Ocean Beach had a history of isolation and slow development, with carriage rides from downtown San Diego taking close to 2.5 hours in the late 1880s. At that time, Ocean Beach (O.B.), named by developers Billy Carlson and Frank Higgins, consisted of about 20 houses, one of which D.C. Collier purchased at age 16. Collier successfully promoted the area by creating a link to San Diego via the Point Loma Railroad, increasing the number of houses in 1910 to 100.
Growth continued when John D. Spreckels built a wooden bridge connecting Mission Beach, O.B., and downtown San Diego with a trolley line in 1915. Between the dredging and development of Mission Bay and removal of the Ocean Beach–Mission Beach Bridge, O.B. became isolated again from the early 1950s until I-8 was finished in 1967. A beach was created when a jetty was added between the Mission Bay and the San Diego River Channel. Locals and their leash-free dogs that used the area named it Dog Beach, and it became official in 1972 as one of the first dog leash-free beaches in the United States.
If taking a dog to Dog Beach, make sure that the dog is leashed until it is actually on the beach. Dogs must be leashed on the sidewalk or in the parking lot. Once on the beach, well-behaved dogs can be seen enjoying walks, runs, and splashing in the water. The owners are responsible for control and clean-up of their dogs. Standard dog laws are strictly enforced once off Dog Beach.
Or, take a 7.5-mile bike ride from the Voltaire St. parking lot on the Ocean Beach Bike Path to the baseball fields at the end of Hotel Circle Place and back. Watch for people walking on the path and encampments under the bridges and near the baseball fields. There are picnic tables before reaching the fields that have native plants labeled in the area. Once past the park and turning onto the road near the fields look up into the trees where there may be active hawk nests, depending on the season.
A third option is walking a mile south to the Ocean Beach Municipal Pier. Either walk by the water or walk east on Brighton Avenue, turning south on Abbott Street, and then continue on to the steps up the pier. To bypass the steps, turn east on Newport Avenue, then go abruptly up the alley located between the parking lot and the South Beach Bar & Grill to Niagara Avenue before turning west where no steps are needed. The O.B. pier, built in 1966, is the longest concrete pier on the West Coast at close to half a mile. At the end of the pier, there is a section that runs parallel to the beach that is a good place to watch the surfers, pelicans, and waves crashing during high tides. Enjoy this slower-paced beachfront area.
Distance from downtown San Diego: 8 miles. Allow 20 minutes driving time. From I-5N merge onto I-8W following signs to Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, turning left with slight right to remain on Sunset Cliffs Boulevard. Take a right on Voltaire Street to the parking lot. Finding parking in San Diego is normally not a problem before 10 a.m., even at Balboa Park unless there is a special event. That applies here also.
Hiking length: Mileage dependent on destination(s).
Difficulty: Easy with less than 50 feet elevation loss/gain. Dogs without leashes are allowed on Dog Beach 24/7, though the leash law applies in surrounding areas and sidewalks. Facilities at the other end of the parking lot.