If Shelter Island seems overly familiar to you, then try visiting this artificial “island” (or shall we say, peninsula, which is technically more correct) at either the opening or the closing of any clear day. That’s when magic occurs with the sun, and sometimes the moon.
First, let’s mention some of the island’s history and features. From early origins as a muddy shoal, the island was built up as dry land through dredging operations in San Diego Bay in the 1930s and ’40s. By the 1950s, development was under way, and the island assumed its present persona as a shoreline resort destination, with hotels, restaurants, marinas, and a linear stretch of parkland about a mile long that features one of the finest walking paths in town. Over the years, several pieces of public art have been installed alongside that path. They include the Tunaman’s Memorial (a bronze sculpture of tuna fishers in action); the Yokohama Friendship Bell (a gift from the City of Yokohama, Japan); and two monumental sculptures at opposite ends of the island — Pacific Portal and Pearl of the Pacific — by local artist James Hubbell.
Shelter Island’s maritime eye-candy includes hundreds of boats at anchor, most of which are associated with the Silvergate, Southwestern, and San Diego yacht clubs. The shoreline is a favored spot to view Fourth of July fireworks over San Diego Bay and December’s holiday lights boat parade.
From an astronomical standpoint, Shelter Island is visually sweet because it lies three to four miles due west of and straight across the bay from downtown San Diego’s skyscrapers. I’d recommend taking a walk on the island path during either sunrise or sunset. In September/October (and also in March), the rising sun’s rays thread their way through gaps between the distant buildings. The setting sun during those same months sends reflections off of any glass or metal surface in the downtown area, and the skyline “burns” with a fiery glow.
On several occasions this year, the rising of the full moon accompanies the sunset, and for September’s full moon, at least, the moon’s alignment over the skyline is just about perfect. Check out this month’s full moon rise on Thursday, September 23, at around 6:45 p.m. Similar moonrises near the time of sunset occur on October 22 at around 5:50 p.m.; November 21 at around 4:50 p.m.; and December 20 at around 4:30 p.m.
Catch some of SD’s best sunrises, sunsets, and moonrises from Shelter Island’s shoreline path.
Distance from downtown San Diego: 5 miles
Hiking length: 2 miles