January 9, 2008

Marineland of the Pacific | Abandoned Places

Marineland of the Pacific was a public oceanarium and tourist attraction located on the Palos Verdes Peninsula coast in Los Angeles County, California, USA. Architect William Pereira designed the main structure. It was also known as Hanna-Barbera's Marineland during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Marineland operated from 1954 until 1987, when it was purchased by the owners of SeaWorld, San Diego. The new owners moved the popular killer whales and other animals to their San Diego facility and abruptly closed Marineland.

Marineland of the Pacific was loved by many.  It is surely missed. Share your thoughts and stories in the comments below.
When it opened in 1954, one year before Disneyland, Marineland of the Pacific was the world's largest oceanarium. Many considered it California's first major theme park. Marineland was best known for its performing Orcas or "killer whales". It was also noteworthy for its Baja Reef concept, a first-of-its-kind swim-through aquarium featuring a wide array of sea life. Visitors could enter the winding aquarium wearing a swim mask and snorkel and swim with the fishes and sharks. Marineland also contained educational and research facilities, in addition to its unique entertainment structures.

For safety reasons, all of the tanks were torn down after closing in 1987, however many of the buildings and the famous Sky Tower remained.  It is always interesting when a building or whole tourist attraction is left behind, many times, the objects in it are also left.  So many things that could be of use, like a brand new l shaped computer desk or two. Even appliances, tables, chairs, other desks and furnishings.  Sometimes its like they literally just left and never came back.

In early 2006, two small temporary sales offices replaced the abandoned gas station at the park entrance and the large concrete sign along Palos Verdes Drive South (with a tower resembling a whale's tail) was altered to feature the Terranea logo and artist's rendering of the resort. In July 2007, principal construction work on Terranea Resort commenced, starting with the demolition of the remains of Marineland.  The Resort opened in 2009.

(photo above is from 1972
California Coastline Collection)

The California Costal Records Project

The California Coastal Records Project has a great series of images that when compared together show the slow disappearance of Marineland of the Pacific.   

Looks like a photo of Marineland being built (no tower)

June 1987 - if Marineland closed in early 1987 and was torn down in early 1988, this picture most likely was taken after the park was closed to the public. There isn't a time stamp on the photo, but it is daylight and there are only 1 or 2 cars in the parking lot.

2004 (film set in parking lot)

2008 (Terranea construction)

Images of the abandoned ruins

The Marineland Restaurant

Photos above from http://abandonedplaces.livejournal.com/423617.html

The Marineland Sign

A postcard of the Marineland entrance, with fiberglass models of Bubbles the pilot whale and killer whales. 

 The sign post-Marineland.

Bubbles the whale in storage near Rancho Palos Verdes City Hall
An aerial shot of Bubbles and be seen on Google Maps

 Google Earth 2009
Earliest Google Earth photo is 2003
Google Earth 2010

View the live Google Map view of Bubbles near the Palos Verdes City Administration.
(The irony here is Bubbles is sitting on the ruins of Nike Missle LA-55 Launch Battery Site.  This will be showcased on its own page here at MDR.)

The city also has the three dolphins that were at the entrance.  The Point Vicente Interpretive Center hopes to one day recreate the entrance sign.


Scans of old Marineland postcards

The Lost Boys
An interesting page showing the filming locations for the Lost Boys. At the bottom of the page, the Lost Boys cave, located below Marineland.

Photos of the ruins

More photos of the ruins.  

What is there today (2008)
A large resort named TERRANEA is being built on the property and will open in 2009. (http://www.terranea.com/).  The hotel project changed hands. It took 7 years to get the plans approved by the city and by the coastal commission. Then they didn't have a hotel sponsor. Now they have Lowe's Enterprises.  I hear that the hotel is planning to use some of the Marineland theme, like a Baja Reef bar, etc. There are plans to do the 25th reunion of the closing of Marineland at the hotel which would be in 2012.
Clearing the site - A quick update and photo from 2007 (you can see what is left of the sign on the bottom left.)

