim. 395 Santa Monica Pl, Santa Monica.
The legendary LA store has just opened its third within the new, Westfield-operated Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX. But if you prefer not to rush your retail, Fred Segal Santa Monica packs a stylish punch. As well as a winning mix of labels via its stores-within-a-store concept, there's an in-house Umami Burger café and the New Beauty cosmetic room is a world-beating edit of products. 420 and 500 Bwy, Santa Monica.
This organic-vegan café is where body-is-my-temple types sup on macrobiotic "Whole" bowls, a mix of sea vegetables, adzuki beans, sautéed kale, kimchi and black sesame seed gomasio with quinoa and garlic-tahini sauce. Wash it down with the fierce but fabulous "Fiery", a noni juice-based digestion shot. 12 Rose Ave, Venice.
The Fairmont Miramar Hotel and Bungalows' in-house restaurant is a casual but assured bistro. Expect excellent charcuterie, thoughtful sides and a deeply satisfying pork banh mi (pâté, pickled vegetables, shishito peppers). 101 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica.
Don't be put off by the crowds waiting on a table - the pizzas here are really good. Crusts are just-so and toppings killer: porchetta and fennel, with caciocavallo, parmesan, chilli, parsley, oregano and smoked paprika oil. 2000 Main St, Santa Monica.
Santa Monica Pier draws crowds to the amusement rides of Pacific Park and the aquarium. If family fun is not your thing, hire a pushie from Blazing Saddles and pedal to Bergamot Station, a gallery and cultural precinct in former industrial warehouses.
Walk on by
Get your walking shoes on and discover Santa Monica on foot. Montana Avenue is a laid-back and more local alternative to Third Street's retail frenzy, while the Ocean Front Walk of Santa Monica State Beach Park runs all the way to rarefied Pacific Palisades.
United and Qantas fly direct from Sydney to Los Angeles. A taxi from LAX to Santa Monica takes about 20 minutes.