LA - Marineland

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Submitted By:
Phil Garner

Submitter Comments:
Marineland has a lot to offer, but is not known as a producer of many large bugs. There are a few here and there. The landslide caused by the Ocean Trails golf course has temporarily ruined a lot of diving in the area between Abalone Cove and White Point. Try diving here after a few days of Santana winds. The diving from White Point to Pt Fermin is mostly 20-40' with sand, rocks and kelp. Visibility can be good a few days out of the year, but it averages between five feet to fifteen feet most of the time.

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12/25/2013 Phil Garner (Avg: 3.45 Review) - The best diving at Marineland can only be reached by boat, or a long swim to and from the Point. Buchanan's Reef extends from the west side of the property out to eighty feet of water. The rocky reef reaches thirty feet off the bottom in places. Kelp, anemones, rockfish and nudibranches blanket the entire reef. Buchanan's is also a great spot to find anchors. The rocky bottom has a long history of capturing ground tackle from the myriad of fishing boats that used to frequent the site. When diving Buchanan's it is always a good idea to move your anchor to a sandy area at the beginning of your dive.
N33 44.015 W118 24.155
Marineland of the Pacific opened to the general public on August 27th, 1954. Over the next thirty-three years it provided fun and education for millions. After years of financial hardship and several ownership changes, Harcourt, Brace, and Jovanovich, owners of Sea World purchased the property and promised to keep the park open. They closed it on February 11, 1987, six weeks after the sale was complete, moving most of the animals to their park in San Diego. Because it was no longer legal to capture Orcas in the wild, Sea World needed to find its performing killer whales elsewhere. Orky and Corky, the stars of Marineland were renamed Shamu and Namu.
The lot at Long Point sat deserted for the next two decades. Only the Catalina Room, the former Marineland Restaurant remained open for weddings and banquets until 2004. I began diving shortly after Marineland closed. On most days I had the only car in the parking lot. In 1990 more divers appeared thanks to an article in the California Diving News. Marineland soon became one of the more popular dive sites of Los Angeles County.
Diving Marineland is not a walk in the park. Entry and exit can be challenging, if not hazardous. The cobbles in the cove shift with every storm, making a once easy entry difficult. Even on calm days, the wet rocks and surge will knock down the most sure-footed diver. If you haven't crawled out of the water onto rocks while waves slam you down and pull you back in, you haven't dived here enough. Many divers have suffered broken bones here, even in benign conditions. Exiting requires baby steps. Wait for a lull in the water movement and then take small steps toward the shore. Once out of the water, keep moving to higher ground.
Some days are not diveable. Three feet of surf is not bad at many sites, but can be hazardous at Marineland. Even if you were to make it out, surge and low visibility would make a bad dive even more dangerous. When the sea is calm, Marineland offers some of the best diving in Southern California.
In June 2009 Terranea Resort opened on the former Marineland site. Although the diving can still be spectacular as well as challenging, amenities on the shore are much improved. A public parking lot leads to graded trails down to the water. Restrooms, snack bar and a fresh water shower are located midway to the cove.
From the cove, the closest reef is known as the Garden. It was once an urchin barren but thanks to divers removing the urchins it is now a thriving kelp forest. Depths range from zero to thirty-five feet, making the Garden an ideal shallow dive or a great swim-through on your way back from the Point. Garibaldis, calico bass and other typical reef fish are found here. Look closely in holes and cracks for shrimp, octopus and small blennies. Anemones, gorgonian, sponges and Christmas tree worms cover most rocks here. Schooling fish frequent the edge of the kelp, while bat rays and angel sharks can be found in the sand nearby.
I found a tiny pink abalone on a rock here. After feeding it a kelp frond on most dives it grew to over eight inches. Until recently it was on the same rock for more than ten years. As of January 1, 2012 the entire coastline of Marineland out to three miles is a Marine Protected Area. It will soon be as pristine as it was when Marineland first opened.
East of the cove is a reef commonly referred to as the 120 Reef due to its location from the beach. It extends offshore to about forty-five feet. The 120 Reef is home to kelp, sponges, feather duster worms and many sunflower stars. Many divers choose to dive this reef due to its proximity to shore. It is only a ten minute surface swim here compared to the twenty-five minute swim to the Point.
The sandy plains surrounding Marineland can be interesting to explore. Jellies, giant sea bass, torpedo rays and mantis shrimp share the sandbox with sea pens, globe crabs and snails. It's a worthwhile diversion to check out the sand away from the reefs.
Diving at the Point is what makes Marineland an incredible dive site. Boulders and pinnacles are home to a variety of invertebrates, but the Point is best known for its nudibranchs. I have found seventeen species on one dive here.
The best diving is at the south end of the reef in sixty to seventy feet. You can enter from the Point or make the one quarter mile swim from the cove. On calm days divers prefer the shorter swim. In the shallow water near the cement piling at the Point lie the remains of the Newbern. It ground into the shallow rocks near shore on October 14, 1893. Only a few pieces of rusty iron remain near the piling, with some chain and anchor in thirty feet off the southeast corner of the Terranea Hotel. Because Marineland lies on a point, currents can be common here. Diving at slack tide is recommended, but great conditions can be found at any time. There is deep water offshore, so the constant upwelling keeps the water several degrees colder than sites with little relief such as Laguna Beach. It is not uncommon to have a ten degree difference on the same day. Visibility ranges from near zero during moderate surf to well over thirty feet on the best days.
Long Point N33 44.073 W118 23.890
Offshore from the 120 Reef is the Marineland Platform. The platform was a floating steel dock that was originally dumped in fifty feet of water south of the cove. It was first discovered by divers Jim McCabe and Christian Lopez on February 6, 2005 while searching for the 120 Reef. They were told there was a reef in forty-five feet outside the cove, but didn't have the heading. When I asked them for the location they each had different ideas of where it was. I narrowed it down to a few square acres and made several searches before locating it. After tying cave line from the platform to the Garden it became a new site for beach divers to enjoy.
The steel structure is home to corynactis anemones, nudibranchs, crabs and scorpionfish. The wooden deck was rotted but still provided surface for a small kelp forest and a rest stop for a large halibut. I had to replace the line a few times, and then one day the platform itself was missing. Gary Fabian, who had located the UB88 in 2003, used the same sidescan technology to find the platform. It had been snagged by a squid boat, and then dragged 800 yards eastward. It now sat in over eighty feet off the 120 Reef, minus the wooden deck. A few years later it was once again snagged and moved by another squid boat. This time it was spun around and now sits at eighty feet from its last resting place. Nets covered the entire structure, trapping squid and any bird or fish that swam into it. We cut the net to allow the squid to escape, then notified Kurt Lieber, founder of the Ocean Defenders Alliance. He and his volunteers removed most of the net, making it safe for divers and marine life again. Merry Passage and I placed a buoy on the site to discourage fishermen from dropping nets here and to help divers locate it. N33 44.150 W118 23.438

