Manhattan County Beach is classic southern California, with surfers, sunbathers, a pier with a small aquarium at its end, and over 50 volleyball courts along its two-mile stretch. The Marvin Braude Bike Trail (22 miles long), formerly the South Bay Bicycle Trail, runs behind the beach, but as of 2013 only bicycles are allowed on the stretch through...
Manhattan County Beach is classic southern California, with surfers, sunbathers, a pier with a small aquarium at its end, and over 50 volleyball courts along its two-mile stretch. The Marvin Braude Bike Trail (22 miles long), formerly the South Bay Bicycle Trail, runs behind the beach, but as of 2013 only bicycles are allowed on the stretch through Manhattan Beach, and they must be walked for a short stretch by the pier. Pedestrians are restricted to the path known as the Strand, which runs parallel to the bike path but is a few feet farther inland. A leisurely stroll along the Strand is a great way to spend the afternoon. If you just want to hang out at the beach, bring or borrow a beach wheelchair and roll out onto the sand, or sit at one of the tables by the snack shop at the northernmost end.
The hilly topography of the surrounding town of Manhattan Beach reflects the original sand dunes which were bulldozed in many other southern California beach towns. There is one relatively level street, Manhattan Avenue, that is great for window shopping and dining. It's not far from the beach and runs parallel to it, but the cross streets tend to get very steep as they drop down toward the ocean. The beach itself is a level, two-mile stretch of golden sand.
Trailhead: Foot of Manhattan Beach Blvd.
Length: 2-4 total miles
Typical Width: 4 ft. & above
Typical Grade: LevelEntry to the trail from Manhattan Beach Blvd. is up a moderately steep slope, but the trail itself is quite level. From the north section of the Strand, a few connections to the Marvin Braude Bike Path are quite steep and have a steep cross-slope.
The best place to access the Strand is from the beach parking lot at the foot of Manhattan Beach Boulevard, at the pier. From here you can head north (for a longer route) or south; we chose to go north first. Along this stretch, about 1.5 miles one way, the connectors to the bike path and the beach...
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The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.
The Roundhouse Marine Studies Lab and Aquarium, in a small building at the tip of the pier, houses casual and informative exhibits of Santa Monica Bay’s native flora and fauna. A few fish tanks and an orca whale skull are on display, and docents are available to talk about the creatures in the aquaria and touch tanks. Programs for children include a summer camp and sea story time. The Roundhouse is available by reservation for birthday parties and field trips. A lift to the second floor was being used for storage when we visited, but staff were happy to clear it out so we could use it. Donations are suggested.
Two beach wheelchairs are available at the lifeguard headquarters near the El Porto parking lot. Call (310) 372-2166 to arrange for one, or go to the lifeguard station at 26th St.
Beachside lots at the foot of Manhattan Beach Blvd. and the El Porto lot at the foot of 45th St. are free with a disabled placard. For the pier and beach, park in the small lot at Manhattan Beach Blvd.; the El Porto lot is closest to the building where the beach wheelchairs are stored. There is a steep hill between the beach and the other public lots and street-side parking.
Some restrooms along the bike path are accessible, but the routes to them from the Strand are steep and have a cross-slope that can be challenging to navigate. The restrooms at the pier and aquarium are easiest to access from the Strand. The restroom closest to the building where the beach wheelchair is stored is not accessible.
Other Things of Interest
Every August the city hosts the Manhattan Beach Open Volleyball tournament and the International Surf Festival. As you head out onto the pier, look down to see bronze volleyballs imprinted with the names of tournament winners.