Southern California's Secret Cruising Spots

Southern California has a reputation for a lack of variety when it comes to cruising destinations. Still, quite a few spots are easily accessible and can provide a welcome change of scenery. Quantum Sails’ Eric Heim, a San Diego resident, keeps his 34-foot family cruiser in Point Loma, so we tapped him for some ideas on Southern California cruising.

Stingray Point in Glorietta Bay on Coronado Island

This is an anchorage that can get a little busy during the summer but offers a different vibe while staying in San Diego Bay. Right off the golf course and with a great view of the Hotel Del Coronado, Stingray Point has a nice sandy bottom for easy holding. There is a big shelf off the beach which means the water stays warmer here later into the season (and also the reason you need to do the stingray shuffle if going ashore). This is a great spot if you have a dog, as the sandy beach is publicly accessible and off-leash friendly. My kids always like to grab an ice cream cone at the Hotel Del for another land-based activity.

Mariner’s Cove, Mission Bay

Just around Point Loma is Mission Bay, and on the west side of the channel is Mariner’s Cove. There is a large mooring field for permanent occupants of the cove but plenty of room to anchor and enjoy everything Pacific Beach has to offer. The historic Big Dipper rollercoaster is just across the street, and many dining options are within walking distance. Take the dinghy or a paddle board under the bridge to explore Mission Bay in the morning before the breeze comes up.

Dana Point

This one is hardly a secret spot, but I have included it since it is centrally located for anyone traveling up and down the coast or looking for a jumping-off point to Catalina Island. This harbor used to be laid back, but it has been getting a significant overhaul for the last couple of years and is becoming much more upscale − with prices to match. I recommend the anchorage just under the point at the west end of the harbor; it has picturesque views and spectacular sunsets. Turk’s, the best waterfront dive bar south of Point Conception is also a short dinghy ride to the public dock, where the ferry arrives at the harbor's east end. It’s a great spot for people-watching, food, and drinks.

Cherry Cove in Two Harbors on Catalina Island

When I was in my 20s, I always wanted to be closest to the pier at Two Harbors. Now I am much happier to be out in the furthest spot to the west at Cherry Cove. It’s much quieter than the isthmus proper but still an easy dinghy ride in to grab supplies. Great snorkeling along all the edges of the cove keeps the whole family entertained. It is also generally warmer here than in the main harbor as the local wind pattern funneling over the low ground from the weather side of the island can be pretty chilly in the afternoon.

Classified Location on Catalina Island

I will keep this one a bit closer to the chest and NOT tell you where it is. But I will tell you it is a small cove up near the west end of the island and there are no moorings, so it requires a bow-and-stern anchor setup as well as expert boat handling. It is my favorite place to sit onboard and read a book as it is always tranquil. We try to drop the hook here for ten days in early August. If you want to stop by and see what old-school Catalina is like, look for the boat with the blue mast and sunburned kids swimming around!

Request a quote

The Discussion