07/08/2011 Jason NYC (Avg: 3.52 Review) - I first came to this site over six years ago when goats roamed freely, remnants of the old Marineland park buildings were still around, and it was much more rugged and natural. I returned last weekend to meet a bunch of nice divers from the Dive Vets group out of Redondo beach. Well, it has changed a bit. A new resort and golf courses have now replaced the more natural landscape but the good news is the resort is lovely and friendly to divers allowing full access to bathrooms, a paved trail to the cove and a public parking area. The cove at the bottom of the path is also a lively place to bring bubble watchers. As for the trip down to the cove, it is very long with steps galore. After you get to the cove then you have some boulders to get over and at times surf can make this down right dangerous so pick a calm day a observe the conditions from above. Once in the water you can surface swim or descend and go to the edge of the kelp bed following a heading of 120 to one of two sites called 120 reef. You can also enter to the right at the point but that is a killer IMHO. Expect anywhere from 3 to 15 feet if viz in general. The kelp is lovely and nudibranchs are plentiful as well as all of the other normal SoCal critters like crabs, lobster, sun stars, sea stars and geribaldis and sometimes seals and sea lions. I always sea pods of dolphin jumping beyond the kelp beds on the surface and bat rays and sharks have also been sited regularly but not by me yet. I think it is as close as one can get to diving Catalina Island from the shore in LA. The real hard part of this dive is the trip back up to the parking lot after the dive! Enjoy but take it slow and stop and rest if you need to.

