Secret Southern California

Non-Fiction - Travel
396 Pages
Reviewed on 06/10/2019
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Kathy Strong has been a travel writer for more than 30 years, having written or contributed to more than 20 travel guide books and countless magazine features, covering all areas of the world. Her former books sold in bookstores nationally are: Southern California: Off the Beaten Path; Recommended Bed & Breakfasts: California; Driving the Pacific Coast: California; Driving the Pacific Coast: Washington and Oregon; The Seattle Guidebook; and Recommended Island Inns: The Caribbean.
Her newspaper column, GOING MY WAY, appeared in the Gannett/USA Today newspaper Travel section every Sunday in Southern California for a decade. Strong also was a regular contributor to USA Today’s travel magazine, “GoEscape.” She has also been a contributor to Forbes Travel Guide and USA Today weekly magazine.
Through the years, Strong has been a frequent talk show guest on both radio and television, recently appearing on “The Today Show.”
Strong’s latest travel reveal is a new online travel website: PS Wish You Were Here Travel ( that covers both national and international travel news and explorations.
This first edition of Secret Southern California is a culmination of the native Southern Californian’s knowledge and love for the off-the-beaten-path treasures of the southern part of the state, as well as “secret, authentic” finds at every turn.

    Book Review

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.

Gisela Dixon

Secret Southern California by Kathy Strong is a non-fiction travel book with tips and advice from an insider on how to tour Southern California. California and especially Southern California - which includes famous Hollywood and Los Angeles - has always attracted visitors and is one of the most visited spots worldwide. At the same time, it can get overcrowded and “touristy” with all visitors wanting to visit the same spots. In this book, Kathy provides her insider’s perspective as a native and a travel enthusiast on what spots and places to visit in Southern California that are not really well-known or are off the beaten track. The book is divided into several broad sections and sub-sections that cover each area of Southern California in detail: Central Coast which includes Santa Barbara County, inland valleys and southern Sierra Nevada, San Bernardino County and surrounding areas, Greater Los Angeles area which includes Beverly Hills, downtown LA, and Hollywood, Los Angeles Coast, Orange County, and Catalina Island, the desert regions of California including Palm Springs area, the San Diego County area, and more. There are an author bio and index at the end of the book.

Secret Southern California is a fun and entertaining travel book and for someone who really wants to explore Southern California in depth, this would be a great guide. Having been to several of these areas, I was intrigued to read about the hidden spots, or out-of-the-way hotels or restaurants tips, or just some surprising explorations that are off the beaten path. The deserts section was one of the more interesting for me since it is a relatively less explored spot in California, with caves to explore and quirky road stops. Kathy writes in a fun, casual style that is very relatable to people of all age groups looking for travel tips! This is a good book.

Vernita Naylor

Do you love to travel? Are you looking for another vacation spot? Have you ever considered traveling and exploring the beauty of California and all it has to offer? Discover the secrets of Southern California by picking up your personal copy of Kathy Strong's guide, Secret Southern California. In this guide, you will learn so many things about the various hidden treasures of Southern California from The Giant Chessboard and the Hearst Castle to the Happy Acres Family Farm. As the reader begins to explore the seven regions of Southern California, from the central coast and the inland empire to the deserts, they will be engaged, enticed and excited and will want to learn more about what each area has to offer. Kathy has provided a wealth of information to plan the ultimate Southern California trip including Author's Tip, Locals' Secret, and Fun California Facts along with some beautiful photos to highlight the experience. Whether you think you know all about Southern California or are seeking some precious glimpses of what the area has to offer, start with this guide.

I enjoyed this guide because I'm a Bay Area California native and was intrigued by so many places I've yet to discover on the southern side. California is so eclectic and leaves such an impression that there are many songs - from nostalgic, surfing and droptop driving to rap - that represent its diversity and the jewels that it has to offer. Southern California is off the beaten path with a lot more yet to see and explore. Whenever I visit Southern California I'm still in awe as I travel along Route 66 or sit amongst the stars at the Thornton Winery (Temecula Valley Wine Country) listening to Boney James, Norman Brown and a host of other great jazz artists. By reading this guide, Kathy has opened my eyes to what other beautiful wonders there are in Southern California. I know that it will do the same for you.