San Diego's
Downtown Waterfront

San Diego's
Downtown Waterfront

You should set aside most of a day to explore San Diego’s downtown waterfront from the convention center area to Waterfront Park. A stretch of about a mile and half filled with fishing stores, restaurants, fishing boats, historical sites, ferries, and trinket shops. You can take a nice casual walk taking in the sites and stopping for lunch is a great way to take a day to experience, Later in the evening, you can head back over to the Gaslamp Quarter for drinks and dinner or head up to Little Italy which is on the hill above Waterfront Park. Make sure you wear sun screen and a wide-brimmed hat on the walk if you’re prone to sunburn as you’re going to get a lot of sun in San Diego.

Embarcadero Park North

My first experience at Embarcadero Marina Park North was a magical one. When wandering around getting to know the area in 1993, I found the water’s edge and Seaport Village. As I walked, the sound of a harp playing filled the air.

The sound called to me and I followed. I came upon a young woman wearing a white flowing dress and playing a harp on a piece of grass near the Embarcadero Park entrance sign. Gentle ocean winds made the soft translucent fabric of her dress dance in the breeze as she sat on a small stool with the harp pressed against her chest.

I sat down on the grass near her and listened. I was totally mesmerized by what I was seeing and hearing on this gentle afternoon. I’ve always loved coming back to this place to reflect on that moment.

Embarcadero Park North

My first experience at Embarcadero Marina Park North was a magical one. When wandering around getting to know the area in 1993, I found the water’s edge and Seaport Village. As I walked, the sound of a harp playing filled the air.

The sound called to me and I followed. I came upon a young woman wearing a white flowing dress and playing a harp on a piece of grass near the Embarcadero Park entrance sign. Gentle ocean winds made the soft translucent fabric of her dress dance in the breeze as she sat on a small stool with the harp pressed against her chest.

I sat down on the grass near her and listened. I was totally mesmerized by what I was seeing and hearing on this gentle afternoon. I’ve always loved coming back to this place to reflect on that moment.

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Now, back to today! I usually started it by walking over to Seaport Village to grab a coffee. Then, I’d cross the street to Embarcadero Park and sit under the Gazebo where the bay meets the entrance to the marina to watch the world around me come alive.

San Diego firefighter’s regularly come to park to jog around to keep in shape. Their fire trucks strategically placed to get to them quickly. You’ll usually find people standing along the shoreline and watching as Navy ships pull out of port and head out to sea. Often, you’ll see parents, spouses, children, and friends waving to someone on the ships. There always seem to be people walking dogs, flying kites, laying back reading a book, chasing small children around, and holding hands with a loved as they walk around.

The serenity is amazing and the gazebo is a great place to think about what to do for that day. On this day, a walk down the waterfront seemed to fit the bill. So, after I finished my coffee, I headed out on a walk from the convention center area down to Waterfront Park. I wanted to start my walk from the southern end of the walkway where the industrial and shipping section begins and public access stops. So, I headed over to Embarcadero Marina Park South which sits across the marina’s opening from the gazebo I sat under while sipping my caffeinated dark bean bitter drink – taken black.

As part of planned changes to the area, a couple of beaches are expected to be installed on the bay side of the park. It will give the public better access to the chilly water to paddleboard, kayak, snorkel, and taking in the sun on sand.

Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina

The Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina is home to smaller yachts, houseboats, cruisers, and rental boats of different shapes and sizes. You’ll usually see an occupant or two relaxing on the stern deck having coffee or a beer. It’s a fairly quiet place and you can hear the seagulls and other birds searching for food or calling out to a mate. Just on the other side of the marina is the entrance to Embarcadero Marina Park South.

Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina

The Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina is home to smaller yachts, houseboats, cruisers, and rental boats of different shapes and sizes. You’ll usually see an occupant or two relaxing on the stern deck having coffee or a beer. It’s a fairly quiet place and you can hear the seagulls and other birds searching for food or calling out to a mate. Just on the other side of the marina is the entrance to Embarcadero Marina Park South.

Embarcadero Park South

The morning sea fog is coming in strong at this time of morning and darkens what will later be a bright day. The Embarcadero Parks, both north and south, were built with materials dredged from the shipping channels in the bay to protect Embarcadero Marina. 

