For today’s blog, I thought I’d walk you through and around the world famous Mission Beach. If you’ve seen my other videos and been reading my blog, you know I lived in Mission Beach for a number of years and I loved every single minute of it. Well almost every minute.
So Mission Beach is going to be an amazing 2 mile plus resort style peninsula which is insanely popular for vacationers, a must see for tourists, an amazing place to live for anyone who likes a truly on the sand type of beach life style, and everyone in between.
On a typical day in Mission Beach, expect to see sun bathers, bicyclists, skateboarders, walkers, joggers, kids playing on the sand and playgrounds, families and friends having barbecues. One of my personal favorite things to do is people watch. I have to tell you, it doesn’t get any better than Mission Beach. If it exists, you will probably see it in Mission Beach.
Mission Beach includes several sub neighborhoods which are pretty different from one another. We are going to talk about each in detail so I am going to divide this up into four parts:
I want to give you a little history on the area, then we will take a look at the most popular and central part of Mission Beach near Belmont park and the Giant Dipper. From here we are going to head to Missions most quiet area South Mission, and then I’m going to finish up the tour in Old Mission Beach to the North which is actually where I used to live. Also, as we talk about area, I’m going to give you 5 things you need to check out for each so let’s get started!
The Mission Beach and Bay Boardwalk
The number one thing to do in Mission Beach and was one of my activities I did almost daily was cruise the boardwalk. Over 2.5 miles of paved concrete up and down the sand on the pacific ocean. What a, lot of people don’t realize is the concrete supporting this boardwalk and the wall to the west goes way down to the bedrock and provides protection from the tide and ocean waves.
Mission Beach History
Mission Beach has an amazing rich history going all the way back to the early 1900’s. Believe it or not, the original hot spot was ocean beach. Ocean beach was easier to get to, had an amusement park called Wonderland, and was just the place to be. It didn’t take long for several entrepreneurs of the times to see the potential in Mission Beach. In the 1915, the Bayshore Railway Company built a bridge connecting OB to Mission (actually it also connected a street car that ran all the way downtown) that was built suitable for pedestrians, cars, and even a streetcar (think like a trolley). The development started, other routes were created to access Mission, a massive storm wiped out the amusement park in Ocean Beach and the rest is history. If you want to learn more about the incredible history and see a ton of old historical pictures I recommend checking out this book by long time Mission residents Terry Curran and Phil Prather in conjunction with Images of America Mission Beach. I have zero affiliation, I just thought it was fascinating. Alright, back to the beach.
Belmont Park, the Giant Dipper, and The Plunge
By far the most popular area for visitors is going to be located at Mission Blvd and Ventura Blvd with the roller coaster and Belmont park. This is the area most people are talking about if they are visiting the Mission. Your also going to have go karts, indoor mini golf, a climbing wall, a zip line, super kid and family friendly. There are shops and restaurants there as well. Very easy beach access. And don’t forget what really makes it popular… it has parking. Seriously though, it has a couple huge parking lots. Parking can be tough down here. If you are driving in, look to park here first. Get there early because they fill up fast on the weekends and holidays. There’s going to be lifeguards on the beach side and bay side here. The restroom facilities on the beach side and on the bay side down here.
If I was visiting here, the number one thing to do is ride the Giant Dipper. This is the largest wooden roller coaster on the west coast. Built in 1925, it is like riding a piece of history. It’s the number one thing to do. I actually remember way back when I lived here, a radio station had a contest where they filled up the cars with riders. Last one to stay on wins $50,000 cash. They ended up stopping the contest after 10 weeks with 5 riders refusing to give up. They split the winnings five ways. I would have been pissed!
Next thing to do is going to be to hit the beach. This is the easiest area to park at so bring the family and go build a sandcastle. Better yet, hop in the ocean. Not exactly tropical temperatures usually but warm enough.
Third thing to do is going to be checking out the Plunge. The plunge is a huge public pool that’s as old as the coaster. You do everything from swim laps, lets the kids play, or just soak in the water. Its massive and a must see. If you are there, you cant miss it.
Fourth thing to do is play in the amusement park. Kids and the adults. Go try to go carts on the racetrack, ride the merry go round, play some mini golf, play the arcade games, it’s a ton of fun.
