The Cardiff school system rates among the highest in the nation. Students can go from kindergarten through junior college without leaving Cardiff by the Sea. There are two elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school in the city, with a student to teacher ratio of just 17 to 1. The Cardiff Elementary School District was formed in 1913, making it one of the oldest in the area.
Cardiff by the Sea has warm sunny days and cool evenings, which prevail throughout the year. Afternoon ocean breezes keep the temperature pleasant along the 2.6 miles of pristine ocean beaches. The state park features 171 campsites separated by brush and trees. Each has its own picnic table and fire ring. As might be expected, the world-class surf draws professionals and amateurs from all over Southern California and beyond. Cardiff by the Sea is home to the Rob Machado Surf Classic. This Amateur Surf Contest & Beach Fair is named after Cardiff's favorite son, pro surfer Rob Machado. For those who prefer more contemporary activities, the area offers an abundance of recreational opportunities including swimming, hiking, jogging, boating, tennis, fishing, hang gliding, bicycling and golf.
Cardiff by the Sea is only five minutes from the famous Del Mar Race Track, and 25 minutes from the well-known San Diego Wild Animal Park, a sprawling 2,100-acre wild life sanctuary located just east of Escondido. Just a short drive south on Interstate 5 and you will find yourself in the heart of San Diego and the world-famous San Diego Zoo, Seaport Village, Horton Plaza Shopping Center and Sea World. Balboa Park features many outstanding art museums, gardens, aerospace and flight museums.
The history of the city dates back to 1875 when the Mackinnon family headed by train from Cleveland to San Francisco. After taking a steamer to San Diego, Hector, Sarah and their three children traveled by horse and buggy to their destination near the mouth of San Elijo Lagoon. At that point in time, Indians still occupied the upper lagoon. Thirty-five years later, Boston painter J. Frank Cullen relocated to San Diego. In 1911-12, setting aside his brushes to become a developer, he visualized a coastal community playground on the land Hector had settled. He subsequently purchased the land, plotted the town site, prepared a map and began selling lots. Inside lots sold for $30 each and corner lots were $45.
Although Cullen wanted a Spanish name for his playground, his wife overruled him. A native of Cardiff, Wales, she persuaded him to name the town Cardiff and give the streets English names. Today, only San Elijo Avenue and Orinda Drive remind us of what might have been.
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