The Long Beach Peninsula

Situated at the border of Los Angeles and Orange County is the eclectic city of Long Beach. This city is so full of life with its non stop shipping port, visitor attractions, seaport villages, water activities, and piers.

I find this town very appealing even though I know it has its downfalls and not so lovely parts.  However, this can be the case with many cities.  

There is so much to see in the Long Beach Harbor area, so that is where my trusty sedan takes me every time I am in the area. 

There is nothing like cruising down Shoreline Drive where you catch glimpses of the historical ship Queen Mary as it sits idly across the bay.  You’ll also pass by the refurbished ‘Pike’ area with its many stores and restaurants available to satisfy any tourist or visitor.

One building you can’t miss happens to be one of the most iconic sites in Long Beach, the convention center.  This huge circular structure is made even more unique as every inch of it is painted with giant whales and ocean scenes courtesy of the renowned artist,  Wyland.

However, we weren’t traveling in that area today as we were headed to the south end of Long Beach on one of our exploratory Sunday drives.  We were driving to the Long Beach Peninsula.

The Peninsula:

This peninsula has the beautiful Alamitos Bay on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other.  A man-made breakwater keeps the waves from reaching the shore, so don’t expect to be doing any surfing. On most days the water is calm, but the area can get very windy which bodes well for a different kind of sport.

As you make your way towards the coast from Second Avenue you are greeted at the entrance of the peninsula.  Here you get your first glimpse of the thrill seekers who take advantage of the aforementioned windy conditions…kite surfers. Dozens of colorful kites fly through the air with their passengers attached to surfboards and hanging on for dear life. They make it look easy although there is no way it is.

There is an area where they give lessons and I briefly thought that it might be fun, but only briefly.  I don’t think I am strong enough and sadly for me, it looks like a sport far from my physical capabilities.

However, it is enjoyable sitting there watching the collage of color streaking across the sky.  Every now and again a high speed rider catches a gust of wind which propels them far up into the air.  Yeah, I think lessons would be a waste of money for me.

Kite surfers packing up for the evening.

Where Dogs Run Free:

You could watch for hours but we had a furry friend with us that was anxious to visit the nearby Rosie’s Dog Beach.  About a mile from the Kite surfing area sits this crowded beach filled with both humans and canines alike. There is a large parking lot and I always managed to find a spot even on a summer day.

There are human bathrooms nearby and the dogs go…well in the sand.  There are bags situated around for this and everyone is very responsible about picking up after their dogs mess.

As with the kite surfing area, there is plenty of sandy beach and it takes time to get from the parking lot to the water’s edge.  Every color, shape, and size of dog can be seen roaming around with a few making occasional visits to your pup as Rosie’s beach is leash free.

With no waves or ocean movement, the shore isn’t exactly Caribbean or Hawaiian quality. Don’t expect to swim in a crystal clear blue sea, but, the dogs didn’t seem to mind as they frolicked in the water as if they were in heaven.

Pedestrian and bicycle trail.

More Beach: With a tired pooch in tow, we now headed south into the peninsula towards the south end.   On the east side, beautiful homes line the bayside with small sandy areas directly out front.  The same on the west side although their backyard beach extends way further as it makes its way to the shore. This is not a crowded area so you can walk for miles without seeing many people.

At the beginning of the peninsula there is a boat rental dock where you can also hire a gondola to take you through the Naples canals.  This is another reason why I like this area; you must visit the canals during the Christmas Holidays.  See this story on the canals.

At one point we parked right in the middle of the peninsula to put our toes in the sand and set eyes on the ocean.    I was a little disappointed when I made it to water’s edge and saw a distinct line of left over plastic and bottle caps strewn around.   I am hoping that it is because we just had a storm and that it wasn’t like that on a normal basis.    

At the very end of the peninsula, two separated jetties designate the entrance to the harbor.  A public parking lot allows you to get out and enjoy the activity of the boats flowing in and out of the bay.   

Across the waterway, the Ballast Point restaurant has a perfect location for its patrons to sit with a full water view.  You can also stretch your legs and walk along the jetty or throw out your poles to fish.

Homeward Bound As with any Sunday drive, it isn’t meant to last forever, and it was time to leave.  We saw plenty of eye candy for one day and we definitely relaxed for a bit.  I got some beach combing in, we all saw some great sites, and our pooch was able to meet new friends.

 It scores at least a solid nine for a Sunday drive and would have probably gained a ten if we were able to enjoy a meal along the trendy Second Avenue area.  Sadly, Covid 19 shut them down for a few weeks.

That will have to be for another time and believe me, there will be one.

Story and photos: Debbie Colwell

Ships inside as well as outside of the breakwater.
Another day ending at the entrance to Alamitos Bay and the end of the peninsula.

The Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve.

It is that time of the year for a Sunday Drive!!!

