Explore the LA Historic Waterfront
Today’s tour focused on the many different ways in which the Harbor Region of LA contributes to the region's unique history. Everything from scientific research, commerce, shipbuilding, and even the preservation of its history as a center of US Naval activity. The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach continue to be one of the engines of America’s economy, servicing almost 40% of imports into the US and acting as the main point of entry for goods from all over Asia. This unique location was revered by the Native Americans who were the original inhabitants of this land and once the Spanish took control, they too recognized the importance of the natural harbor. While the more recent history is very much on display, let’s not forget the thousands of years of history of this land that existed before European settlers took control.
As you enjoy the sites, make sure to remember that the Kihz Nation (also known as the Gabrielino-Tongva Tribes) resided on these lands, fished and traded in these harbors, and created an entire society that thrived for many centuries. We owe them all a debt of gratitude.
Cabrillo Marine Aquarium
The ride starts in the parking lot of Cabrillo Beach and the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium. The Aquarium started in 1935 as a collection of marine specimens stored at the Cabrillo Beach Bathhouse and has since grown into a full fledged aquarium conducting research and performing conservation work along the local coastline. It’s current structure, which opened in 1981, was designed by famed architect Frank Gehry. The Aquarium was closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, but has recently reopened to visitors at the end of June.
Take a moment to admire the building itself and get your bearings.
To the left and behind you, follow the curvature of the road and you’ll spot a lone house, which is the original site of the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium. Follow the road down to the Cabrillo Beach Pier.
Cabrillo Beach Pier
This 1,200 foot long concrete pier was built in 1969 and extends deep into the waters of the Los Angeles Harbor. There are fantastic views here of the Port of LA and Port of Long Beach, the busiest port complex in the United States. With the backlog of traffic due to the pandemic, you’re likely to be able to see dozens of ships floating in the waters of the harbor, waiting for their chance to dock to unload their precious cargo.
As you make your way along the pier you’ll likely see many people fishing. Since this is a public pier, no license is needed to fish, making it a popular spot for locals.
Head back up the pier and turn right at the Bath House to follow Cabrillo Beach to the other side of the parking lot where you will pick up Shoshonean Rd to exit onto Via Cabrillo-Marina. Turn right (this is a one-way street) and follow it until you reach Whalers Walk and proceed down until you reach the end of the Marina where you can enjoy another expansive view of the Port and you might even spot a glimpse of the S.S. Lane Victory, which is the next stop on our journey.
Return back to Via Cabrillo-Marina and follow it all the way out to 22nd Street, where you’ll take a right to head down the hill. Make the right turn onto Miner Street and follow it to the end where it doubles back.
S.S. Lane Victory
Built right here at the long departed naval shipyard, the S.S. Lane Victory was a Merchant Marine vessel that served in the closing stages of World War II as well as in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. To this day, the ship serves as the site of an annual celebration to pay tribute to the many families that the Lane Victory saved during the Korean War. The ship also serves as a memorial to the service of Merchant Marine sailors and Navy Armed Guardsmen for their service to the United States. Tours are available and must be scheduled in advance.
Once you have had the opportunity to fully take in the ship, continue along Miner Street back towards 22nd. Once you pass 22nd St, look to your left to see Brouwerij West, a great spot to enjoy outdoor dining, and CRAFTED, an artists collective located on the grounds of the 22nd Street park. These are great places to stop on the return leg to enjoy a visit.
Keep following Miner Street until it connects with Harbor Blvd and turn left onto Harbor Blvd.
American Merchant Marine Veterans Memorial
As you continue on Harbor Blvd heading North, you’ll see “Jacob’s Ladder,” a large public art piece atop the American Merchant Marine Veterans Memorial. The memorial is the first national memorial to honor merchant seaman in the United States. For those unfamiliar with Merchant Marines, they serve to transport cargo and passengers during times of peace and war and are largely civilian mariners, not affiliated with the United States Armed Forces. You can learn more about the contributions of the Merchant Marines at both the S.S. Lane Victory and here at this memorial.
The memorial also marks the start of the “boardwalk” along the LA Harbor. There is a nicely paved bike path to follow along as you explore the various pieces of public art as you head towards our next stop, the battleship.
Battleship USS Iowa Museum
An imposing presence, bristling with firepower and serves as a reminder of America’s projection of power and ambition since World War II. Most notable are the three sets of 16-inch guns set on turrets on the front and rear decks of the ship. Having served in active combat from it’s commissioning in 1943 through its decommissioning in 1990, this namesake ship of the entire class of combat vessels is now a kid-friendly museum where folks can go to learn more about US Naval history.
Once you have had a chance to get up close to the Iowa, turn and head back to 1st Street where you’ll cross the street to begin the return trip back to the Aquarium.
This ride is part of a series of self-guided rides we began in 2020. Click the button below to see our full list of rides.