Mission Bay Park, the largest facility of its kind in the world at 4,600 acres, provides many free recreational activities for visitors in addition to refuge for wildlife in seven wildlife preserves.
Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo named Mission Bay False Bay in 1542 when he discovered a vast tidal marsh that sometimes confused sailers into believing it was the larger San Diego Bay to the south. A massive dredging effort in the 1960’s transformed what was once a sprawling swampy wetland into a major tourist attraction and massive playground for both visitors and local San Diego residents.
Water activities are plentiful on Mission Bay Park’s 27 miles of bayfront and 17 miles of oceanfront beaches — Mission Beach and Pacific Beach. Separate designated areas are provided for swimming, fishing and sailing and power boating. Free sporting events at Mission Bay include professional volleyball, jetski, over-the-line and waterski competitions and exhibitions.
Where to stay
Vacation rentals are available in all three communities with more funky, laid back accommodations in Mission Beach and Pacific Beach and more moderately priced or luxury accommodations in Mission Bay. Mission Bay and Pacific Beach Hotels and resorts are also available in a variety of price ranges. Book early because this is San Diego’s most popular vacation area. In addition to a Visitor’s Information Center with an RV pump-out station, Mission Bay Park has children’s play areas, picnic shelters, barbecues, fire rings, basketball courts, sand volleyball courts and a horseshoe court. There are bicycle and walking paths throughout the park all free to the public. Swimming areas are staffed with lifeguards during summer months and rest rooms and showers are also available.
Fiesta Island in Mission Bay Park — shown in the 360° panorama to the left — is a nesting place for many birds including the house finch, horned lark, western meadowlark and mourning dove. The wildlife preserves at Mission Bay are home to a number of endangered species including the Least Tern, light-footed clapper rail and Belding’s Savannah Sparrow. Lots of other kinds of birds can be seen throughout the year at Mission Bay park including the great blue heron, many species of duck, loons, osprey and egrets.
One of the most popular places at Mission Bay to enjoy wildlife is the famous SeaWorld San Diego theme park. Be sure to visit my SeaWorld page and my Mission Beach and Belmont Park page for the full Mission Bay San Diego experience.