Opened just in time to celebrate July 4th, 2021, festivities, the newest addition to the park is Rady Shell. It is the bayside summer home of the San Diego Symphony. They were playing to a full crowd as I watched the fireworks being fired from a Naval ship in the bay near the shell from a balcony on the convention center.

July 4th was still a day or two away when I walked the south park. Construction fences still surrounded the ticket office and entrance to Rady Shell and I wasn’t able to get close to it to get good pictures. So, I walked around the activity made my way out to the fishing pier. From the south end of the pier, you can get a good view of the Dole Banana Ships coming into offload. There’s a nice little burger joint called Burgers, Bait, & beer near the entrance to the pier. I stopped and had a great cheeseburger at a very good price. Walkiing back to the Embarcadero, I passed a set of basketball courts. There was also a Joe’s Crab Shake by the 5th Ave. Landing area at the foot of the park. Some impressive yachts are docked here, too.

Embarcadero Park South

The morning sea fog is coming in strong at this time of morning and darkens what will later be a bright day. The Embarcadero Parks, both north and south, were built with materials dredged from the shipping channels in the bay to protect Embarcadero Marina. 

Opened just in time to celebrate July 4th, 2021, festivities, the newest addition to the park is Rady Shell. It is the bayside summer home of the San Diego Symphony. They were playing to a full crowd as I watched the fireworks being fired from a Naval ship in the bay near the shell from a balcony on the convention center.

July 4th was still a day or two away when I walked the south park. Construction fences still surrounded the ticket office and entrance to Rady Shell and I wasn’t able to get close to it to get good pictures. So, I walked around the activity made my way out to the fishing pier. From the south end of the pier, you can get a good view of the Dole Banana Ships coming into offload. There’s a nice little burger joint called Burgers, Bait, & beer near the entrance to the pier. I stopped and had a great cheeseburger at a very good price. Walkiing back to the Embarcadero, I passed a set of basketball courts. There was also a Joe’s Crab Shake by the 5th Ave. Landing area at the foot of the park. Some impressive yachts are docked here, too.

Seaport Village

The Seaport Village is a replica of harbor side town from the early 1900s. It’s a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the Gaslamp Quarter where you can browse shops. museums, galleries, restaurants, and more on a regular basis. There always seems to be something going on during normal times.

There’s plenty of seafood around to be eaten. There’s a seafood shop as well as bayside restaurants offering shrimp, crab, and other delicacies. All while having a cold brew on a warm afternoon with the sea breeze sauntering in off the bay.

This area of San Diego had an interesting beginning. It’s first well-known name was “Dead Man’s Point”. 

Legend has it that a couple of galleons from Spain sailed into the bay when sailors started dying in high amounts from scurvy. The dead sailors were thought to be originally buried where Seaport Village now stands. The village also served as a makeshift hospital and morgue for one of the worst peacetime explosions of a U.S. Naval Ship, the USS Bennington in 1905. Then it became a railroad and, finally, a landfill before the city converted the property into one of the most successful retail environments in Southern California. However, changes are coming soon. On the drawing board are plans to redo the entire area and what you see here will fall into the dustbin of history as San Diego continues its push to be a premier world class city…or so they think.

Seaport Village

The Seaport Village is a replica of harbor side town from the early 1900s. It’s a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the Gaslamp Quarter where you can browse shops. museums, galleries, restaurants, and more on a regular basis. There always seems to be something going on during normal times.

There’s plenty of seafood around to be eaten. There’s a seafood shop as well as bayside restaurants offering shrimp, crab, and other delicacies. All while having a cold brew on a warm afternoon with the sea breeze sauntering in off the bay.

This area of San Diego had an interesting beginning. It’s first well-known name was “Dead Man’s Point”. 

Legend has it that a couple of galleons from Spain sailed into the bay when sailors started dying in high amounts from scurvy. The dead sailors were thought to be originally buried where Seaport Village now stands. The village also served as a makeshift hospital and morgue for one of the worst peacetime explosions of a U.S. Naval Ship, the USS Bennington in 1905. Then it became a railroad and, finally, a landfill before the city converted the property into one of the most successful retail environments in Southern California. However, changes are coming soon. On the drawing board are plans to redo the entire area and what you see here will fall into the dustbin of history as San Diego continues its push to be a premier world class city…or so they think.

