With an insatiable appetite for adventure, travel writer Amanda Blakley chronicles the inside scoop on fashionable, family-friendly travel for a number of publications including Elle Canada, Well+Good and Here Magazine. A recent transport from Toronto to sunny California, Amanda and her husband and two boys have spent the last year establishing roots in their new hometown of Malibu, embracing all that the natural setting has to offer. We caught up with Amanda to hear firsthand all about her dreamy west coast lifestyle, favorite beaches, go-to restaurants and more.
Describe Malibu in three words or less.
Bohemian, salty and laid-back.
What makes living in Malibu so special?
Superficially, I love the fresh ocean breeze that ensures the temperature is rarely too hot or too cold. I love the quintessential postcard vistas that never seem to get old, and the fact that I can stand in my garden most nights and see the constellations. But what truly makes living here so special is the charm of being part of a small community. In a short year we have put down roots and have met so many friends and other families from all over the world. Malibu feels like a melting pot in that respect. It also seems to attract people who are looking for a more relaxed and sustainable way of life. We’re far enough away from the glitz and glamour of Beverly Hills and Hollywood, while still enjoying a quintessential Southern California lifestyle. Many of our neighbours have horses, and there is just a feeling of wholesome free-range living that has been perfect for our entire family. One thing I have noticed, as a former city girl, my shoe collection hasn’t gotten much of a workout since moving here—it’s more of a barefoot or sneaker vibe, which has been so refreshing!
The Fall is when Malibu really shines. It’s also the time the locals get to have all the beaches, hiking trails and parks to ourselves again. And as a Canadian, I lavished our first full SoCal winter. I still got to wear my wool coats from time to time, but there were also some glorious beach days in there too.
Has living in Malibu helped you and your family embrace slower living?
I will say that the pandemic has had the biggest hand in forcing us to slow down and live a calmer day-to-day life. But in general, living in a beach town has a completely different energy. My old habits just feel obsolete in a way. The fact that we can commune with nature daily, all year, has been the biggest game changer for our whole family. From the moment we all wake up, we’re drawn outside by some magnetic pull. This probably has something to do with our former life of apartment dwelling in midtown Toronto where this was just not a possibility. We were constantly trying to fill our weekends in the city with activities and errands. Conversely, living in Malibu, I find we’re much more likely to order things online, or have friends over to our house, so that we don’t need to leave home (pandemic or otherwise). It’s like being on holiday all year round (aside from the fact that we still observe business hours).
“The fact that we can commune with nature daily, all year, has been the biggest game changer for our whole family. From the moment we all wake up, we’re drawn outside by some magnetic pull.”
How has living near the ocean and in nature inspired you creatively?
There is definitely something powerful about the sound and feeling of the ocean. Having moved less than a year ago from a busy, cosmopolitan city, I needed to detox from the constant hum of traffic and sirens. It’s been wonderful to instead, attune my senses to the sounds of the seasonal birds, coyotes that start howling just after dusk, the owl that hoots somewhere beyond our bedroom window and the mysterious sounds of Mother Nature just outside our doors. It’s definitely more peaceful, but in some ways it’s louder than the city. My creativity definitely feels alive here, and boundless, but in different ways than before. It’s less to do with my work or writing (since the pandemic I just haven’t had the time or energy) but more as it relates to mothering and homemaking. I’ve been busy in the kitchen with the kids and also helping them create large scale art projects, games and epic forts as inspiration inevitably strikes.
Archer (my youngest son) and I both love to make a smoothie together in the morning. Tea on the porch while I watch the boys play outside. Visits & chats with my neighbours. Hangs with the kids—crafts, lego, games and random art projects. A beach walk, run, hike or surf or a virtual workout. Foraging for flowers, fruit/veg or branches in our yard to display inside or eat. Sundowners—although the last few weeks I’ve been doing my best to relegate any alcohol consumption to the weekends—but our sunsets are so magnificent. I love the ritual of pausing at that time of day and watching the sky slowly turn brilliant shades of pink, purple and orange. Family dinner: We’ve been spoiled by my husband’s incredible cooking and inspired by all the beautiful fresh produce we get locally or grow in our little garden.
Your perfect Sunday.
Wake up early with our boys and eat breakfast on the porch with a cup of earl grey tea. I love to go for a solo morning beach run or a family walk or hike in the mountains behind our home to kick the day off on an active note. The kids spend most of their time back and forth between the neighbours homes and Sundays are no different. Sometimes we’ll have a house or yard full of children, or an empty nest! Malibu has a lovely little farmers market on Sundays that is always worth a visit and always helps with inspiration for a nice dinner. I love hanging out (wine in hand) while Adam works his magic in the kitchen. Sometimes we’ll do a family movie night in the backyard, but if it’s been a busy weekend, we’ll have our boys in bed by 7:30 so Adam and I can hang out.
Describe your Malibu uniform.
