Hangin’ In Nature’s Playground – Mission Bay Park, San Diego, CA

Our regular morning hike around Mission Bay

We’ve been hanging for about 2 months at our sweet spot right by the water in Mission Bay. Between frolicking in the water and playing in the sand time has flown by super-fast and I figure it’s way overdue for me tell you a little more about the area. This fabulous bay lies right smack in the middle of San Diego and is literally the largest man-made aquatic park in the country. At 4,235 acres (approx. half of which is water), it boasts 27 miles of shoreline and 19 miles of beach. It is a nature’s playground and you really want to come here…..you really do!

Here’s just a sprinkling of the fun

1/ The Best Trailer Park – In the WORLD?

Wouldn’t you want to live here?

Hidden on the NE corner of Mission Bay is De Anza Cove. This peachy prime piece of real estate may well be the oddest mistake in the history of the City of San Diego. It all started in 1953. The city (who’d been given the land “in trust” by the State) leased it to a developer who was supposed to create something nice for public use. Instead he decided on a trailer park and immediately got people to move in with their mobile homes (who wouldn’t want to live here?) with condition that the city got a little kick-back from the rents. Everyone was happy and a bayfront trailer community was born.

View of the trailer park from across the bay
Plenty of empty lots around here

Fast forward to 1980…the State steps in and is shocked to find this “public” land is being used for homes. They demand the City rectify the situation. The City is suddenly in the embarrassing position of trying to chuck out residents who’ve been happily settled in their water-front homes for over 30 years.

Technically they don’t own the land they live on, but no-one wants to move….oh no they don’t. It’s the beginning of a 30-plus year city-resident battle which is STILL going on today. Probably ~30% of the residents have been cajoled to jump ship and there are plenty of empty lots and run-down trailers to prove it, but the rest of them are sticking in their heels and frankly in THIS nice a spot, I would too. We spoke to a resident that told us they probably had a few more years before being truly forced to leave….maybe. Read the whole story here…it’s fascinating!

2/ Water Activities ‘Till You Drop

Paul and Polly play in the water

With half of the park in the blue there are no end of water activities you can do (did you catch the nifty rhyme I slipped in there?). You’ll find kite-surfers skimming the waves on the East side of Fiesta Island, water-skiers jumping ramps on the West side, kayakers and paddle-boarders paddling around the internal islands (there are special kayak-only Geocaches out there!), sailboats making the round and jet skies romping in their own spots. We can walk and drop a kayak in the bay right outside our RV park, or you can rent on the water from Aqua Adventures (which happen to be dog-friendly too!).

3/ Hiking, Biking, Sculpting Golfing & Water-Front Cocktails

One of the many “fitness” circles around the bay. We sculpt our bods right here, baby!

The Mission Bay Bike Trail is a 14-mile paved trail that loops around the entire Bay. Folks will hike it, bike it and run it almost any day of the week, and if you’re feeling particularly energetic you can even stop and pump out some pull-ups at one of the handy “fitness circles” along the way. If that doesn’t spark your fancy you can wander on over to the Golf Course for a few hours at the range or spend an afternoon on the 18-hole executive course. When all that’s exhausted you can park your behind on a grassy picnic table or drag your butt for a water-front cocktail at the Hilton.

4/ RV Beach-Docking & Dog-Hanging At Fiesta Island

You already know how much I love Fiesta Island, but I’m just going to drive that nail into the wall. This gorgeous island sits in the middle of the bay and is a 24-hour off-leash doggie-heaven area. Even horse-lovers get in on the action. On the east, north, west and interior it’s all open with an enormous (gigantic) fenced-in area on the SW side. Park the car, hike the interior trails, frolic in the water, or have a BBQ, fish and spend the whole day camped out on the sand….and every single minute of it completely free and off-leash baby!

Rigs parked on the NW beach at Fiesta. We’ve seen small C’s to huge Toy Haulers here.
Yes, we ARE the only South Dakotan’s on the beach today

What’s even better is you can bring the rig too. RVs of all sizes usually park on the wide, firm NW shore and if your tanks happen to need a dump there’s a free dump station right around the corner in bay too. You can park on the island from 4AM to 10PM, then you need move your “beast” to another parking spot anywhere around the bay (there are always rigs in the NE corner of the park) from 10PM to 2AM. Technically the only time you CAN’T boondock in Mission Bay is from 2AM to 4AM, but I’ve seen campers hanging out for a week at the same spot so I guess enforcement is not a City priority? Shhhhh….I didn’t say nothin’!

5/ And So Much More

Wonderful Mission Bay. Fiesta Island is #4 in the middle-right of the Bay

Although not technically part of the public park you’ve got Sea World on the Southern Bay, tons of boat launches, no end of picnic spots and even a model yacht pond. There are fitness groups and MeetUps that hang on the bay, and of course there’s Mission Bay RV Resort right at De Anza Cove with Campland By The Bay across the estuary. A total water-lovers playground with something for everyone, and everyone for something.