Here is a good one!

The Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve and Ecological Reserve is quite the tongue twister but what the locals call it today and I what I called it when I was a kid is simply, the Back Bay.

Many, many years ago it was designated as an area for speed boats and water skiing.  It was far away from the mansions and homes in the main bay so the noise and wakes never affected any residents.

Back then, I remember seeing my first water-skier riding high behind the boat, holding on to the rope as if for dear life.    I couldn’t figure out how they stayed up without sinking.   I guess I was too young to understand physics.  Still it was fun to watch as this part of the bay was filled with life.

Today, the drone of speedboat motors is long gone only to be replaced by the much quieter kayaks, stand up paddleboards , and outriggers.

The quietude is interrupted once in awhile when a low flying airline from John Wayne Airport takes off to who knows where.  I was thinking what a bummer that these million dollar homes are right under a flight path.

Have Kayak will Travel
The Upper Newport Bay is a coastal wetland that encompasses 1,000 acres of small water-ways, a larger channel, reeds, and marsh.  It is also home to hundreds of different species of birds.

A bird flies by with the Newport Aquatic Center in the background

On land, there is a ten mile loop for joggers, bicyclists, hikers, roller bladders, and for about 3 miles of it motor cars can join in on the road.  On water, there are plenty of nooks and crannies for you to explore via kayak or SUP.  If you don’t have your own, across the bay the Newport Aquatic Center has plenty of rentals.

Continue reading “The Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve.”

Santa Monica Pier

California is coming off of it’s lock down and we will start doing some new trips and activities.  Until then please enjoy some of our old favorites.

First up: Santa Monica Pier.  A great summer escape.

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Santa Monica Pier

People, people, and more people.  A few weeks back I did a story on the Belmont Shore Veterans Memorial Pier.  In that story I mentioned that when I was strolling on that pier, it was if I had gone back in time.   The design of the pier seemed reminiscent of a time long ago with old lanterns that subtly lit the walkway and an unusual lack of crowds.    It felt like something from the 1950’s.

SM-Sign FB

Two weeks later it was feeling more like the  21st century as we stepped on to the Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles County, California.  Unlike the Belmont Pier, we were now sharing it not with a handful of people, but with thousands!!    It was bumper to bumper people as far as you can see.

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So what attracts so many to the Santa Monica Pier and not the Belmont Pier?

The Belmont Pier has a snack bar, fishing, plenty of bathrooms and a great view, what more could you ask?   In comparison, the Santa Monica Pier also has those features but with a few wee minor additions, such as,  a roller coaster, a Ferris wheel,  a carousel, a two story restaurant, a flying trapeze,  shops,  carnival games and rides,  vendors, music,  and much more.  It is an amusement park sitting on top of a pier and that is why it is so crowded!

SM-Long distance roller coaster ferris wheel FB

The Santa Monica pier is where you go to play, eat, drink, and have fun.   We went on the Saturday after the Thanksgiving holiday so I am sure it was more crowded than normal, although I can’t be sure of that fact.  Summer is probably even more crowded and I also overheard someone say it was busier at night.   So with that in mind, plan to to spend the day here as you would any amusement park or fair.

SM-Looking towards it from parking lot 2 FB SM-Looking towards it where we parked FB

The Santa Monica Pier was built in 1909 and strangely its purpose at the time was to carry sewage out to sea,via pipes.  Obviously through the years it has been re-built to house and to hold the weight of the amusement park type rides and structures.     I stood in awe as I watched the waves crash against the pilings wondering how they could possibly hold up all of those rides.

SM-Waves crashing on Pier 2 FB SM-Waves crashing on pier FB

Looking north you can see Malibu in the distance and Venice Beach to the south. With its close proximity to Hollywood, the pier has been used in many films and TV shows.   Some scenes from Forrest Gump were filmed at the pier and not surprisingly a Bubba Gump’s restaurant still sits at the entrance.  I’m  told it is owned by some of the producers of the film.

SM looking at Santa Monica FB
Standing tall like a beacon for Margarita lovers, the two stories of the Marisol Mexican restaurant are positioned at the end of the pier for your dining and drinking pleasure.    Directly behind it you will find a set of bleachers perfect for relaxing and viewing the stunning Pacific Ocean to the west.   At the absolute end of the pier there is a second level for anglers to reel in their prizes without contending with the crowds.

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Scattered about are small street vendors as well as the sweet sounds of performing local musicians.   Bathrooms are aplenty much to my relief after guzzling two large iced teas.

Santa Monica Pier is a floating party, a carnival, a street fair, and an amusement park all wrapped up in one.    Staycations California recommends it as a fun place to visit for the day and enjoy the rides, games, food, and shops.   Or people watch, there are plenty of them.

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However, if you want mellow there is always the San Simeon Pier some 200 miles up the coast or the peace and quiet of above mentioned Belmont Pier.