These days it’s hoodies and sweats for the morning when the mist from the ocean leaves a chill in the air. One of my fave sets is by Tkees. I change into my bathing suit in the afternoon and add a wetsuit for a surf or boogie boarding session. I try to wear proper clothing for dinner, but still comfortable. I love all my Jen’s Pirate Booty pieces—such great jumpsuits and flowy cotton gauze pieces that look good even though they can feel like pyjamas. I’m really into any activewear brand that can transition from a yoga or mat session to leisurewear for around the home and errands. And I’m always on the lookout for any piece that looks stylish but isn’t too fussy and has easy care instructions; dresses that can be layered with a great cardigan, pants that aren’t jeans and linen shorts I can wear with a sweater come fall!
YOUR MALIBU ESSENTIALS:
Blue Bottle at Cross Creek and Le Cafe de La Plage at Point Dume Countrymart.
Soho Beach House or grab fresh produce and baked goods from the Thorne Family farm stand and make a beautiful spread or bring a picnic to the beach.
A quick bite:
Broad Street Oyster Co. their lobster rolls are a must or for something a bit healthier, we love the smoothies and açai bowls at SunLife Organics.
Lunch with the kids:
Malibu Seafood or Spruzzo for very average pizza with an excellent view of Zuma Beach.
Dinner with friends:
Taverna Tony’s for Greek cuisine with a side of live piano music
The Sunset for happy hour and one of the best sunsets on the west coast, margaritas at Cafe Habana.
Favorite shops—what should we take home with us?
I love the little boutique in the Surfrider Hotel. They have great merch but also carry some cool Aussie branded beach essentials and products. If you’re looking for one-of-a-kind-California vintage, look no further than Surfing Cowboys at Cross Creek. Be sure to stop in next door to visit The Mindry; they offer incredible meditation and breath work classes and courses, but also have a sweetly curated boutique in the front of the store with beautiful books, clean products and thoughtful gift items.
Best place to sweat:
I love running along the beach, or hiking the trails and country roads near my house. I was doing yoga most mornings at the Little Beach House— I’m missing it so much now! My new salty obsession is surfing. Have been taking lessons alongside my little boys. Chase Corliss is our favorite instructor; his father started Mini Makos, the iconic summer surf camp offered weekdays on Zuma Beach.
Favorite place to take in the local scenery:
There are tons of amazing hikes for view junkies. My personal favorites are Solstice Canyon, Zuma Ridge and the Point Dume Nature Preserve trail that spits you out onto Westward Beach. It’s beautiful any time of day with sea lions basking in the sunny cliffs below, dolphin and whale sightings depending on the time of year. But if you go later in the afternoon you can end the hike with happy hour at The Sunset right on Westward Beach.
Hotels + AirBnb’s:
This Scandi Tiny home is the perfect little abode. Located just minutes from Zuma beach, mature fruit trees and a cowboy tub for moonlight bathing. We also love The Surfrider Hotel for it’s easy access to the Malibu Pier, tons of dining and shopping at Cross Creek as well as an epic surf break just outside the front doors.
Malibu’s best kept secrets:
My favorite lesser known beach is Lechuga—it almost feels like you are in Indonesia. To access it you take the third gate on the left along Broad Beach Road and walk down the steep wooden steps. Voila—paradise found! Trancas Canyon Park is one of the places that made me fall in love with Malibu. Bring a picnic and spread out on the gorgeous field and kids will go crazy for the wild west themed playground. The Old Place for a true old-timey western meal deep in the Malibu mountains. Smoothies at the Point Dume SunLife and Malibu Yogurt & Ice Cream for Dole Whip fro-yo. During non-Covid times we loved the weekly Music in the Park, a Friday night summer series with live music hosted on the lawn at the Trancas Countrymart.
“Now that they’re growing up, it’s more important to me than ever that our children can experience a destination through the eyes of its locals.”
Living in Malibu is a dream, but where are you dreaming of traveling when the world opens up again?
We can’t wait to get back to Nicaragua and check into Verdad Nicaragua for our family surf trip that got derailed this March. I’m also keen to show more of the American West to our boys.
How will you travel a little lighter and more consciously in future?
This is weighing heavily on me these days, especially given the incredible shifts that are taking place in America and around the world right now. Being a conscious traveller will mean a lot more research to get it right. I want to focus more energy on adventuring locally, and being more conservative when it comes to booking international travel—fewer big flights. Now that they’re growing up, it’s more important to me than ever that our children can experience a destination through the eyes of its locals. I adore hotels, but home and apartment rentals are a great alternative that allow the flexibility to safely prepare our own meals, etc. I have never been an RV traveller but it has never appealed to me more—a safe and self-contained adventure-mobile!
Philosophy to live by.
When your heart is speaking to you, listen—it will always lead you down a path full of magic.
Photographer credit: Anne Hansen
WHAT TO PACK // MALIBU
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