Tour of the Port of Long Beach

As part of their public outreach program, the Port of Long Beach offers free tours a few times a month. I’ll post the full details of when and how to take a tour with them at the end. Unfortunately, my camera was being repaired by Canon, so my pictures were shot on an iPhone or my trusty 10 year old Canon Rebel.

Our sunset tour was brilliant.

We departed at 7 pm from the dock next to Parker’s Lighthouse. The boat they use is a comfortably equipped tour boat that has bench seats on the upper decks and booth seating with tables indoors. They offer complimentary beverages and allow you to bring food on board, so we picked up dinner to go and ate it during the tour. They should really partner with one of the Shoreline Village restaurants and sell boxed dinners or something.


Yes, my hat was unnecessary at that point in the evening, but I hadn’t showered in two days, so it seemed like the right choice to wear it. At least it got cold enough when the sun set to need it.


The building with the green roof, the Villa Riviera, is my favorite in Long Beach. It has stood on that corner watching the world change since 1929. Long Beach was still a surf town when it was built.

I think people tend to think of the Port as being an eye sore that generates pollution even though they will happily purchase and consume the goods that arrive there. It certainly is industrial looking, and they do indeed generate pollution, but I think there’s more to be seen. They are making huge strides to cut down environmental impact. They have managed to cut their footprint by 85% by enacting new laws that control vessel speeds, installing ground power, and requiring all trucks to have 2007 engines or newer…among other efforts.

The Port of Long Beach is endlessly fascinating, and the tour only reinforced that view. It is the second busiest port in the country to the neighboring Port of Los Angeles. It generates $100 billion in trade and supports roughly 30,000 jobs in Long Beach-that’s 1 in 8!

As we headed out towards the port, we passed the Queen Mary and a “tiny” shipping vessel. We could see a number of oil tankers anchored off the coast. Apparently they were waiting to sell their oil based on fluctuations in the price of oil. When you’re carrying millions of gallons, the price changing by a few cents makes a difference, so they anchor and wait for a favorable price.


Xander was instantly intrigued. We watched in amazement as we made our way past huge ships. As we were wondering what was in all of those containers, our guide shared an interesting statistic: Every year, they lose roughly 10,000 containers. That seems like a huge number, but not compared to the volume that is unloaded. It also sounds like the premise of a heist movie.


We think the giant cranes look like dinosaurs.


Our guide also explained that you can tell this ship has been partially unloaded already because the red line is where it sits on the water when it’s full. The containers on top are just a fraction of the rest that are within the vessel.


Seeing the port in action was super cool, but this was also Xander’s first time on a boat. He was pretty clearly a fan! We took him outside to let the ocean breeze blow through his flowing locks.


We got to pass under the Vincent Thomas Bridge, which they are apparently planning to demolish in a few years. I can’t emphasize enough how cool this tour is for young kids. For starters, you’re on a boat at sunset. You get to see cranes, huge container ships, bridges, tug boats, fire boats, sea lions, and possibly dolphins. It’s an hour and a half long, which is just long enough to keep kids amazed without being so long that they get bored.


If you look closely at this picture, you can see X-Man’s first two teeth!

If you think you might like to do the port tour at some point, here is the website:

They run May through September on the 1st and 3rd Saturday morning and 2nd and 4th Thursday evening. The tickets are free, but they are awarded on a lottery system. You register for the lottery on the first Monday of the month prior to the tour you want…so Monday, June 6th for all of the July dates. We both registered for a few months before one of us got it. Kris won. I was 81st on the waiting list. You can take a stroller on board, and they validate parking all day at Shoreline Village, so you can make a day of it. For the evening tours, definitely bring warm layers since it’s cold on the water once the sun goes down.

2 thoughts on “Tour of the Port of Long Beach

  1. This would be so interesting to do! I love the photos…especially the one of the flowing locks lol.
    Perhaps Papa and I will sign up and do it with Xander again- he seemed entranced in the photos.


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