The Palos Verdes Peninsula rises from the ocean in sharp cliffs along much of its shoreline. Viewed from the sea, it looks much like some of the mountainous Channel Islands lying offshore. But a glance up the cliffs shows that this is very much a part of the mainland with roads and homes. Access to the shoreline from the mainland is rare but where it does exist diving is excellent. One of these points is at a location known as Long Point.
Public access is owed to the landmark that once graced this location known as Marineland. Preceding even Disneyland, Marineland was the oldest amusement park in the western United States.
Whales and dolphins danced, sea lions performed tricks and thousands of baby-boomers had their first introduction to the underwater world with faces firmly placed against the glass of the park’s many underwater viewing tanks.
Marineland, however, was judged to be of less value than the land it sat upon and the park was closed in the late ’80s with plans to develop the site into a resort hotel. Interestingly enough, the land changed hands several times with no construction started. The site has been used as a site for many movie sets which can sometimes be seen on the hill to the west over looking the ocean. New plans for a resort hotel complex, however, have been recently approved.
Meanwhile, the large parking lot that stretched to the bluff and rough roadway to the water’s edge has remained open. Seven days a week during daylight hours the public has relatively easy access to the shoreline at one of prime sites on the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
There are no facilities here, other than a phone, so plan accordingly. Park at the far end of the lot. From here you must proceed on foot down the short rough road. Head first over to the bluff’s edge and check out the dive site. To your right is Long Point. Diving is best here, but entry can be difficult across the rocks. The strip of rocky reef stretching to the east usually has a healthy growth of kelp and the water clarity is good. From here to the cove on the left, the shore is somewhat protected from the prevailing west swell by Long Point. The cobble beach in the cove on your left offers an option for water entry and exit that is a bit easier, but can still be difficult. On the far side of the cove a reef extends out to sea that offers yet another alternative. Kelp usually covers this reef as well. On a calm day, most experienced divers will hike to Long Point, enter there, then make their dive, moving east and exiting at the cove.
Some terrestrial notes: there is often a small waterfall plunging from the cliff at the far side of the cove, over the rocks, is an interesting sea cove.
The best diving is toward Long Point. The bottom drops off quickly to 35 feet and then rocky reefs out to sand at 50 feet about 150 yards out. Rocks are covered with a healthy growth of gorgonian swaying in the surge. This is a good spot for macro photography with a lot of small invertebrates, but most shutter-bugs dare not risk dragging a camera through the surf across the rocks. You will see brightly colored Spanish shawl nudibranchs in large numbers. Sea stars are abundant. Shiny chestnut cowries wedge themselves back in crevices. There are also a good amount of interesting and colorful small reef fish. This site seems to be especially abundant with octopus. To find them, look around the bases of rocks and reef where there is an unusual number of empty shells (debris from their meals).
Another animal that seems to be more common here than other locations is the electric torpedo ray. The torpedo rays has a distinctive round shape and shows no fear of divers, even daring a direct approach. Steer clear of these creatures as they can pack a wallop of an electrical charge.
Moving east from the point toward the cove you make come across some pieces of the wreck of the Newbern. This 198-foot long wood steam vessel ran around in 1895. Over a hundred years of storms and waves have pretty much pulverized and swept away most evidence of her sinking but small bits still sometimes show up in 5 to 40 feet of water.
Seafood hunting is fair. It is better to the west around the point. You will find an occasional lobster and a few rock scallops. Spearfishers like to cruise the fringing kelp for white sea bass in the spring and early summer.
Construction on the new resort hotel complex is expected to begin this year. While it is difficult to say how access will be affected during the construction, the good news is that access, and facilities, open to the public, will actually improve once construction is completed. Access is currently available, but always remember that it is at the good graces of the land owners. We are guests. Please respect the property.
Dive Spot At A Glance
Location: Entrance to access at 6610 Palos Verdes Drive South on the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
Access and entry: Open only daylight hours until 4:30 p.m. Rough but only moderately steep path to a rock beach surf entry. Surf here is lower here than other areas nearby.
Skill level: Intermediate with rock beach surf entry experience.
Depths: 15 to 50 feet.
Visibility: Very good averaging 20feet, 30 feet or more not unusual.
Snorkeling: Good when calm.
Photography: Good for both macro and wide-angle but water entry can be difficult over rocks with camera.
Hunting: A few lobster and rock scallops. Spearfishing for skilled freedivers in the spring and summer for white sea bass.
Conditions: (310) 832-1130 or see http://cdip.ucsd.edu/models/spc.gif on the web for wave height model.