Mission Bay Park is the largest manmade aquatic park in the nation with 27 miles of shoreline and 14 miles of biking and walking paths. It dominates the Mission Bay neighborhood, which is 54% water and 46% land. Best known for its wide range of outdoor recreational activities like jet skiing, camping, fishing, biking, sailing, swimming, and kayaking, this neighborhood brings in more than 15 million people a year who love the great outdoors. Located on 4,600 acres at the south end of Pacific Beach, only a small number of people actually live in Mission Bay due to initial commercial and residential zoning restrictions made to preserve the area’s public access.
Mission Bay began differently than most neighborhoods in San Diego. It was originally a tidal marsh when Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo first nicknamed it “False Bay” back in 1542. For a time, it was an estuary outlet for the San Diego River in an effort to preserve San Diego Bay. Later, the river was constrained by a dam, and then by levees, so it no longer drained into the Pacific through Mission Bay. Following World War II, interest grew in turning the area into a tourism and recreational center to diversify the city’s economy which was almost solely based on the military at the time. By the late 1940s dredging and filling processes began transforming the marsh into what is now Mission Bay Park. Dredged sand and silt were used to build a wide variety of landforms creating the Mission Bay neighborhood and top tourism attraction you see today.
Mission Bay Golf Course and Practice Center has been around since 1955 when it was designed by the famed Ted Robinson. In the early 1960s, he redesigned the simple nine-hole course into an eighteen-hole executive course that measures an astounding 2,719 yards and sits on 46 acres. This bayside golf course is in the heart of the Mission Bay neighborhood, and is the only urban course in San Diego that has night lighting. You may be surprised to know that Mission Bay Golf Course has the distinction of being the course where Tiger Woods won his Junior World title.
Another popular vacation attraction in Mission Bay is SeaWorld. You can watch sea lions and seals perform their antics here, and then get a chance to see the famous Shamu show. Feed the turtles on your way to the underwater aquarium where aquatic life swims all around you. Take a wild ride on Manta, SeaWorld’s multi-media double launch roller coaster, or Journey to Atlantis, their flume coaster that will leave you soaked. Stay well into the night to watch the fireworks light up the sky; it’s the perfect ending to a fun-filled day.
If you are a water sports novice, but you’ve always wanted to learn to sail, water ski, or windsurf, head over the Mission Bay Aquatic Center. You can sign up to learn and participate in just about any water activity you desire; they literally have a class for everything. Follow you lessons up with practice; you can rent water sports equipment by the hour, half-day, or day. Learn to surf, row, or stand-up paddleboard. Add a new skill to your repertoire and more excitement to your vacation. Even if you have your own water sports equipment, the Aquatic Center also offers classes in water safety. Learn the designations and restrictions of the Bay and how to have fun and still protect yourself and others.
Other Things to See and Do
Today, Mission Bay features beautiful sandy shorelines around calm, warm waters. Eight locations are restricted to swimming and sunbathing only. Other areas are designated for watercrafts, sailing, and similar activities. On the east side of the Bay where there are a collection of channels and islands, you’ll typically find windsurfers and water skiers. There are even designated areas for fishing; the typical catches are spotted bass and halibut. On land, there are campgrounds, volleyball and basketball courts, biking and walking trails, and even areas popular for bird watching. Don’t miss taking the kids to Belmont Park for a ride on the historic Giant Dipper rollercoaster, a few rounds of arcade games, and lunch at the Wavehouse. Mission Bay is truly an outdoor oasis that caters to a multitude of land and water recreational activities.
The Mediterranean-style Bahia Resort Hotel is a perfect place to stay while visiting Mission Bay; it sits on a 14-acre peninsula that juts into the middle of tranquil Mission Bay. This in-demand vacation destination embodies all the reasons you visit San Diego in the first place. Take a free cruise on their Bahia Belle, a Mississippi-style sternwheeler, from right in front of the resort and get a look at all that the spectacular bay has to offer.
Mission Bay is jam-packed with action and adventure in the day-to-day, but it is also known for its events. Fiesta Island is a popular gathering spot for events like charity walks, runs, and bicycle races, as well as musical and other special events. Check out the event calendar for Fiesta Island during your visit, and you might just find a fun and unique way to spend a day. If you’re into sailing, be sure to check the Mission Bay Yacht Club’s calendar; they host sailing events and races year-round in both the bay and the Pacific Ocean. Mission Bay is also home to the Bayfair Cup, a large hydroplane boat race on the H1 Unlimited circuit. The city’s commitment to keeping the majority of Mission Bay open to the public makes it one of the most desirable neighborhoods in San Diego to visit.