In early 1929, the 20s were still roaring and Oceanside properties were becoming increasingly popular. The San Pedro cliffs in Long Beach, California, were the next target of multi-millionaires. They built a 10-acre neighborhood overlooking San Pedro Harbor and Catalina Island and called it Paseo del Mar. But in January of 1929, a water and gas line erupted and the city began to sink toward the Pacific Ocean below. Residents evacuated the area, which was sinking at a rapid 11 inches per day. Most of the houses and bungalows were relocated in time, but two of them fell into the ocean before anyone could do anything. Eighty-seven years later, the Sunken City has become extremely popular – maybe even more so than when it was a neighborhood.
What is the Sunken City?
To put it bluntly, the Sunken City doesn’t resemble a city. The ruins are nothing like ancient Roman ruins and you can’t walk into any buildings. That being said, there are still lots of concrete blocks that show the remnants of what was once an exclusive neighborhood. Graffiti artists have created an outdoor art gallery with views over the Pacific Ocean. Even though it’s abandoned, there is still such a unique vibe to the city that it still attracts people from all over.
The gaping hole left behind has become a popular spot to visit. Maybe that’s because it’s technically illegal to get to. Even though I don’t condone breaking the law, sometimes you have to… think outside the box to get to the good stuff. Police officers have been cracking down on trespassers lately but they don’t seem to mind as long as you’re quiet and respectful. I even was able to get a woman who lived in the area to give me directions, so it seems like nobody really minds.
How to Get to Sunken City
Unlike a lot of illegal and hidden sites, the address that Google gives you is pretty much exactly where you need to go. The actual address is:
500 W Paseo Del Mar, San Pedro, CA 90731
Plugging that address into your GPS will take you as far as you can go in a car. It’s still in a residential neighborhood, so be careful where you park so you don’t block anyone’s driveway. From the road, continue south on Carolina Street until you reach a huge yellow END sign. Ignore the sign and keep walking past it, slightly left until you find a foot path. By then, you should see a huge fence with “No Trespassing” signs. Laugh in the face of danger and search for a hole in the fence. The best hole that I found was just over the hill and was at a corner of the fence, as shown below. Someone actually took out a huge chunk of the fence literally the day before I visited, so it may be a while before someone ever repairs it.
Once you squeeze through the fence, you’ve done the hard part. Continue walking toward the ocean and you will see the first signs of Sunken City. Before long, you’ll be standing on a cliff overlooking the remains of what was once a beautiful neighborhood.
What to do There
When I visited Sunken City, my friend Laura and I had wanted to get In-N-Out and take it with us to eat there. Since we got there early in the morning, In-N-Out wasn’t open and we could only dream about what could have been. That being said, Sunken City is the perfect place for a picnic breakfast, lunch, or dinner. There are several massive concrete slabs that look as though they were placed there just for us. Some of them can be a little dangerous to climb to but offer some incredible views. If we return, I will definitely make sure to bring food for a picnic.
In recent years, Sunken City has gained popularity for its photo ops. I can see why, this place is an Instagrammer’s dream. The ruggedness of the landscape combined with the edgy graffiti and sweeping vistas over the ocean make an incredible setting. The nature of graffiti art means that everything is constantly changing, so the art that may be there one time won’t necessarily be there the next. It’s kind of like Costco, but with graffiti.
The rugged terrain also is a good place to go hiking with a view. Unfortunately, it can be very dangerous. Part of the reason that Sunken City is closed to the public is because of its danger. Several people have slipped and died here, and countless others have fallen and injured themselves. If you do decide to hike there, please be careful and don’t hike alone. Laura wore Vans, which have no grips on their soles and she was sliding all over the place. I recommend wearing shoes with good grips so you have a good footing while walking along the rocks.
Am I Going to Get Arrested?
Probably not. Your chances of getting arrested for other things are much higher than trespassing at Sunken City. The biggest thing that you should worry about is your safety just climbing around the site. That’s why the police sometimes go to bust trespassers – they are more concerned about your safety than about giving you a ticket. People who have been caught by law enforcement at Sunken City say that they’ve been let off with a warning and haven’t gotten in serious trouble. One of the residents in the house directly behind Sunken City even told me the best place to sneak in, so people are fairly relaxed about it. Just don’t be belligerent and you shouldn’t have any problems.
Why Should I Visit Sunken City?
If you love street art, this place is for you. If you love the ocean, this place is for you. If you love seeing cool things, then this place is definitely for you. Sunken City is a very cool urban place that shows you what a post-apocalyptic world looks like. If you’re a fan of Fear The Walking Dead, you may recognize this place from the season finale of the show.
I also really enjoyed my time just relaxing and taking in the views. The ocean is so close that you can hear the waves crashing and it’s very calming. Lots of ships and yachts cruise by and are pretty fun to watch. The earlier in the day you go, the better. I got there around 10 a.m. and it was the perfect time.
If you’re really brave, you can walk down the sides of the cliffs to get to the actual ocean. There’s a little path that isn’t too steep. It’s a bit of a climb, but if you’re careful it can get you to your own secluded piece of the Pacific Ocean.
Overall, I definitely recommend a visit to the Sunken City. As long as you can physically make the climb and hike, it is worth it. The views are so incredible and you literally can’t find the same view anywhere else. Plus, who wouldn’t want to stare at the ocean for hours on end?