Wherever your mood takes you, nothing beats taking a stroll on a pier, even if it means sharing it with a thousand of your closest friends.


The USS Iowa

The USS Iowa

If you like history and you love battleships this is the tour for you. Even if you don’t like either of those things, this is still the tour for you.  Why?, because it is reasonably priced and super interesting.

Just admiring the ship from the shore, you can tell that before you is the epitome of a battleship with its impressive array of guns perched high on the deck.  You will stand in astonishment at the cannons, high speed machine guns, and rocket launchers.

The USS Iowa is moored at the LA Waterfront area in one of the busiest ports in Southern California, Port of Los Angeles.  Nearby, the booming business of commerce can be seen with its cargo ships and cranes, while the USS Iowa sits gallantly alone.  This distinct battle ship is from a time long ago and has seen the battles of World War II, The Cold War, as well as the Korean War.

Across the bay, LA’s busy port of commerce can be seen.

Commissioned in 1943, it has hosted U.S. presidents while also earning 11 battle stars before it was finally decommissioned and sent to Suisan Bay, California.  Suisan Bay was once known as the home of the mothball fleet, where all old battleships go to rest.

Luckily it was saved from that graveyard and sent off to get a refurbishment at the nearby Port of Richmond, California. Once it was freshly painted, it made its voyage to Los Angeles in 2012 and has remained there ever since.

I have driven by it many times but finally made the decision to stop to take the tour and I am glad I did.

The Tour
There are daily tours for fewer than twenty dollars that allow you to wonder around guideless while following easy instructions on where to go.  You can stay on deck as long as you want or go below to visit the inner workings of the ship.

We chose to stroll around the deck first as the huge and mighty guns were something we just had to see.

The barrels of the enormous 16”/50 calibers were enough to make you stand in awe. Bygone footage of the huge guns being fired could be seen in videos placed about on TV screens.

You could only imagine the how loud they must have been when they were fired.  My brother said that in Vietnam, battleships like this shot their huge caliber guns and the ammo would soar above his smaller destroyer.  Just from that alone, he said it would violently shake his whole ship

Besides the TV’s, there was written information provided on all of the other missile launchers and machine guns scattered about the ship.

As we stood looking at the machine guns, a passerby gave us some information on how it could shoot off 1,000 rounds in one minute, wow… that is quite impressive.

Everywhere you looked there was a gun, cannon, or rocket launcher and in every size imaginable. Yes, this was truly an impressive battle ship.

The huge chains for the anchors

More Strolling around the ship.
The self guided tour is relaxing and allows you to go where you want while staying on the well marked paths.

Actually, I don’t know if relaxing is the word to use as there is quite a bit of climbing ladders and stairways. Some are pretty steep which is no problem going up, it is coming down that is a tad more difficult.   I chose to climb down facing in, like you would a normal ladder. Others, I noticed descended facing out.

Regardless, of your body position, it was pretty cool and gave you the experience of what it might have been like.  I could picture back in the day an alarm going off with the crew moving frantically up and down these steps on their way to their stations.

In fact, another snippet of information my brother told me was that most of the sailors on his ship could fly down the ladders at a super high speed.  He said most never hit the steps and skid down with their feet as if on a kids playground slide.

As I’m descending one of the ladders, carefully making sure each foot hits the step, I giggled on how slow I was.  If they depended on someone like me, the ship would be doomed!

Please note that ship is not wheelchair accessible for the whole tour.  I believe you can go on deck but I would check first.   There is uneven decking, low doorways,  and of course steep stairs.

Row after row of doors. Could you imagine being in a hurry?

Below Deck
Below deck, we visited the living spaces where cots were stacked three high to accommodate the thousands if men on the ship.  Sleeping in small cramped spaces, I could only imagine what it was like.    Luckily, each bed had a tie down to keep them from falling out during rough seas.

On one of the TV screens a video showed an older Naval office telling about how these new ships have it easy as his older vessel had cots stacked six high.  He felt these new whippersnappers had it easy.   Can you imagine being on the top bunk of six high?

Some of the officers received their own private rooms with the size dependent on their rank. None were as impressive as the captains, where he had his own mattress bed, bathroom,  shower, and a large sitting area.   All were on display for you to view.

Captains sitting area andpart of bedroom.

We saw the mess hall where a recording made sounds of dishes clanking as if it was in the middle of lunch service. We visited the laundry area, the radio

On board they also have a museum and a gift shop as well as a few interactive exhibits.

It is just a super interesting tour that takes about two hours, maybe three if you descend the ladders as slow as I did.

The videos along the way add interesting facts making this educational as well.

The USS Iowa is truly an impressive ship and well worth the money for the tour.

Bring your imagination, comfortable shoes, and take back some history.

Story and Photos: Debbie Colwell