Photo by Ron Donoho


The recreational feature that instantaneously comes to my mind in the naturally formed downtown Big Bay is the Coronado Ferry. Every day, tourists and locals load themselves—and oftentimes, bikes—onto wooden boats with old school charm that cruise back and forth from downtown San Diego to the Coronado Ferry Landing. It's a blissful, 20-minute ride that allows passengers to relax and take in the urban waterfront experience of San Diego Bay. Out on the ferry you share the bay with cruise ships, tugboats, cargo freighters, sailboats, jet skis and kayaks. You can steal a glance at the historic vessels that make up the Maritime Museum, or see what's happening on one of the Embarcadero Parks (maybe the San Diego Food & Wine Festival, or a Summer Pops concert). Once you feel your sea legs under you, it might be time to book a Hornblower whale watching tour or climb aboard the Patriot Jet Boat, which will get passengers wet while it does doughnuts or climbs to speeds of 50 miles per hour. Welcome to the bay by the city.

Photo by David Brandenburg


Mission Bay is hands-on. Located south of Pacific Beach, it's part of the largest man-made aquatic park in the country (4,235 acres). There are no cruise ships or giant seafaring vessels. When the weather is optimal (which means almost always) the bay is filled with personal watercraft, and people wakeboarding, jet skiing, kite surfing and sailing. Oh, and look for the folks using those new water-powered jetpacks. There are multitudes of waterways, inlets and islets to explore. The area is also popular with birders, with Mission Bay being home to several rare and endangered species. A day hanging out on Mission Bay most likely includes fun in the water paired with time on the beach or in a grassy park. Picnics, barbecues and bonfires right by the bay are the norm. And along a three-mile coastal boardwalk—where people walk, run, bike and skateboard—there are plenty of bars, restaurants and surf shops to sample. Mission Bay swells with tourists during the summer season, and SeaWorld is also here, but at its heart this is a laid-back resort town with an attitude that encourages everybody to get in and enjoy the water.



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