Four years ago I decided to start staycationscalifornia.com and the very first story was on Marina Del Rey.
So why Marina Del Rey for the first one? It actually started from a childhood memory. I know, I know, me and my childhood memories, but this one obviously left a lasting impression.
It was many years ago and I was a young spectator watching outrigger canoe races in the Marina Del Rey harbor. My older sister was a participant in this regatta where teams from all over the state raced in distances from a quarter to a full mile.
To kill time in between races, I sat in a restaurant patio sipping on a Shirley Temple and listening to tropical music that was piping out of the speakers. The soft piano and cool bird sounds made you feel like you were in an exotic locale not in the middle of Los Angeles County. It was a warm day, the bay was full of boats, and a mild breeze was streaming through the trees. I thought that this was the most relaxed I have ever been in my life and I was only ten years old!!!
So I wanted to go back and see if it still held the magic that it had many years ago.
A Magical Place
Since that first time, I had been back to Marina Del Rey four times, this story being the fourth. The people I took with me all said the same thing, that Marina Del Rey made them feel good, that they actually got a feeling of well-being.
Was it the boats, the water, the proximity to the ocean and the negative ions? I don’t know but I too love Marina Del Rey.
How can a place make you feel like that? It just does.
The West Side
As of the 2010 census the city’s population was just under 9,000. It seems like most of the people live in the town homes, condos or apartment homes that are situated on the west side of the harbor. No houses surround the bay unlike places like Newport Harbor where there are mostly homes and mansions.
Each condo complex had a different structural design and it seemed like every decade was represented. At the very end of the harbor the condos look almost like they belong in a mountain area while the other newer buildings have industrial looks with colored glass windows. Nearby, cement trucks and workers were busy constructing what looked like four more buildings with at least six stories each.
Population 10,000 on its way!
Smaller channels held most of the residences and even the condos not facing the water were still suitable because the harbor was just a short distance away. Plus, I saw some amazing pool areas that looked like perfect places to hang out during those hot California summers.
We also discovered that the ocean was just about a mile down the road so the locals also had that sandy playground. For visitors, that beach is the legendary Venice Beach and nearby is the equally renowned Venice Canals. There is a lot to see all within a few miles of each other.
Near the condos, I remember from before that there was a little store that had tables, chairs, as well as umbrellas out front for kicking back and enjoying the harbor. I knew it had a clear view across the bay of the colorful Fisherman’s Village. So it was time to get a cold one and relax for while. It was not to be!
There was a huge yacht right out front that blocked the whole view! I mean this thing was massive.
I went on the dock to check it out and had to go the very end to snap a shot of the village. I was practically hanging on to the dock pilings to get my camera around for the shot.
I then looked up at this enormous boat or ship, whatever it was and wondered what billionaire owned it. On research later, it was in fact owned by a billionaire and it came complete with a heli-pad and a sizeable pool.
On any other day, I would have been impressed by the sizable luxury craft that was moored next to it but it now looked like a dinghy in comparison to this massive yacht.
Besides this mini cruise ship, Marina Del Rey is home to 5,000 various sized vessels and has often been a location for movies and television shows.
It was time to head on over to the other side since here was nothing to see here.
The North End
Our next stop in the harbor was on the north end where the charming Jamaica Bay Inn sits on the part of the harbor that actually has a beach. The little inlet was calm and quiet which was ideal for launching kayaks, sail boats, or SUP’s. A roped off area was set up for swimming and looked to be a great place for the family.
The best part of the harbor is Fisherman’s Village towards the south side. As we saw from across the bay, this waterfront mall has the look of a New England fishing village with its Cape Cod architecture and bright colored buildings. Add a small lighthouse to the scene and you can almost imagine you are on the east coast.
This touristy area has boat rental places where you can drive them yourselves or be pampered on a Hornblower dinner cruise. Whale watching tours are also available during the season. Water crafts of every size, motor or no motor can also be rented for the hour or whole day.
On our annual ditch days, places during the week are usually dead and this was no exception. The crowds were either not here or waiting for the weekend, I wondered how the businesses stayed alive.
The center of the village has a wide open courtyard area surrounded by an Italian restaurant, an ice cream stand, and a coffee shop. Seating areas are set up to enjoy the top notch entertainment that happens on the weekends. The music is free and ranges from jazz to top forty. We were lucky on one previous visit to see a high caliber funk band playing tunes from the 70’s and 80’s and the crowds were either chilling out or dancing to the upbeat grooves.
The bay front restaurants in the village are a huge attraction and there is one in particular that I really like because it has a cozy open patio with a full view of the harbor. Although I have never eaten at Whiskey Red’s , I think it is the place that I hung out in when I was ten years old!
Putting on the Ritz
A bay front balcony room at the Ritz Carlton has my name all over it although it is easily north of $300 for the night. It will be a splurge that one day I will make.
In the meantime, I absolutely love visiting Marina Del Rey. There is so much to do whether you stay for the weekend or week. Plus Los Angeles and Hollywood are so close by, as well as the craziness of Venice Beach. For the holidays you just have to spend some time to stroll the heavily decorated and holiday spirited Venice Canals
In my case, a full day visit is good for now. I get my fix of well-being and head home a happy person.
I hope you get the same feeling if you happen to visit this wonderful place.
Maybe that feeling is because there is every era represented and you can transcend time while living in the present moment. I left that ten year old behind many years ago but that kid still comes out in full force when visiting Marina Del Rey… I hope your inner kid does too.
Story and photos: Debbie Colwell
Sidebar: It took the wonderful search engine of Google to find out all these years later that the music I heard way back when, was the American piano player and composer Martin Denny.