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Day Tripping on the Surfliner to

Day Tripping on the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner to San Clemente Pier

September 29, 2015 by Tim Helmuth

Photos by Tim Helmuth,
(except where otherwise given credit)

With a built in overnight in Orange County as a deviation from the Southwest Chief and then the Coast Starlight, I had made plans to visit San Clemente and the famous pier.  Getting to San Clemente from Anaheim was easy; getting to the pier and back on the Surfliner required a little more planning.  In short, only two Pacific Surfliners stop at the pier on a daily basis in either direction (get the full schedule here).  The below samples snipped from for October 6th, 2015 show example schedule and pricing.  Not knowing when I would get in to Anaheim from Fullerton caused me not to buy tickets ahead of time and missed taking advantage of AAA pricing, but rather purchase them at the ARTIC at full retail show below.

As an alternative, Metrolink makes several stops at the North Beach station stop one mile from the pier during the week, and makes several stops at the pier on weekends according to the Metrolink website.


I arrived at the Anaheim Amtrak/ARTIC after jumping off the Southwest Chief in Fullerton and catching the 564 edition of the Surfliner, arriving a little after 8:30 AM. Already knowing that I would miss the 566 Surfliner I had to hustle to make the 10:36 AM departure.  I bought a day pass to the ART for $5 - it was more than fair (fare) for the number of round trips I would be taking that day.  The Anaheim Resort Transportation service is a door to door shuttle that operates around hotels and other areas near Disney.  It is a personalized option to the OCTA bus #50 that runs down Katella Ave.  After dropping my bags of that the La Quinta Inn & Suites, I re-boarded the ART for a ride back to the Anaheim Amtrak station. This new transportation center is a marvel to look at and has achieved LEED Platinum certification for its green operations.

 My version of an HDR exposure showcases its superstructure.

Waiting for the 10:36 arrival of the Surfliner looking northeast from platform with a view of the ARTIC and then southwest to Angels Stadium.

Our southbound Surfliner approaches the station on the left while a northbound prepares to depart on the right.

The 768 Surfliner departure from Anaheim was about 4 minutes late leaving for its 43 minute ride to San Clemente. We made station stops in Santa Ana, Irvine and San Juan Capistrano arriving on time at the Pier. The tracks loosely follow I-5 towards San Diego, until the route cuts towards the Pacific coast after the San Juan Capistrano stop. 

Here we were treated with a seascape of parks and RVs taking in the water views. The breakwater for Dana Point is visible in the distance.

An interior view of the Surfliner car shows a modern style and clean lines on the left.  Each seat has 120v power and are quite comfortable.  These cars are nicer than the Amfleet II cars used in corridor service back home in Illinois on the right.

Lincoln Service in Bloomington, Illinois with a P42 pulling an Amfleet II consist southbound towards Springfield.

An on time arrival treated me to a postcard vista of the beach and pier as San Clemente rises from the Pacific to my right.


A tone-mapped exposure to show the contrast and softer lighting.

Shots up and down Avenida Victoria capture this idyllic ocean front street.

Although the Fisherman's Restaurant  is popular due to its enviable location on the pier, I found the Pier Side Kitchen at 610 Avenida Victoria to be a nice quiet alternative. With outdoor seating and cool interior, I was lucky enough to be there for Taco Tuesday, dining on both crispy fish and shrimp tacos.  They were outstanding, making it hard to choose a favorite. $3 tacos, coffee and cold beverage with tip was $20.

Pierside Kitchen, courtesy of Keon Nayebdadash. Used with permission.

The afternoon was spent walking the pier to capture this HDR image of the life guard shack.

Other pier views:

Panorama of San Clemente and its Pier


The Pier seemingly stretches to infinity.

Standing on the pier near the Fisherman's Resto, I snapped this northbound Surfliner #777 on its way to San Juan Capistrano

The remainder of the afternoon was spent walking the town and ultimately sitting under the pergola shown in the above picture, waiting on the 4:04 return to Anaheim.

Arrival of the 583 northbound Surfliner

Sunset in San Clemente. 
Photo courtesy of Keon Nayebdadash. Used with permission.

The train arrived at Anaheim about 7 minutes late.  I then caught the ART back to La Quinta to get ready for dinner at McCormick & Schmick's for some seafood appetizers and small plates.

Trip Budget:

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner Rountrip ANA-SNP:  $34Amgrak Guest Rewards:  400
Lunch at Pierside Kitchen: $20
Total Expenses for an awesome day at the ocean:  $54
100 Points ANA-SNP, 100 SNP-
ANA. Then Double Days = 200

Thanks for reading,

Edited October 29, 2015


Town of San Clemente | Fisherman's Restaurant | Pierside Kitchen + Bar | Amtrak Surfliner | Metrolink | ARTIC | ART|Silver Rails Country|American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation

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