When 1-ton shells were test-fired from White Point
during World War II, the shock shattered windows in San Pedro 2 miles away. Today, this double-battery bunker on the Palos Verdes Peninsula (used as a coastal defense site from 1942 to 1978), is a whole lot safer—and quieter!—thanks to its re-incarnation as a 102-acre nature preserve. Hike right up to the famed bunker via an easy 1.3-mile loop that's half paved, half dirt. One look at White Point's 17-foot-thick steel-reinforced concrete ceilings reveals why it has withstood the test of time. The inside has been sealed shut, but visitors can still walk through the batteries that at one time possessed the massive naval guns that fired the 16-inch-diameter, 1-ton shells. Heading down the dirt singletrack enjoy the strategic vantage; panoramic ocean views include the Port of Los Angeles and Catalina Island. White Point's duties didn't end with WWII. The grounds served as a Nike missile site, part of a ring of bases (including San Vicente Mountain
) that protected Los Angeles against the threat of a Soviet air attack. But the most recent development here is much more peaceful: a botanical garden made up of natural brush and plots of flora indigenous to California. Most of the flowers aren't currently in their prime, but one perennial favorite is still in bloom: California poppies are burning bright.
Take the 110 freeway to its southern end, 8 miles south of the 405/110 interchange. Turn left on Gaffey St., and make the third right on First St. After 1 mile, turn left on Western Ave. (Route 213) and drive 2.3 miles south until it hits the coast and becomes Paseo Del Mar. Curve to the left and drive 1/3 of a mile to the closure in the road and turn left into the parking area for White Point Nature Preserve. Head northwest on a gravel park road, which becomes paved and curves inland, arriving at the first bunker after half a mile. Continue up the road to the second bunker and turn right on a dusty singletrack traveling down a draw in the bluff to return to the parking area through the botanical gardens. Dog friendly!