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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Secret Southern California: A Guide to Unique Places is a nonfiction travel guide written by Kathy Strong. Strong has authored or contributed to over 20 travel guide books during her over-30 years as a travel writer. While she’s traveled all over the globe, her favorite haunts and places to explore can still be found in her own native Southern California. Secret Southern California takes off from where her previous book Southern California Off the Beaten Path ends. Strong is quick to acknowledge that many of the quaint, cool and definitely note-worthy places she mentions in her book were suggested by her readers, and she is thrilled to pass these on through her books.
Strong begins with the Central Coast, exploring San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties; then she sweeps inland to the inland valleys of Tulare, King’s and Kern Counties with a look at the Southern Sierra Nevada. She then explores the Inland Empire Counties of San Bernardino and Riverside before embarking on a tour of Greater Los Angeles. As she travels, Strong discusses parks and lodging, with descriptions of one-of-a-kind Bed and Breakfasts, historic inns and notable campgrounds. As this is a book that lauds Southern California’s amazing coastline, she’s quick to mention dog-friendly beaches for those who never leave their canine companions at home, and she differentiates between sheltered cove beaches and some craggy shores that will make travelers think they’re visiting Northern California’s rugged coastline.
The title, Secret Southern California: A Guide to Unique Places, immediately caught my eye as I am planning my own California Coastal adventure for later this summer. And while I’m fairly familiar with California, I quickly learned just how much more there was for me to learn about this amazing state. I do travel with my Labrador and Golden retrievers and loved learning about beaches where they’ll be able to romp and swim freely. I also appreciated her insights into the culture and history of many of the small towns I’ve passed through without realizing how much more there was to them besides Main Street. As I read, I noted a number of restaurants and cafes I won’t be able to resist, and I have a number of other stops all planned for my upcoming trip. This is not just another travel guide hawking the same old tourist-trap spectacles. Strong shares with the reader those places and things that make this area special to her. I couldn’t ask for a better tour guide to help me set up my itinerary. Secret Southern California: A Guide to Unique Places is most highly recommended.