Usually you need serious scuba gear and a lot of courage to get up close and personal with a massive shipwreck. But on the rocky shores of Lunada Bay in Palos Verdes Estates, you can experience the wonder of the SS Dominator, which has been slowly rusting away on the stony beach since the freighter ran aground in 1961.
To reach the Dominator, head down Agua Amarga Canyon from Paseo Del Mar and a short, steep trail that will spit you out at the edge of the bay. The path can be quite slippery, so wear shoes with ample grip and ankle support, and watch your step.
Once you reach the rocky beach, head north along the shore. While the waves tunneling perfectly offshore make for a mesmerizing scene, keep your eyes on the stones under your feet because the path is very uneven. Continue around the cove—the higher up along the dune you walk, the flatter the going will be.
Shortly after you round Palos Verdes Point, the Dominator will come into view. You’ll find extensive fragments of the wreckage—rusting steel scattered along 100 yards of beach. The largest bits of the ship are two portions of the hull and a large crane. The crane is truly fascinating, as it is almost perfectly preserved even though its tracks and gears have rusted and melded together. Enjoy your on-land wreck dive, but be careful; everything is quite sharp!
Once you’ve had your fill, simply turn back the way you came, and be grateful that you’re leaving the bay in much better shape than the SS Dominator.
To reach the parking area at Agua Amarga Canyon, take Pacific Coast Hwy. to Palos Verdes Blvd. to Paseo Del Mar. Continue on until you see the signs for Agua Amarga Canyon. Not recommended for dogs.