Marineland of the Pacific was loved by many.  It is surely missed. Share your thoughts and stories in the comments below.


  1. They have once again closed beach access to this place while they're constructing the Terranea Resort.

    This was a great place to hang out on the weekends.

  2. The California Coastal Records Project recently posted a photo of the Terranea under construction.


  3. Pleasure Island IN orlando fl is now closed! go and get some sad pics of that

  4. GREG MAY of Orlando, FL says: "One of the biggest disappointments in my life is that I never got to see Marineland of the Pacific! Harcourt/Brace - the parent company of Sea World - closed it. Marineland had the best publicity campaign of any theme park, actually entering into a contract with CBS Television."

  5. GREG MAY of Orlando, FL says: "One of the biggest disappointments in my life is that I never got to see Marineland of the Pacific. Harcourt/Brace - the parent company of Sea World - closed it. Marineland had the best publicity campaign of any theme park, even entering into a contract with CBS Television."

  6. I found it by searching for Marineland of the Pacific - that was one of my favorite places of all. Very interesting site you have put together. I also remember Lion Country Safari - went there twice if I remember correctly. It's sad to see things fall apart, but there will always be good memories.

    Marineland of the Pacific was such a terrific place! I went there many times as a child and loved Bubbles and

    all the animals there. I could stare into those huge fish tank windows and pretend I was under the sea. The

    last time I went to Marineland around 1985 I had a wonderful time; delighted to see Bubbles and her dolphin

    pals again, Orky and Corky, Zippy and Smiley, the sea lions and walruses, all the park's animals, and of course

    the Giant Fish tank. If I had a crystal ball I would have taken lots of pictures and shopped the gift shop for

    souvenirs, but I had no way of knowing that day would be my last visit. Marineland opened before I was born –

    I just assumed it would always be there. What a sad day that was in 1987 when Marineland closed forever. I

    still mourn the loss of that fabulous place and it's animals that gave so many people such great joy. It was

    much more than an oceanarium/ amusement park and even though it is gone now, Marineland will always live on in

    the fond memories of people who loved it.

  7. One thing I did hear was that the Oceanariums were desrtoyed pretty
    quickly because in order to keep their archtechtural integrity they
    had to have water in them. So to prevent any major probelms they
    were knocked down first. I found some pics, I think on Flickr of an
    aerial circa 1993 where there is a nice overhead shot of the ruins
    of the park that had the skytower in them, and most everything else
    was leveled besides baja reef and the Catalina room.


  8. Although I only rmember going to Marineland 2 or 3 times as a little kid, I do have an interesting story about the Baja Reef.

    About 3 or 4 years ago or so and friend and I were driving around aimlessly in the Long Beach area on a Sunday afternoon looking for something to do. We decided we would go try to find where the old Marineland use to be in Palos Verdes.

    After driving around for a while when came around a bend and there was the old skytower. We had found it! Knowing that it was well over a decade since the park had closed, we were surprised to find the tower still up. As we pulled up to where the park use to be we found the gate to the old parking lot still open. We pulled in and parked the car. The black top was all cracked and weeds grew everywhere. There were still the parking lot section signs featuring sea animals still on the old light posts. The park was fenched in and over grown with weeds and plants.

    We walked around a little bit and discovered a large hole in the fence on the backside of the park, near the cliffs. We couldn't let this chance get away so we climbed through the fence and began to wander around the abandoned marine park.

    A lot was gone from the park. There were several buildings that were falling apart that we wandered through. We could tell what they use to be. One was a kitchen to a snack bar, the other was some type oftheater. The large tanks that held the animals had been removed or were filled in with dirt. But you could tell where they were and the audience area was still there.

    After wandering around for a while we came across the old Baja Reef attraction, intact! It was so cool to come across this. We climbed down into what was the tank and walked around the old simulated rock and coral. For being neglected for well over a decade, it was in pretty good conditions.

    We drove by about a year and a half ago and it was all gone. The sky tower was taken down and the area is getting develped.

    Just thought I'd share since you brought up the subject. It was a very cool experience - exploring an old abandoned amusement park.