The fifth thing I really recommend doing is grab a bite (or a refreshing beverage) at one of the ocean front dining options such as cannonball, draft, or Beach house. Your right on the sand and the ocean. Not to mention amazing people watching. It doesn’t get much better.
Alright, so this is the neighborhood around Belmont park and the most touristy. Lets head down to South Mission.
South Mission Beach
South Mission Beach is going to be the most family friendly area in my opinion. It’s almost like a long cul-de-sac so you don’t get as much of the pass through traffic like you do up to the North side of Mission. It has a ton a volleyball courts and a basketball court. You will also find the south mission jetty as well. Some people walk out on it but its literally a kook of the day waiting to happen. You guys know kook of the day? If you like to play beach volleyball, this is your spot. As far a living down here, south mission is going to be the most quiet part of Mission to live in. It’s the most family friendly area. Belmont park gets a ton of attention but there is another good sized park down here with playgrounds, benches, barbecues called Mission Point Park. It can be a very good option on crowded days, not as many people know about it. There’s going to be lifeguards on the beach side, not so much on the bay side in South mission. The restroom facilities on the beach side and on the bay side down here.
I just said this area is the most family friendly but its also home to two of the best bars in Mission Beach, the pennant and the beachcomber. Don’t come here with the family. Do come here with the adults ready to relax and let loose a little bit
My top five things to do in South Mission are to check out the volleyball and basketball courts. If you play, this is the best place to play. Come check it out for yourself. There are groups and leagues that play here as well.
The second thing to do down here is walkover to the jetty, right on the south end and look across the channel. That’s going to Ocean Beach (specifically dog beach) over there. The views can be incredible from here.
The third thing to do is (if you are of age) is the hit up the pennant and the beach comber. They have been on the area for ever and are both visitor and local favorites.
The fourth thing to do is think about trying out surfing down here. Not as crowded as some other areas, the waves are not huge most of the time, and I even think there is a surf school or two operating in this area.
The fifth thing to do is to walk or bike the beach side boardwalk around the end and back up the bay side walk to Bonita Cove near Belmont park. You will find more grass and park space, playgrounds, super family friendly.
Old Mission Beach
Alright, so that’s going to be South Mission Beach. From here, let hit up Old Mission Beach or pretty much everything north of Santa Clara place. This is the area I lived in on Salem Court. I loved it. Way back when the street car ran all the way up from downtown and even through here. The old tracks are still here under the paved roads. Your going to have businesses, restaurants, my personal favorite the Mission (highly recommend for breakfast), bars, shops, coffee shops, taco shops, it has everything. It runs all the way up to Pacific Beach drive, where the Catamaran Hotel starts. Its gets a little busy on the road (there’s only one major road) during the weekends and holidays. My recommendation is to just stay off the road during peak times if possible. This is the hardest part to visit if you are a visitor because parking is so limited. Lots of locals wills congregate throughout this area.
If you are looking to rent anything in Mission Beach like a paddle board, surf board, a bike, sail boat, all that good kind of stuff, this is the area for that. Santa Clara Point is perfect for that kind of stuff.
Top five things to do are going to be number one, get breakfast at the mission on San Jose Place and Mission Blvd. The food is awesome.
The second thing to do is go rent a paddle board or kayak, maybe a sail boat over on Santa Clara island. There is actually a little bit of parking here so you might get lucky. Way back when, I actually took wake boarding as a class at San Diego State at the mission bay aquatic center. Yes, I earned I unit for that. Amazing time!
The third thing to do here is sort of like south mission but a longer walk or ride. Get on the boardwalk beach side and walk north towards Pacific Beach or South to South Mission. The people watching is legendary. You might even catch a glimpse of slomo, he is still out and about.
The fourth thing to do go check out Guava Beach. There are a few other places to eat and grab a drink but I always have the best time here. Highly recommended, check it out.
The fifth thing to do is get back onto the boardwalk and head up north to Crystal Pier which is technically in Pacific Beach. You can walk to the end of the pier and get an incredible view back towards the coastline north and south. There is even a motel on the pier. Way back when you could live in those bungalows full time.
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