The hidden treasures of seaside San Pedro
The Corner Store, in San Pedro, California, a great spot to grab a sandwich and one of their many exotic sodas. (Jonah Flicker)
The picturesque seaside community of San Pedro is nestled at the end of the Harbor Freeway, about 25 miles south of downtown Los Angeles, but for how infrequently it is visited by tourists, or even residents of the city, it might as well be in another state.
It is not clear why locals prefer the crowds on Malibu and Santa Monica's beaches and in the shops of Beverly Hills and the hipster enclaves of Silver Lake, Los Feliz and Echo Park. But that is all the more reason to take a trip down to under-appreciated San Pedro.
Located between the coastal cities of Ranchos Palos Verdes and Long Beach, the town is, among other things, the birthplace of influential 1980s punk rockers the Minutemen, one of America's most important working ports, and a demographically diverse blue-collar mix of Latino, Croatian and Italian immigrants. Another colourful resident is the wild peacock, found walking around San Pedro's residential areas alerting neighbours to its presence with eerie cries and exuberant plumage.
The city’s main public beach is Cabrillo, but there are hidden inlets to explore for snorkelling and scuba diving. Christmas Tree Cove is one of these hidden spots, a beautiful rocky beach just south of Lunada Bay that requires a steep hike down to the water. Even during the height of summer, a cool breeze and misty fog often roll in over the pristine oceanside cliffs, offering a respite from the smothering desert heat that blankets the city farther inland.
Downtown San Pedro, often used as a filming location for movies and TV shows, has had its ups and downs as the US economy has stumbled. In spite of, or perhaps because of this, a thriving arts community has taken hold near the historic Warner Grand Theater. Every first Thursday of the month, artists host an Artwalk and Open Studios evening on 6th and 7th Streets, during which visitors can pop in to check out their work.
Los Angeles is known for its vintage clothing stores and thrift shops, and San Pedro has several worth checking out. Threads of Time (446 W 6th St, 310-833-0568) has hard-to-find vintage apparel, while Cheap Vintage Inc has a huge inventory of bargain clothing and some notably racy mannequins in its window display. If you are looking for antiques, Best of Times (415 W 6th St, 310-514-3750) is a cavernous mall divided into sections for individual vendors to hawk their wares.
If all this shopping makes you thirsty, stop by the British pub-themed Whale & Ale in the downtown area for a pint of Boddingtons and perhaps some fish and chips. However, if you are feeling adventurous and looking for a more authentic bar-hopping experience, San Pedro has some of the grittiest and most colourful dives in all of Los Angeles. The longshoremen vibe, stale beer smell, and sparse décor of a joint like Harold's Place (1908 S Pacific Ave, 310-832-5503) might seem intimidating at first, but a shot of Jameson and a Budweiser will soon take care of that. The Indian Room (952 S Pacific Ave, 310-514-3511) is another classic watering hole, complete with a friendly bartender who seems to have no problem keeping pace with her customers even if it means she might spill a cocktail every now and then or miss a glass with the soda sprayer. Godmothers offers some nightlife competition with live music throughout the week and a vintage nautical theme.