Can you tell why we love it here?

Another view down lovely De Anza Cove
Polly eyes some horses on the beach at Fiesta Island
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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do

  1. says

    Fascinating story about this area. Not sure what we would do. I admire those who are sticking to their beliefs. Crazy that that the “disagreement” has gone on this long. Looks like a lovely location and something to do for everyone. I hope those residents get to remain in their homes. ~wheresweaver

    • libertatemamo says

      I’m with you. I want this trailer park to stay….If I could buy a lot here I’d probably do it!

  2. says

    Very interesting. I can sure see why you have stayed so long. Who would want to move? What’s better than ocean front property at I assume a reasonable rate? Oh well I guess there are folks who like seclusionare and those mountain lovers. Me too, in that order, IF I can’t have an ocean outside my front door which sadly for me is usually the case.


    • libertatemamo says

      I totally agree! If I can get it I want either want water-front property or remote wilderness. We truly enjoy both.

  3. Samantha Butler says

    Looks heavenly! How come we didn’t see your ever-present male model ‘sculpting’ his body?

    • libertatemamo says

      Hehe…I tried to get him in the pic, but he was camera-shy about showing his “sculpts” on photo…LOL

  4. says

    Nina, I lived in PB and went to Mission Bay High School. I find Mission Bay very very busy. Seems crowded to me. When my wife and I were first married we lived on the water at the north end of Carlsbad. I think I lived that better. Ocean breeze and no nasty sewer spills that slide into Mission Bay all the time.

    • libertatemamo says

      I agree that the surrounding cities (OB and PB) are very busy, but I find Mission Bay itself very relaxing. Most mornings hiking by the bay outside the RV park I only meet a few folks, and the interior of Fiesta Island (where we go almost daily) is often completely deserted. The weekend brings out more people to the Bay, but I still consider this area a green oasis in the city.

  5. says

    Thank you for posting this. I just moved my RV to San Diego and I need places to boondock. Right now I’m parked on a street near the airport. Locals told me that I may wake to marked tires but wont be towed for three days. A online quick search confirmed it.

    I’ll paste the San Diego street parking regs below in case they’re useful to anyone else: http://www.sandiego.gov/parking/enforcement/rules.shtml

    Parking on public streets and alleys is regulated by the San Diego Municipal Code (PDF: 43K) and the California Vehicle Code.
    To report illegal parking in your neighborhood, call (619)531-2000.
    The following general provisions of law apply whether or not there are signs or curb markings present:
    No vehicle may be parked continuously at one location on any public roadway for more than 72 hours.

    Parking is prohibited in alleys, except for the purpose of actively unloading goods or passengers, unless the alley is specifically designated as an alley parking zone.

    Parking of heavy duty commercial vehicles is prohibited in residential areas, unless the vehicle is loading or unloading goods or has a service call in the immediate vicinity.

    Parking unattached semi-trailers or auxiliary dollies on any street is prohibited except while loading/unloading (camp or utility trailers not included).

    Parking is prohibited in an intersection or a crosswalk, within 15 feet of a fire station driveway or fire hydrant, in front of a public or private driveway, on a sidewalk or parkway, on the roadway side of a parked vehicle (double parking), in a bus stop, in a tunnel, upon a bridge (unless otherwise posted) or in such a manner that obstructs the free use of the street.

    Parking is prohibited in a center median strip, unless signs are posted permitting parking on the median.

    Parking is prohibited in front of a public or private driveway (even your own driveway).

    Wheel cramping is required on all grades over 3% (hills) with or without the presence of signs. Block your wheels diagonally against the curb by turning your wheels into the curb when facing downhill and out to the street when facing uphill.

    Be aware of signage when you park. Read all signs…they may include time frame restrictions and other parking guidelines.

    Street sweeping signs are posted in areas of the City where there is a routine street sweeping schedule. Parking is prohibited on the designated days for the entire time posted on the sign.

    • libertatemamo says

      Thanks for the links. Officially San Diego is actually even more restrictive of RV parking. Not only do they have the 72-hour rule, but you’re not supposed to overnight in your vehicle on the streets:

      From the San Diego Municipal Code:
      86.23 (f) It is unlawful for any person to use a vehicle while it is parked or standing on any street as either temporary or permanent living quarters, abode, or place of habitation either overnight or day by day.

      Now from everything I’ve seen and heard this law is very poorly enforced. I’ve seen lots of RVs on Fiesta Island during the day and overnighting (“stealth-docking”) in the streets at night. There’s also a long-standing legislation push for more rules against RVers (they’re calling it the “Oversize Vehicle Ordinance”), which hopefully won’t ever be passed, but has been cooking on the backburner for several years. Unfortunately it makes SD rather boondock-unfriendly.


  6. says

    Nina, thanks for the information on the “trailer park”. Hector and I were intrigued by those homes as we walked Angel out there a couple of times. I read the entire story, what a mess. I’m rooting for the homeowners too. Actually we thought some of the homes had been spruced up nicely.


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