Tuna Market

Saturday mornings are busy at the Market Street Pier in front of the Seaport Village. Small fishing vessels dock at the pier for the weekly Tuna Harbor Dockside Market to sell fresh fresh rock crabs, California spiny lobsters, Tuna, Wahoo, and whatever else is in the daily catch. The selling starts at 8am and an items last until they’re sold. If you’re looking for something popular, you’d want to get there early and then take what you bought back to the hostel to refrigerate it until you cook it. It’s hard to get anything fresher as fishermen carve up the catch they caught just a few hours ago from the bay and ocean!

Tuna Market

Saturday mornings are busy at the Market Street Pier in front of the Seaport Village. Small fishing vessels dock at the pier for the weekly Tuna Harbor Dockside Market to sell fresh fresh rock crabs, California spiny lobsters, Tuna, Wahoo, and whatever else is in the daily catch. The selling starts at 8am and an items last until they’re sold. If you’re looking for something popular, you’d want to get there early and then take what you bought back to the hostel to refrigerate it until you cook it. It’s hard to get anything fresher as fishermen carve up the catch they caught just a few hours ago from the bay and ocean!

Tuna Boat Harbor & Docks

The tuna boats don’t have to go far to get to the Market Street Pier since numerous ones are docked in the same harbor. Tuna and related fishing became a mainstay of the San Diego economy around 1903 when fishermen a cannery switched its product lie from sardines to albacore tuna.

The new food item took off in the U.S. marketplace. Within a few years, more canneries were built as Bumblee Tuna and Van Camp Seafood became household names. Fishermen from places like Portugal and Japan started arriving in the early 1900s to catch the tuna the canneries needed to meet demand. San Diego became “The Tuna Capital of the World“.  

As the canneries grew bigger, so did the fishing vessels the tuna fishermen used. By the 1930s, boats with powerful diesel engines and brine refrigeration units designed to store the catch for a much longer time replaced the older fleet. The fleet could now head out to sea for months at a time to track and catch tuna before they had to head to shore to drop off the load. The U.S. Navy took notice of the capabilities of these small fishing vessels and commandeered 49 of them (the Army took an additional three boats for their use) during World War II for use in the Pacific Theater. The crews were mostly Portuguese and Italian fishermen who signed up en masse when the U.S. Navy asked for their boats and help.

None of the boats are left from that time, and the canneries have all closed, but there’s still a small band of 130 or so tuna boats still plying the water’s off of San Diego to provide seafood to local restaurants, residents, and visitors. 

Tuna Boat Harbor & Docks

The tuna boats don’t have to go far to get to the Market Street Pier since numerous ones are docked in the same harbor. Tuna and related fishing became a mainstay of the San Diego economy around 1903 when fishermen a cannery switched its product lie from sardines to albacore tuna.

The new food item took off in the U.S. marketplace. Within a few years, more canneries were built as Bumblee Tuna and Van Camp Seafood became household names. Fishermen from places like Portugal and Japan started arriving in the early 1900s to catch the tuna the canneries needed to meet demand. San Diego became “The Tuna Capital of the World“.  

As the canneries grew bigger, so did the fishing vessels the tuna fishermen used. By the 1930s, boats with powerful diesel engines and brine refrigeration units designed to store the catch for a much longer time replaced the older fleet. The fleet could now head out to sea for months at a time to track and catch tuna before they had to head to shore to drop off the load. The U.S. Navy took notice of the capabilities of these small fishing vessels and commandeered 49 of them (the Army took an additional three boats for their use) during World War II for use in the Pacific Theater. The crews were mostly Portuguese and Italian fishermen who signed up en masse when the U.S. Navy asked for their boats and help.

None of the boats are left from that time, and the canneries have all closed, but there’s still a small band of 130 or so tuna boats still plying the water’s off of San Diego to provide seafood to local restaurants, residents, and visitors. 

