Doing the San Diego Harbor is really fun. One of my favorite things to do is pick someone up from the San Diego airport (or drop them off!). Especially if I have nothing scheduled immediately afterwards. The San Diego airport is very close to downtown San Diego and its beautiful harbor, and I love any excuse to hang out there. If my kids or my mother are flying in, it’s a tradition to take them to Anthony’s Fishette for fish & chips or clam chowder. There’s so much to do and see along the downtown San Diego harbor. Here, let me just show you!
The best way to see the harbor is walking. But if you have a car, I suggest driving to Spanish Landing and Harbor Island first.
At Spanish Landing, there’s the Spanish Landing Park and the Cancer Survivors Park, and both are directly across from the entrance of the San Diego International Airport. In fact, if you have a long layover, this would be a perfect place to hang out. There’s lots of free parking and great views of the water and marinas.
The Cancer Survivors Park is relatively new and makes a great contribution to the beauty of this area. And I suppose it offers hope to those struggling with cancer as well.
Next stop: Harbor Island. There’s free parking there, too, and you can walk along the water and enjoy the views of downtown San Diego. Here you can enjoy a picnic, just relax, shoot some photos or even fish. Harbor Island is also known for some great restaurants: Tom Ham’s Lighthouse, Island Prime, C-Level, and Coasterra. I’ve only eaten at Tom Ham’s (crab cakes are amazing) because they’re pricey, but the views are incredible! And just so you know, no one is allowed to limit access to the coastal sidewalk, so you can enjoy the same views as the restaurants by following the coastal walk behind each restaurant.
And here’s the link to a virtual tour of the Coasterra restaurant views, if you’d like to see how gorgeous they are!
After leaving Harbor Island, I like to park my car and walk along the waterfront. Here’s a tip to remember: there’s still a considerable number of free parking spaces as you get closer to downtown, but you won’t find them on any google map of San Diego! As you drive along Harbor Drive from the airport towards downtown, you will see tiny little entrances to a one-lane road that parallels Harbor Drive on your right. Get on that road as soon as you can. It will take you through several small parking lots (6 or 7 spaces each) right on the water. If I look for parking before 10 AM, I can ALWAYS find a spot in one of these lots. It’s a little over a mile walk from these parking lots all the way to Seaport Village. Very manageable! And everyone loves free parking!
Now that you’re parked, walk along the harbor from north to south. The first thing you will see on your left is the San Diego Administration Building and new Waterfront Park.
This park wasn’t here when I was raising my children, but I’m definitely going to take my grandchildren there! And I may dip my feet in as well. 🙂
On your right, as you continue along, you will come across the Maritime Museum, the Star of India (the world’s oldest active sailing ship), and some waterfront restaurants: Star of the Sea, Anthony’s and Anthony’s Fishette (the most affordable).
Next, you will come to the B Street Cruise Terminal. Often you will see HUGE cruiseships parked alongside this pier with crowds of people loading or unloading. And sometimes it will be as quiet as can be. Like this day. You can enjoy the colorful murals on the walls.
A lot of San Diego’s waterfront has been much improved over recent years. The city has added very classy-looking kiosks for ticket sales, souvenirs, and visitor information, with beautiful little parks in between, restrooms, and directional signs. They’ve upgraded the Broadway Pier and added tables with umbrellas and bright red benches. And they’re planning to build an observation deck soon.
Broadway Pier was completely revamped in 2010, creating another cruise ship terminal and facilities for special events while still maintaining public access to its parklike setting. This is one of the best places to view 4th of July fireworks, too.
Continue to stroll south from the Broadway Pier, and you will come to a beautifully tree-lined area of war memorials, the Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum, Tuna Harbor Park, and the G Street Pier for commercial fishermen.
Tuna Harbor Park has beautiful trees and the famous “Kissing Sailor” statue, a tribute to Bob Hope, and the Fish Market restaurant.
G Street Pier is open to the public, but hardly anyone ever ventures there except the commercial fishermen who keep their boats moored there. But it’s a great place to explore! Right now, the pier is loaded with hundreds of lobster traps and fishing nets, as the fishermen gear up for lobster season. Pelicans and seagulls hang out on the pier and will let you get pretty close before flying away. Walk to the very end and you will be treated with views of Seaport Village and the Coronado Bridge.
Well, I’ve covered a lot here.
But there’s actually a little more you should know…
- Seaport Village is a quaint collection of boutique and specialty stores with cobblestone sidewalks, ponds & fountains, a carousel, and plenty of places to eat. If you have time, definitely go there too. There are often performers (think sword-swallowers or rock-stackers!). Embarcadero Park just beyond Seaport Village is also worth a stroll.
- It’s not technically on the waterfront, but the Santa Fe Train station is celebrating its 100-year anniversary this year. You can see it from the B Street Cruise Ship terminal, so you might want to go check it out too.
- If you don’t want to walk, you can rent a bicycle from one of many Decobike rental stations in downtown San Diego. Rates are $12 for two continuous hours; other time periods available also.
- There are public restrooms on the Broadway Pier, near the information and ticket kiosks, at the Waterfront Park, and at Seaport Village. It’s easy to use the restroom at Anthony’s Fishette as well.
- If you are lucky enough to see food vendor trucks parked along the water, be sure to take advantage of their food and reasonable prices!
- Links you might be interested in: Maritime Museum, USS Midway Museum, Seaport Village
I sure hope you enjoyed this little tour of the San Diego Harbor and waterfront, but I hope you get to do it in person sometime. It is beautiful, and I know you’ll enjoy it. It is ALWAYS our go-to place when we have out-of-town visitors. I’ve lived here 25 years, and I never get tired of it. Hope I run into you there!
Looking for more ideas for things to do in San Diego?