The Palos Verdes Peninsula – A Family Delight

Genie Davis October 1, 2010 No Comments


Whether you live in Los Angeles or you’re from out of town, the Palos Verdes Peninsula makes a wonderful excursion for the whole family. 

Starting at the edge of the peninsula closest to Redondo Beach, you’ll find the beach known to locals as RAT just north of Malaga Cove off of Palos Verdes Drive West. RAT stands for Redondo at Torrance. A beautiful view of the entire Santa Monica Bay from Malibu to Redondo is yours from a white wooden gazebo at the top of the parking lot; an easy but somewhat steep trail winds from an unlocked gate adjoining the gazebo down to the rocky shore. Hold the hands of your little ones and hit the beach – uncrowded, with great rock climbing for all ages and pebble finding; gentle waves, and surfers to watch on their long boards. There is a life guard tower but no food or bathroom facilities at this location. 

If the climb back to the parking lot has made you hungry, less than a mile away you’ll find the Malaga General Store and sandwich shop – pick up a picnic and head for Pt. Vicente less than ten minutes further around the peninsula’s curve. This lovely park with picnic benches and a stunning view of the ocean cliffs that looks more like Big Sur than Los Angeles is right next to the Pt. Vicente Lighthouse, which is open once a month for tours, and is always a great view. The park area is open, pleasant, and fenced, a great place for kids. 

The Point Vicente Lighthouse is an often painted landmark, and a famous navigational aid marking the far end of the Catalina Channel on the coast. Kids will enjoy listening to the fog horn sound, and if you’re there at sunset you’ll enjoy a look at the brightest light in Southern California. It burns a brilliant thousand watts from a one hundred and eighty five foot height. When the lighthouse is open to the public, be aware that there are many steps to climb to get to the top; however the area at the base of the lighthouse is a fun, grassy meadow to explore and stroll in and of itself. 

After your picnic, head on over to the Interpretive Center. Featuring well crafted, museum quality exhibits on the history of the Peninsula, both geographic and historic, the center has excellent interactive exhibits concerning the Pacific gray whale. Why? Because as well as exhibit space, the center serves as one of the best whale watch sites in SoCal. You’ll have fantastic opportunities to see the annual migration of the Pacific gray whale, from December through April. Bring your binoculars to report a sighting, or just train your eyes – at certain times you’ll seem the enormous whales breach not far off the point. 

A little further down West Palos Verdes Drive is Terranea Resort, an upscale property built on the old, and missed, Marineland site. This elegant, 582 room resort is a great place for a weekend get away if you’d like, or keeping it as a day trip, just a pleasant stop with great views, grassy lawns, and a charming cafe with ocean views which has a full kids menu including pasta and pizza that are reasonably priced, especially considering the peaceful, luxurious atmosphere. If you should opt to spend the night, there are pools of varied sizes, and the main area has a water slide. You can get a glimpse of Catalina Island on a clear day. 

A bit further down the road, on the left hand side you’ll reach the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Wayfarer’s Chapel. Chapel Architect Lloyd Wright, son of the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, created this popular wedding site as a natural sanctuary in a forest setting. The trees visible through the glass walls of the building create a feeling of being right there in the woods. The chapel snuggles in a grove of tall redwood trees, and its small size is a perfect spot to lead your children in a moment of contemplation. The kids will enjoy the beauty both inside and out – three and a half acres of rose gardens, grassy space and more ocean views await. Note that weddings are scheduled every other hour on weekends so you may have to wait a bit on the grounds before enjoying the inside of the chapel. 

Palos Verdes View, California - from Wayfarer's Chapel

Our Palos Verdes Coastal view taken from Wayfarer's Chapel grounds

Ready to keep driving? Abalone Cove Shoreline Park has two open and usually pretty deserted sandy beaches with tide pools and viewing areas spread along the top of the bluffs. Easy parking, but a fairly long, if easy trail down to the beach. If you continue walking along the beach away from the parking lot you may get lucky enough to see an impromptu mosaic made of beach rocks. Area residents – or area artists – often create mini-mazes of sun, moon, or flowers from the rocks; we’ve never been in the area without seeing one or several and the kids will love these! 

But, back in the car! Just a few minute away you’ll find Trump National Golf Course. Open to the public, a lovely grassy park with more picnic tables, sparkling restroom facilities – it is a Trump property – and a snack shop for deserts, smoothies or fries – you’ll find a pleasant paved stroll from the golf course area over a small wooden bridge, past natural meadows with wildflowers in season. We often spot a bunny or two around this area. Locals stroll or jog. Another option is a steep path (you will have to carry your smaller charges) down to the waters edge. This beach leads directly back to Abalone Cove if you point your steps to the right (and walk for about half an hour). Tide pools are directly below the park area, and have excellent sea life at low tide. 

Flowers in Palos Verdes, California

Spring flowers near Trump National Golf Course, Palos Verdes

You’ll find even more excellent sea life on display a little farther down the road in San Pedro, and some interesting cultural landmarks which I’ll describe in my next blog…until then, enjoy the views!

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Genie Davis is a multi-published fiction author, screen and TV writer, and travel writer. If it was possible, she'd like to spend every day traveling.

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