San Pedro is a rough-hewn, gritty, working-class community in the South Bay area and part of the city of LA. It is a diverse blue-collar community settled by immigrants from Scandinavia and the Mediterranean. It served as Southern California’s predominant harbor community from the mission period until the 1920s. It was one of the places along the coast where labor strife erupted during the 1930s depression and its tradition of antipathy toward the city of Los Angeles which annexed San Pedro in 1909 persists. In recent years, there has been a drive among locals to secede from LA, fueled by a resentment or perception of under-representation at City Hall and the incompetence of its officials in developing San Pedro into a major tourist attraction. Today, the community with its low-rise old building offers a maritime charm not found anywhere else in the Los Angeles area.
Worldport LA is the name of the 7,500 acre, 75 cargo and cruise ship terminal port in San Pedro. It is the nation’s largest container port and passenger terminal, and the third largest in the world after Shanghai and Hong Kong. Most of the shipping activity takes place on a man-made island called Terminal Island across from the San Pedro Harbor’s channel.
Angels Gate Park
Angels Gate Park at the end of Gaffey Street sits atop the crest of the Palos Verdes Peninsula and provides wonderful sea views that extend as far as the Santa Catalina Island on clear days. The park is home to the Marine Mammal Center where sick sea animals are on display while they are nursed to recovery.
Angel’s Gate Lighthouse
The Angel’s Gate Lighthouse is a 75-foot tall Romanesque monolith that blasts a foghorn twice per minute with its rotating green light. The lighthouse directs ships to the protected harbor and helps them avoid the breakwater’s rock seawall.
Point Fermin Park
Below the Angels Gate Park is the Point Fermin Park, a 37-acre verdant strip of land looming atop ocean bluffs at LA’s southernmost point. The park features an 1848 wooden lighthouse that is not open to the public. At the park, you can whale watch from the coin-operated telescopes. The whale-watching station has information on the winter migrations of the whales. The best time to come is during the dolphins’ fall departure and during their spring return.
Point Fermin Lighthouse
Point Fermin Lighthouse sits in the middle of the Point Fermin Park and once beamed a 6,600 candlepower light 20 miles out to sea. It ceased operating after WWII and fell into disrepair before being renovated in the 1970s. Unfortunately, it is not open to the public but still a nice sight from the outside.
Cabrillo Marine Aquarium
The Cabrillo Marine Aquarium is located below the bluffs along the beachside paths and around the cape of Point Fermin. The aquarium has a collection of marine life occupying 35 tanks that are on display. You’ll find predator snails, sea urchins, seals, whales, otters, and the rare sarcastic fringehead, a peculiar fish whose name is said to make sense once you see it. From the aquarium, you can see a short jetty that extends to a 1913 breakwater over 9,000 feet long.
Vincent Thomas Bridge
The Vincent Thomas Bridge is California’s third longest suspension bridge. Completed in 1963, it links Long Beach to San Pedro and transports shipping workers, fishermen, and sailors to Terminal Island.
Los Angeles Maritime Museum
The Los Angeles Maritime Museum is an outstanding collection of nautical memorabilia occupying San Pedro’s historic Municipal Ferry Building, which is an Art Deco design. The building is located on the main channel of the port and once welcomed ferries from neighboring Terminal Island until the late 1960s. The highlight of the museum is the impressive collection of ship models, including an 18 feet cutaway version of the Titanic. There is an active ham radio station that visitors can use to eavesdrop on port traffic as well as a knots challenge that allows people to test their knot-tying skills on ropes.
Dickey, Jeff. Los Angeles, 3rd Edition. Rough Guides, 2003. ISBN: 1843530589.
Michelin Travel Publications. California. Greenville: Michelin Travel Publications, 2001. ISBN: 2060001315.
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