In many ways, Dockweiler State Beach is the epitome of old-school California. Its four miles of sandy shoreline almost make you forget that you’re in one of the most densely-populated areas in America.
Isidore B. Dockweiler was a native Californian who died in 1947. That was right before the state experienced phenomenal growth. Mr. Dockweiler was politically and socially active. He was on the 1902 gubernatorial ticket and also served as one of the first presidents of the Los Angeles County Library. Today, the State of California and Los Angeles County jointly administer the beach that bears his name.
Visitors enjoy a wide range of activities at this state beach, including swimming, surfing, boating, and birding. Be advised, however, that the park is located directly under a Los Angeles International Airport flight path. Some RVers have said that the gentle drone is quite soothing; others say bring earplugs. Either way, the scenery is California at its best, with the rugged coastal mountains giving way to the expanse of warm sand at the ocean's edge. Flight path or not, it's easy to see why this beach is so popular.
Dockweiler State Beach is between Playa Del Rey and El Segundo at the intersection of Vista Del Mar and the Century/Imperial Freeway (I- 105). If you’re at the junction of the San Diego Freeway (I-405) and the Century Freeway, go about three miles west until you almost plunge into the ocean. If you go around Christmas, you’ll pass right by Candy Cane Lane. This spot is one of the best holiday lights displays in the Inglewood/Culver City/Santa Monica area. Due to the park's Los Angeles location, you can almost count on traffic jams, so consider this when planning your itinerary.
There are two large parking lots and one smaller lot immediately north of the main entrance. Additional parking, which probably won’t be necessary because these lots are huge, is located near the Youth Center and at the Grand/Vista Del Mar intersection. Altogether, there are over 1,200 parking spots at Dockweiler State Beach.
The 625 bus stops at the Pershing/Imperial station. The station is at the corner of (you guessed it) Pershing and the Imperial Highway. That’s about a quarter-mile east of Dockweiler State Beach. Also, Beach Cities Transit 109 stops at the corner of Imperial and Main. That location is about a half-mile farther east of Pershing/Imperial.
The campground at Dockweiler Beach offers 118 RV-friendly sites, 84 of which are right on the beach. Each site can accommodate rigs up to 40 feet in length and comes equipped with a picnic table and an outdoor grill. The campground is located just south of the main entrance. Campground amenities include two restroom/shower areas, a laundromat, and a dump station. The planes stop flying overhead at 11 PM, allowing for enough time to get some quality sleep. The campground is open year-round, and reservations can be made up to 90 days in advance. This is one of the best RV campgrounds in Los Angeles, so reservations are highly recommended, even during the off-season.
In the 1920s and 30s, this then-isolated development was a playground for the wealthy. The first lots went for $50 down and $20 a month for thirty-six months. The playground analogy held even when a small airport opened nearby. However, by the 1950s, jets regularly took off and landed nearby. So, the wealthy found other playgrounds elsewhere. Today, about the only resident is the threatened El Segundo butterfly. Part of Palisades del Rey is still open as a public park and is worth a visit if you're passing by in the motorhome.
The Dockweiler Youth Center is basically an oceanside event center. It’s available for meetings, weddings, quinceaneras, and more. The large central room can accommodate up to 185 people, or, this area can be subdivided into three smaller spaces. The youth center's amenities include a lovely terrace and a gourmet kitchen.
The endangered-snowy plover bird nests along this beach, and although these little waders are still common in South America, development has threatened their existence in North America. There are also lots of mew gulls here, especially in winter and especially near the Hyperion Water Treatment Center. Other common birds include loons, grebes, pelicans, sea ducks, sandpipers, gulls, and terns. Be sure not to leave the binoculars in the Airstream as you wander through the park. After some birding at Dockweiler State Beach, many birding aficionados go to the nearby El Segundo Library Park to see the wide variety of tree birds.
Dockweiler is one of the few state beaches that allows bonfires in one of the beach’s fire rings. There are about 60 fire pits on the sand. That sounds like a lot, but visitors snap them up quickly, especially on weekends. Some people even arrive at dawn to claim a spot. You can bring your own stuff along in the Sprinter, or drop by one of the beach concessioners. The beach closes at midnight. Never use sand to extinguish the fire because it makes quite a mess.
In 2014, county and city officials spent over a quarter-million dollars removing a beached boat from Playa Del Rey. So, needless to say, park rangers are not too crazy about boaters. However, primarily because of the gentle breezes and smooth swells, the area is excellent for sailing. Just try to stay as far out as you can. Be sure to tow your own boat along behind the Class B if you're looking to hang out on the water, as the park does not offer rentals.
Feel free to pack the snorkel and flippers along for this RV vacation. With an average depth of about 36 feet, the waters off Dockweiler State Beach are ideal for diving at pretty much all skill levels. The best diving location is just about a half-mile from the beach. Be advised that the visibility is a little low at times. Once underwater, divers can expect to see lots of sand along with rays, halibut, and crabs.
You didn't navigate the rig all the way to the beach if you weren't ready for a swim. The part of the beach near the North Westchester storm drain is probably the best swimming area, especially in the summer when it’s dry. The atmosphere is great for families and groups, and lifeguards are usually on duty during daylight hours. The main parking lots are all very close to the water, so it’s easy to carry supplies to and from the camper.
The beach is not too crowded, and the waves are not too intense, so Dockweiler State Beach is an excellent place for beginning surfers. It’s an easy paddle out and a gentle ride in. Swells start at about three feet and peak at between five to eight feet. The wind is generally from the east, and swells usually run south to southwest. Watch out for buoys and (ugh) pollution. But don’t mind the black sand because it’s naturally-occurring.
It wouldn’t be a California state beach if you couldn’t do some beach bicycling. The four-mile path runs from the El Segundo line to Ballona Creek. The wildflowers are quite pretty in the spring. As might be expected, the paved trail gets somewhat sandy at times, so always use caution. Various companies rent bikes and roller skates if you didn't pack your own along with you inside the campervan.
The combination of giant dunes, plenty of sand, and consistent ocean breezes make Dockweiler State Beach an ideal place for hang gliding. Back in the 60s, when the sport was just getting started, this was the place to be. Due to the rather obvious liability concerns, officials shut down hang gliding activity in 1986. Advocates spent over a decade getting that decision reversed. Their efforts finally bore fruit when a $6 million renovation was completed in 2000. Now, you can take part in the activity that is equally historical as it is heart-pounding during your RV vacation. A private concessioner rents equipment and provides lessons for beginners. Experts are also welcome to take off from one of the two-story-high dunes.