Bob Hope Tribute

Along the northern edge of G St. Pier is Tuna Harbor Park, where memorials dedicated to wars America has been involved in sit almost in the shadows of the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier now serving as a Museum. Among the memorials is a huge statue of a sailor kissing a girl in Times Square at the World War II’s end, a bust of Admiral Sprague, and a memorial to the grand old master of entertainment who regularly traveled widely to lift the spirits of Americans far away from home during the holiday season fighting battles in Vietnam, Bob Hope.

Bob Hope Tribute

Along the northern edge of G St. Pier is Tuna Harbor Park, where memorials dedicated to wars America has been involved in sit almost in the shadows of the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier now serving as a Museum. Among the memorials is a huge statue of a sailor kissing a girl in Times Square at the World War II’s end, a bust of Admiral Sprague, and a memorial to the grand old master of entertainment who regularly traveled widely to lift the spirits of Americans far away from home during the holiday season fighting battles in Vietnam, Bob Hope.

Midway Museum

The USS Midway was commissioned on September 10, 1945 – eight days after the hostilities in the Pacific Theater ended. Still, she had a great history as the longest serving aircraft carrier (1945 – 92) in the 20th Century. The USS Midway served during Vietnam helping to remove refugees during the fall of Saigon, it was the first carrier to brave the midwinter cold of the sub-Arctic, launched 3000 combat missions during the Gulf War, and was the first carrier to be home ported abroad in Japan to help protect the movement of oil from Arab countries to western ones.

The aircraft carrier was decommissioned in 1992 and opened as a museum in 2004. There’s a lot to see on the carrier and if you really want to take the time to explore it and ingest what you’re seeing, you’ll want to set aside a few hours for the full tour.

Midway Museum

The USS Midway was commissioned on September 10, 1945 – eight days after the hostilities in the Pacific Theater ended. Still, she had a great history as the longest serving aircraft carrier (1945 – 92) in the 20th Century. The USS Midway served during Vietnam helping to remove refugees during the fall of Saigon, it was the first carrier to brave the midwinter cold of the sub-Arctic, launched 3000 combat missions during the Gulf War, and was the first carrier to be home ported abroad in Japan to help protect the movement of oil from Arab countries to western ones.

The aircraft carrier was decommissioned in 1992 and opened as a museum in 2004. There’s a lot to see on the carrier and if you really want to take the time to explore it and ingest what you’re seeing, you’ll want to set aside a few hours for the full tour.

Cruise Ships & Ferries

The area along the Embarcadero between the USS Midway and Broadway Pier is where you catch many of the tour boats that ply the water of the bay and ocean. There’s a snack bar, restrooms, and sitting areas here as well. It’s a good place to relax after getting off of the USS Midway before you finish the walk down the shoreline. The Broadway Pier was built to handle the large ocean-going cruise ships. There are historical markers on the path to the end of the pier where you can get great vista views of the bay.

Cruise Ships & Ferries

The area along the Embarcadero between the USS Midway and Broadway Pier is where you catch many of the tour boats that ply the water of the bay and ocean. There’s a snack bar, restrooms, and sitting areas here as well. It’s a good place to relax after getting off of the USS Midway before you finish the walk down the shoreline. The Broadway Pier was built to handle the large ocean-going cruise ships. There are historical markers on the path to the end of the pier where you can get great vista views of the bay.

Restaurants

There’s plenty of eateries along the embarcadero and N. Harbor Drive on the other side of street. Currently, there’s the Fish Market of San Diego at the end of Tuna Harbor Park. Miguel’s Cocina and Brigantine Seafood& Oyster Bar is directly south of Star of India in the Portside Pier, and there’s a Claim Jumper, Ruth’s Steak House, and Hazelwood’s on the Bay on the east side of N. Harbor Drive. 

After taking a long and informative walk along the Embarcadero, a good meal or snack helps to re-energize the body for more exploring. These restaurants not only offer a fine selection of food and brews to get you ready for the rest of the day, but they also offer great views!

Restaurants

There’s plenty of eateries along the embarcadero and N. Harbor Drive on the other side of street. Currently, there’s the Fish Market of San Diego at the end of Tuna Harbor Park. Miguel’s Cocina and Brigantine Seafood& Oyster Bar is directly south of Star of India in the Portside Pier, and there’s a Claim Jumper, Ruth’s Steak House, and Hazelwood’s on the Bay on the east side of N. Harbor Drive. 