  9. I worked at M. O. P. for a few years during high school and college (1974-78, I think), while it was operated by 20th Century Fox. I ran the Sky Tower (which had a tendency to get stuck at the top), was an Usher, and worked at the front gate. Great memories of great people. As an Usher I would warn folks that because of where they were sitting, they were going to get soaked by the Killer Whales. No one ever believed me.
    The long term operator of the Sky Tower was a WW2 US Army Veteran, of the Campaign to liberate the Philippines, named Jimmy. He looked like Kojak and everyone was afraid of him. He was really a great guy and missed work only when his malaria flared up.
    I have so many pleasant memories of my time working there. Sad that it is gone.

  10. I went to the park back in 1976 as part of a High School Biology project. I wrote letters and signed waivers to get permission to don my SCUBA gear and take pictures of the sealife in the BIG fish tank. After the fish feeding entertainment, I got my briefing and equipment check and in I went! Mom was taking Super-8 videos through the windows in the lower levels, Dad just hung out to watch while I had my Kodak in an Ike-Light housing. I realized later that I may have started a new trend when the park started their snorkeling venue for park visitors a couple of years later!!
    A very special, cherished memory for me indeed.

  11. We were upset with Sea World before it was cool

  12. Hello, over there, from Denmark!

    I feel it´s many years ago, when we, on our vacation, visited California and Marineland in 1980, but when a saw this site, good memories came back of our trip to the magical Marineland. I still have pictures of the killer whales etc. It´s sad, that that this fantastic amusement park is gone forever, but no one can erase our good feeling memories and they are placed in a golden box in our hearts.

  13. As a child, my family and I visited this magical park. We drove from El Paso to LA and it was well worth the hardship of driving in a 1961 Impala without air conditioning. To this day I remember walking hand in hand with my dad. We didn't have to many moments like that. But the thrill of this fun park provided some awesome memories. I wish the park was still with us.

  14. Can anyone please tell me what happened to Bubbles, the beautiful Pilot Whale which was the main attracration at MarineLand? Thanks~ Dez

  15. Can anyone tell me what happened to Bubbles, the beautiful Pilot Whale, which was the main attraction at Marineland? Thank you. Dezie

  16. Bubbles is at Sea World in San Diego... still performing!!

  17. We loved this Park. We lived in West Los Angeles for 22 years from 1969 and right through the 1980s we often visited Marineland. My two children had a great time there and we almost always took out of town visitors there. We were very sad when it closed.

  18. I can't remember the exact year but I believe it was in 1981 when I went to this beautiful place with my sister and two of her friends. Thank goodness I took lots of pictures and still have them. Another reason this place is special is because my brother was married in the glass church across the street from Marineland it was so beautiful to stand in the church and see Marineland across the street. I will always have wonderful memories of Marine land.

  19. Being a child of Southern California I grew up with Marineland practically in my backyard. My mom tells the story of when she was expecting me (1958) going to Marineland & Bubbles wasn't up to performing because she had swallowed an innertube. We would go often & our schools would have fieldtrips there. It was so much into the research & scientific aspect of the sealife, whereas Sea World seemed so commercial (and still does). My son's 2nd grade class went there for a fieldtrip the week before they clowed. I went along, too. Who knew that would be the last time we would see some of those beautiful animals? I read about the midnight transport in the newspaper & how the scientists & trainers came to work to locked gates. I understand not all of the animals made the transition. In 2009 I went to Sea World when my son lived in San Diego. I was brought to tears to see my beloved Bubbles performing more than 50 years later. And also Orky, the Orca that was paired up with Corky at Marineland. that brought more joy to me than any other part of the park.

