History of Cardiff
A Native American tribe once occupied the Cardiff area called the Kumeyaay tribe. This tribe lived all over what is now San Diego County and in Cardiff they occupied the upper San Elijo Lagoon. By the early 1900’s this tribe was forced onto a reservation. The Spanish lived in the Encinitas area starting in 1789 and they created the El Camino Real which runs through Encinitas. The late 1800’s brought the first family to Cardiff, the Mackinnon’s, and there was little else in Cardiff at that time. The 1920’s brought much of the needed infrastructure to Cardiff. The San Dieguito Irrigation District was formed in 1922 which brought a consistent source of water to the town. Also a train depot, library, school, restaurants, a hotel, mercantile exchange, and a post office existed in Cardiff by the 1920’s. This brought new residents and commerce to Cardiff.
Cardiff became a destination for people seeking a tight-knit community to raise children, start a business and live in close proximity to the ocean. With a steady stream of newcomers, the years between the 1920s and 1950s saw a boom of housing and infrastructure development. Cardiff began its modern growth after World War II. With a rapid pace, the area expanded into previously uninhabited land. The Poinsettia Heights development in the late 1950s brought an additional 1,700 residents to the coastal community. A new interstate was built, expanding the flow of traffic to the east as flooding destroyed large areas of Coast Highway 101 along the Pacific. Infrastructure was shored up to diminish the eroding coastline, and a state campground was built, taking a large swath of cliffs and sand dunes from the backdrop of Cardiff. Surf spots from Seaside to Swami’s became more crowded with visitors, making Cardiff as a sought-after destination on the map. After the 1970s, when fisherman Stan Lewis took his last catch home from the sea, the Pacific became more of a playground for visitors and residents rather than a source of sustenance. Professional surfers Linda Benson and Rob Machado grew up in Cardiff and won their first large surfing contests when they were 15 and 11, respectfully. Because of their success, Cardiff started to become better known in the surfing industry and surfers continued to come to catch the waves in Cardiff.
More housing and office buildings came to Cardiff in the 1980’s and 1990’s and continued to shape the community. Seaside Market opened its doors in 1985 and became the local, family owned market that has been a mainstay in the community ever since. Today Cardiff is an eclectic mix of long-time residents, beach bums, business professionals (who spend their lunch-breaks surfing), young families with many stay-at-home moms, twentysomethings who bike down the hill to grab a beer after work, as well as a high-end dining scene after dark.