Middle Harbor Park = Awesome

9 Jul

(So I haven’t been doing too good a job of writing about the places and events on my list of essential Oakland experiences, but I’m back on track now and will hopefully write some more soon. Also, I went back through old posts and linked to some of them on the essential Oakland experiences page, so head over there if you want to check those out.)

On the advice of V Smoothe, my girlfriend and I drove out to Middle Harbor Park on Saturday. Part of the reason I was so easily allured to the park was the promise of nice views of the crane, and as we drove down 7th, we started to catch glimpses:

After we passed the West Oakland BART station, we could still see the cranes, but there wasn’t much more to see. If we hadn’t looked up directions before going, I would have thought we were lost by how empty it was:

After enjoying the view along the way, we arrived at the park, which was full of people eating lunch, riding bikes, hanging out in tents, playing volleyball, and playing the guitar. The park was also full of geese:

We sat down at a picnic table to eat the Vietnamese sandwiches we had picked up at Cam Huong on our way, and were intrigued by the shade structures and the seemingly random polls that filled the park:

But we soon found out that the structures and polls weren’t random at all. As one of the informational signs told us, these structures were part of Building 122, which was part of the old Naval Supply Depot. It apparently was used by the Navy up until 1998, when it was turned over to the Port of Oakland.

There’s other bits of history scattered around the park, like the mast of the USS Oakland:

And of course, there’s plenty of evidence of Oakland’s continuing use of the port in the dozens of cranes that can be seen from the park:

There were some surprises for me at the park, like the fact that there’s a sandy beach in Oakland. It may be small and certainly not fit for swimming, but it was nice to walk along the sand and look across the bay:

There were also free binoculars that offered stunning up close views of the Bay Bridge, San Francisco, and, of course, the cranes:

We had a wonderful afternoon at Middle Harbor Park. We couldn’t believe that we hadn’t heard about this incredible Oakland park sooner, and I intend to tell everyone I know that they need to go there.

My only complaint it’s almost completely inaccessible by public transit. On weekdays, there’s no bus that goes there! It’s not walkable from West Oakland BART and it would be a long bike ride. Fortunately, the 13 line goes there on weekends, but it runs only once an hour and stops service in the late afternoon. There’s no reason this Oakland gem shouldn’t be accessible by the carless 7 days a week!

There’s also a depressing historical fact about Middle Harbor Park, that I found out last night while reading The Country in the City: The Greening of the San Francisco Bay Area. During World War II, “the Army and the Navy expanded their Oakland and Alameda bases, moving the East Bay’s shoreline a mile closer to San Francisco.” So where Middle Harbor Park is today, used to be the Bay and was home to sea creatures and birds. Luckily, there is an ongoing effort to restore this habitat, some of which I witnessed by the scores of birds that could be seen in and around the park.

So if you have a car or are willing to wait around for the bus on the weekend, check out Middle Harbor Park soon:


Middle Harbor Road
Oakland, CA

Park Hours:
8 a.m.-10 p.m.

Public Transit:
Take AC Transit #13, hourly from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. weekends, from Park/14th Street along Broadway and 7th Street in Oakland.

7 Responses to “Middle Harbor Park = Awesome”

  1. Joanna July 9, 2008 at 8:53 pm #

    Middle Harbor is indeed a secret jem in Oakland – glad you were able to find it! That darn sandy beach has been closed off for ages, so it’s cool to see it without orange netting blocking it off.

    Do you know about the Oakland Long Wharf or SP Mole? Check out this site:

    The switching tower is now on the other side of the park from where your photos were taken. We love to ride our bikes there from the Jack London area.

    Another not-so-well known waterfront park is Union Point Park down the Embarcadero past the Coast Guard Island access. Here’s a great map:

    MHSP is often cold and windy, so in this heat should be pretty popular. During the week it’s a zoo getting there because of all the trucks lined up on the roads and then on the weekend it’s often deserted. I kind of like that, although I agree that it should be accessible by bus on the weekends too.

  2. Mike Hardy July 9, 2008 at 9:22 pm #

    I too have enjoyed this park with my wife. You say it’s a long bike ride, but honestly from West Oakland BART it’s a pretty quick bike ride under that overpass you photographed. Something like 1 mile? Maybe 2.

    I mainly write to mention that if you are into cycling, there’s a really fast, super fun racer ride that goes around Middle Harbor road, right next to the part, on Tuesday nights starting at around 7:30pm (with many people riding before then) and ending up around 8:30.

    That may not be your cup of tea, but during the summer, if you want to see the park it might be fun to do a picnic dinner out there on a Tuesday night – you’ll have lots of company in an otherwise deserted area after hours

    Cheers – and thanks for blogging up Oakland, this spot wasn’t new to me but most are and I really appreciate it

  3. Becks July 9, 2008 at 10:37 pm #

    Joanna – thanks for the bit of history and the suggestion. I honestly haven’t explored the waterfront very much at all so I’ll make sure to check out Union Point.

    Mike – yeah, I guess for a regular biker, it’s probably not too far. I bike much farther distances at Burning Man every year, but I’m terrified of biking in Oakland so I don’t think a race down roads with trucks would suit me very well. But I’ll try to make it out on a Tuesday night sometime (by car, or by bus if the 13 hours are ever expanded).

  4. dwhiting July 24, 2008 at 1:05 pm #

    A few more tidbits about Middle Harbor Shoreline Park
    – it was created by the Port and managed by East Bay Regional Parks, and is likely the only public park within an operating marine terminal.

    -the shallow water habitat being created there from dredged material and a rock jetty is intended to restore habitat that has been loss elsewhere in the Bay. In fact the local Audubon chapter has noted that this is one of the few places where bird habitat is being created.

    – it’s also a great place to launch a sea kayak

    by the way AC Transit used to run weekend bus service out there but stopped due to low ridership.

  5. inadvertentgardener January 10, 2009 at 8:09 pm #

    Becks, I bookmarked this post back in the summer, fully intending on getting out to Middle Harbor sooner rather than later. Because today was so beautiful, I took advantage of the sunshine and headed out there. It was amazing! Thanks for tipping me off to it — I’m definitely going to go back sooner rather than later.

  6. Naomi Schiff August 27, 2009 at 5:41 pm #

    Oakland Heritage Alliance is presenting a tour this Saturday that may be of interest. $15 for nonmembers, $10 for members. MLK Park is another amazing and little-known place.

    Saturday, August 29, 10 am–12 noon

    Stroll ALONG A Transformed Shoreline

    • Martin Luther King Jr. Shoreline Park, Arrowhead Marsh Parking Lot (Follow Doolittle Drive; turn on Swan Way near airport. Turn left at first driveway into park. Travel to furthest parking area.)

    NEW! A hidden oasis in the heart of the East Bay, MLK Jr. Shoreline Park and environs are rich in cultural history. This tour brings to life activities of past centuries. Learn of verdant historic salt marshes, creation of the Oakland tidal canal, making Alameda an island, 19th-century history from oysters to channeled creeks, and visit a recent art installation inspired by the natural wonders of this site. 2 mile roundtrip.


  1. Furrow in the marsh « Blog Archive « 365 in 2009 - January 10, 2009

    […] took the time to go find Middle Harbor Shoreline Park in West Oakland, which I had heard about from Becks, who blogs at Living in the O. I wish I’d taken a picnic and my book so I could have sat out there longer. I will […]

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