04/25/2010 Kazu (Avg: 3.33 Review) - Low vis, tough entry and exit, long walk to and from dive site, lots of surge and current. Diving Marine Land...Priceless!

02/07/2009 Frank Lukowski (Avg: 3.57 Review) - The majority of my post certification dives has been here at marineland. There is two different dive spots at marineland and they are both very different. 120 reef is on the far south side of the dive site. It is called 120 reef because you take a 120 compass heading after swimming directly out from the cobblestone beach. At 120 reef you can find a variety of animals and plant life on small reefs in about 20-35ft. As far as fish, I've seen opaleye, blacksmith, garabaldi, sheephead, barracuda, senorita, baitfish, treefish, and various types of rockfish. Nudibranchs can also be found here and I have personally seen Yellow Dorids and Spanish Shawls. Long Point is the second dive site located at marineland and is more for the advanced to intermediate diver. In order to get to the Long Point dive site you must either enter at the north point 'Long Point' or take a 15-20 min. surface swim from the cobblestone beach. After getting out past Long Point, you should look for a storm drain grate and metal pole. Descend about 150 feet out in about 35 feet of water between the metal pole and storm drain grate that can be seen from shore. Once you descend, dial in 180 degrees and head down till you hit 55-65ft of water. In this area you'll find large pinnacles which are covered in life. In the 35-45ft range there are still some pinnacles but are less numerous and not as large. Long Point is where you get the TRUE marineland experience. Here you'll find all the normal reef suspects of the 120 reef but also blue banded gobi's, black eyed gobi's, LingCod, Cabazon and a multitude of Nudibranch's. On one dive I've heard of people seeing more then 14 varieties of nudibranchs! Personally my record has been only four, including Spanish Shawls, Yellow Dorids, Porter's Chromodorids, and Hermi's. Long Point is a great site which cannot be passed up by any So Cal diver. Certain things must be noted though. Do not attempt a dive at Marineland in high surf! The cobblestone shores and rocky entries are deadly in anything larger the 1-2ft swells. Even 2ft swells can be difficult to manage here. Long Point is also notorious for strong currents. Be careful and be safe.

05/30/2008 Frank Lukowski (Avg: 3.37 Review) - First Late Spring / Early Summer dive and it was great. Lots of ground critters and high amounts of opal eye, kelp bass, Black Surfperch and senoritas. A few Garibaldis and Halfmoons were around, but were extremely skittish. Visibility went from 5-15 ft on the southern point to over 30ft on the outer shelf. Great dive, will be back soon.

01/09/2008 Kenny R (Avg: 2.87 Review) - Went diving with the DiveVets on New Years day. Parking lot is at the end of Nantasket Drive. Viz was about 15 feet. Almost no surf at all. The long hike is not that bad. Saw a 5ft Angel Shark!! If you go there and the chain is blocking access to the parking lot, go to the front of what used to be OML (Resort being built) and ask the security guard to unlock everything as this site is supposed to be unlocked during the day time.

08/29/2005 Jeff P (Avg: 2.88 Review) - My buddy Brandon and I planned an early morning beach dive to Old Marine Land only to find half a dozen other divers in the water and a few others crawling out. I can't believe how early these guys get out there! Went to the beach to check things out and see what side the beach would have been best for diving. The word was NEITHER! Divers that were in the water for fewer than 5 minutes were back out again. It was reported that the visibility was below 3 feet and the surge was extremely strong. With our ladies in tow, we headed out towards Redondo Beach to see if things were going better. Arrived at Vet's Park and the word was that diving was okay! We found the visibility was decent, 15' at best. No surge and truly easy entry and exit from the surf… There's not that much life on the sandy bottom, but if you lost your scuba pro fin strap, we saw it at about 45'.

06/22/2005 Brian in LA (Avg: 3.47 Review) - First time to marineland and won't be the last. Entered at the cove and nav'd out into the kelp. Lots of stars, nudi's, garibaldi, kelpbass, surfperch and a HUGE crab!!!!! Had to be 3ft across eating a nudi. Amazing, but the surf kicked in and vis diminished. I love this place. Can't wait to get back.