  20. I fondly remember Marineland. I worked there summers and holidays during my last two years of High School, 1975-1976. Worked briefly in food service and later as part of the "props" balloon crew getting there at 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning ... just five of us and a guard had the place to ourselves until doors opened. I loved that walking around the empty park and past the walrus that would sort of sing as I walked by ... so neat. When we completed out task we had an hour or so to walk around and look at the animals which I usually did. The other really cool thing was at Christmas it would be cold so we would inflate the bunches of balloons on the bottom floor of the killer whale tank ... where it was warmer. Those whales were so intelligent and kind of like our pets. They would wait at the tank window nearest the door where we would enter, then hang out and watch us for the couple hours while we made the balloon props. When I walked around the tank they would follow me and seemed to really enjoy following me if I ran a few laps around the tank on the inside first floor. Little did management know that I hopped in the tank for a brief splash one morning ... lol. Then during the JAWS movie craze they had a huge frozen great white shark briefly in the back area and we took turns standing next too it sticking our head near its mouth. My best buddies (Kenny and Duncan) from High School were with me on the balloon crew and we had such fun taking big hits of helium and singing a chorus of "Ding dong the witch is dead ..." when the guard would walk by, busting up laughing becuase we sounded so funny especially when we pretend argued with each other. Before the last show at Seaside Stadium (dolphin show) each of us would crawl into a 10'X10' box with a top we could raise with rope and pully and fill these full with helium balloons to release en masse during the show finale. Found it funny that our manager would crawl into each box and light a doobie with each of us every day. I always wondered of the pullution as a thousand balloons floated off towards Catalina... show biz I guess.

    Most fun there was early in the morning if the parking lot was wet after a little rain, lining up our cars and taking turns doing 360 slides in the parking lot .. lucky none of us hopped the curb for a quick trip over the cliff.

    They also had some great concerts there one summer in Seaside Stadium. I met Buddy Rich when he walked alone through the fence behind food service from the parking lot and I stopped him thinking he was someone trying to sneak in! "Hey you stop!!!" LOL he thought it was funny but my manager freaked. Got to watch his concert and never saw anyone faster than him on drums. Also, Ray Charles gave a great concert there.

    Irwin Allen was there once after 20th Centruy Studios acquired Marineland, of Towering Inferno fame. LOL I laugh every time I think of it. I was struggling pushing a two level cart loaded with a few hundred pounds of soda syrup canasters and CO2 tanks when it got away from me and got loose heading down a slope ... right towards ol' Erwin and his entourage ... I yelled "look out!!" and he managed to avoid the pending disaster ... LOL what nasty looks they all gave me ... PRICELESS.

    Marineland was so nicely situated and so beautiful in the summer time, I spent many hours enjoying the views and watching shows and animal training. From the lower plaza you could see whales in the Cataling channel sometimes almost onshore as they seemly were scraching themselves on the rocks. Defenatly Marineland was a treasure and forever etched in the memories of many I think. Some things will never be again.

    Always wanted to bring in a fishing pole and hook up to one of those GIANT yellowtail in the Giant Fish Tank .. hehe. Well at least I got to "swim with the" killer whales ... well got out like a flying fish when one came towards me ... LOL. Marineland ... the best of memories...

  21. Do you have any details about the shark? I am trying to get info on it. Length, weight, where it was caught. Thanks!

  22. In the middle-late 1960s I frequented the Marineland area to dive in the adjacent cove, and having an interest in several of the marine sciences, wanted badly to work at the Marineland lab. I would often visit the aquarium to watch the marine life and sometimes to apply for work. As it turned out, employment at Marineland was not in the cards; how naïve of me to believe that I had even the slightest chance of employment. I did once go to Marineland to watch a Hollywood stuntman attempt to break the endurance record for time underwater. Martin Landau and his wife Barbara Bain, both of the then popular television show Mission Impossible, who apparently had some association with the stuntman, were there to see him off in his attempt. The event was remarkably poorly attended. While standing next to the main tank as the stuntman entered the water, cameras rolling on the stuntman, Martin Landau approached me and said “do you think he’ll make it?” I turned to him and said “no, he’ll get too cold,” basing my comment on experience diving in the local waters. Landau said nothing, but based on his expression, I got the impression that he agreed with me. I later read that after many hours in the water, but far from the record, the stuntman’s attempt was abandoned because he was dangerously hypothermic.