After taking a long and informative walk along the Embarcadero, a good meal or snack helps to re-energize the body for more exploring. These restaurants not only offer a fine selection of food and brews to get you ready for the rest of the day, but they also offer great views!

“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”

– Robert Louis Stevenson

Star of India

Launched from the Ramsey Shipyard on the Isle of Man on November 14, 1863,  five days before Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address, the Star of India is the oldest sailing ship still in use in the world. A volunteer crew mans the ship on cruises.

Originally named Euterpe, the ship only sailed to India roughly six times. The ship took the name Star of India when the Alaska Packers Association took ownership of it. The association used “Star” as a prefix for the sailing ships it owned. 

Star of India is part of the San Diego Maritime Museum.

Star of India

Launched from the Ramsey Shipyard on the Isle of Man on November 14, 1863,  five days before Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address, the Star of India is the oldest sailing ship still in use in the world. A volunteer crew mans the ship on cruises.

Originally named Euterpe, the ship only sailed to India roughly six times. The ship took the name Star of India when the Alaska Packers Association took ownership of it. The association used “Star” as a prefix for the sailing ships it owned. 

Star of India is part of the San Diego Maritime Museum.

Maritime Museum

The Maritime Museum is located next to the Star of India on the Star of India Wharf. It has various exhibits from tall ships, to U.S. and Russian-made submarines, a large Mississippi-styled paddle boat, and more. The museum was just getting open again when I stopped by and many of the exhibits were still closed or limited. However, the museum offers a lot when fully open from sails on the 1542 Galleon Replica San Salvador, concert series, rides on a US Naval Vietnam-era PCF 816 Swift Boat, below deck galleries, and more. A trip through the museum generally takes two to three hours to get through everything minus whatever boat or sailing rides you might go on.

Maritime Museum

The Maritime Museum is located next to the Star of India on the Star of India Wharf. It has various exhibits from tall ships, to U.S. and Russian-made submarines, a large Mississippi-styled paddle boat, and more. The museum was just getting open again when I stopped by and many of the exhibits were still closed or limited. However, the museum offers a lot when fully open from sails on the 1542 Galleon Replica San Salvador, concert series, rides on a US Naval Vietnam-era PCF 816 Swift Boat, below deck galleries, and more. A trip through the museum generally takes two to three hours to get through everything minus whatever boat or sailing rides you might go on.

Waterfront Park

Waterfront Park bookends the San Diego County Administration Center on N. Harbor Drive along the shoreline of the bay.

Constructed in 2014, the park replaced two large surface parking lots to create a space used by the people of San Diego. Parents bring their young children here to play in he splash park or run after bubbles on the large green lawn. One of the parking lots is located under the surface of the south wing of the park.

The park also has short paths that sweep you away from its urban existence for brief moments at a time.

The park is a testament to the value of quality spaces over hot asphalt surfaces in downtown locations. 

Waterfront Park

Waterfront Park bookends the San Diego County Administration Center on N. Harbor Drive along the shoreline of the bay.

Constructed in 2014, the park replaced two large surface parking lots to create a space used by the people of San Diego. Parents bring their young children here to play in he splash park or run after bubbles on the large green lawn. One of the parking lots is located under the surface of the south wing of the park.

The park also has short paths that sweep you away from its urban existence for brief moments at a time.

The park is a testament to the value of quality spaces over hot asphalt surfaces in downtown locations. 

Downtown San Diego, California USA - Walking Tour of Seaport Village, USS Midway, Embarcadero

The USS Midway Museum Presents From Mothballs to Magic

Port of San Diego Honors Tuna Cannery Workers

Virtual Tour of Ships, Maritime Museum of San Diego

Changes are a Comin'

San Diego’s waterfront has been undergoing a transition as the city continuously evolves into a world class destination. Much has changed along the waterfront and skyline since 1993 and more is about to change in the next few years. In some cases, what I described and experienced here in the summer of 2021 will be different if you come in a couple of years. Which means, I’ll have to keep on coming back to watch what happens! 🙂