02/09/2005 Jason NYC (Avg: 3.59 Review) - When I visited this site the first time I couldn't believe that such lovely places existed in America! It really is a picture perfect spot. As mentioned in other reviews, access is only permitted from 9-4pm and security guards on site may ask what you are doing. Just say you are there for "coastal access." It looks like construction is about to start up again after many years so dive it now before beach access is halted. I actually saw a group of free roaming sheep and goats both times I was here. Insane! A somewhat long hike in gear to the rocky/pebble cove beach area brings you to the water along a sloping sand path. It is best to bring a friend who has done this before because surf can be high and hard. Picking the right place to enter is key here. Too much surf caused me to abort my dive attempt on the first trip here. Watch out for very sharp pieces of an old pier sticking out of the water at the cove entry. They can only be seen during low tide. Free parking and security but no bathrooms or any other facilities. Dolphins, Sea Lions and more here! I really felt like I was diving from some remote beach in another country, but I live in NYC so...

12/21/2004 Kimberly Woods (Avg: 4.12 Review) - This spot truly feels like you are diving in an aquarium but only when the surf is down and the visibility is great. If not, the water remains very cloudy when the surf is up. There are great shallow areas to check out at the point but the current can be strong. At the southern end, it is calmer and easier to enter the water, although it is rocky. Some of the cool reef are farther out from the natural cave on shore but be prepared for a long swim. These reefs have some unusual critters and occasionally you can come across a mantis shrimp and some seal lions. If you're entering at the beach, keep an eye out for the few pilings that remain of the old Marineland pier. If the conditions were consistently great, I would dive this spot everyday.

11/11/2003 Peter Wansick (Avg: 3.27 Review) - Went to Marineland today, gates open between 9 and 4, make sure you are out by 4 or you will be locked in. The walk down the dirt road and entry over the rocks were a little rough, definitely not for the beginner or weak. The best diving is off to the right (north) once in the water and clear of the rocks the diving was great. Visibility was around 25 feet. Lots of fish and plant life, like swimming in an aquarium. Saw a couple small lobster and two big ones but couldn't get my hands on them. Another guy there with a spear gun came back with a nice bag of fish. Nice dive, I will be back again.


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*  Sandeaters' description -- Sandeaters maintains a good website on this and other Southern California dive sites.


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Special thanks to Kenny R!
Aerial.
Submitted by Kenny R



Special thanks to Kenny R!
Aerial.
Submitted by Kenny R



Special thanks to Kenny R!
The rocky entry.
Submitted by Kenny R



Special thanks to Phil Garner!
Marineland.
Submitted by Phil Garner



Special thanks to Phil Garner!
Marineland.
Submitted by Phil Garner



Special thanks to Phil Garner!
Marineland.
Submitted by Phil Garner



Special thanks to Phil Garner!
Marineland.
Submitted by Phil Garner



Special thanks to Phil Garner!
Marineland.
Submitted by Phil Garner



Special thanks to Phil Garner!
Marineland.
Submitted by Phil Garner



Special thanks to Phil Garner!
Marineland.
Submitted by Phil Garner



Special thanks to Phil Garner!
Marineland.
Submitted by Phil Garner



Special thanks to Phil Garner!
Marineland.
Submitted by Phil Garner



Special thanks to Phil Garner!
Marineland.
Submitted by Phil Garner



Special thanks to Phil Garner!
NewYearsEveEve.
Submitted by Phil Garner



Special thanks to Phil Garner!
OurLadyoftheGarden.
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Special thanks to Phil Garner!
RedondoNightDive21.
Submitted by Phil Garner



Special thanks to Phil Garner!
RedondoNightDive12.
Submitted by Phil Garner


 

Diver Averages for  LA - Marineland  (1=worst, 5=best)


Average Site Condition

Ease of Shore Entry:  2.27
Bottom Conditions:  3.18
Reef Conditions:  4.00
Animal Life:  4.09
Plant Life:  4.18
Facilities:  2.09
Solitude 2.45
Roads:  3.18
*Site Average:  3.40
   

Average Enjoyment Level

Snorkel:  3.27
Beginner Scuba:  3.00
Intermediate Scuba:  3.82
Advanced Scuba:  3.82
Night diving Scuba:  2.91

Number of reviews for this site: 11

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