Big Fun at the Port of Oakland's Middle Harbor Shoreline Park - 510 Families
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Big Fun at the Port of Oakland’s Middle Harbor Shoreline Park

Some of the most awesome views of the city are from outside of it. Middle Harbor Shoreline Park is a family-friendly park with stellar views of the Bay Area coastline and tons of space to run, bike, scoot, and more.

The binoculars actually work at Port of Oakland’s Middle Harbor Shoreline Park | Photo: Julia Gidwani

Don’t be scared off by the location of Middle Harbor Shoreline Park. Yes it is industrial, but that is part of the big, epic, giant fun. Allow me to explain:

  • Big trucks
  • Giant trains
  • Huge dredgers
  • Massive tractors transporting containers
  • Even more epic working cranes & active ports
  • Larger than life container ships
Middle Harbor Shoreline Park trails are perfect for learning how to ride a bike | Photo: Julia Gidwani

What we love about Middle Harbor Shoreline Park

This park has vast open spaces and three miles of trails. It is perfect for flying kites, riding bicycles, scooting and running. The smooth trails are great for my young daughters to safely ride scooters and bicycles. Aside from the birds and working crane sounds in the background, this park tends to be quiet and sparsely visited on both weekdays and weekends. I wish more families visited this park.

Middle Harbor Shoreline Park trails are perfect for learning how to ride a bike | Photo: Julia Gidwani

We were all highly entertained to get up close to the cranes and watch the massive operations of a working port. We like to wave to the drivers and ask them to honk their air horns by giving them the universal arm pump. Whenever we get a honk, my two-year old squeals “again!” (As if I hold the magical powers to make trucks honk). I drive slowly along the streets before we actually park so we can scout out all the action and make a game plan.

3 miles of trails at Port of Oakland’s Middle Harbor Shoreline Park | Photo: Julia Gidwani

The parking lot always has ample space. After we pack out bikes and scooters, we usually choose one of two directions. We can head towards the Chappell R. Hayes Memorial Observation Tower or towards the Point Arnold Main Pavillion. The Observation Tower has a huge crane adjacent to it that you can get very close to. So if it’s in operation on a day we’re visiting, we’ll head in that direction to watch the crane action. Otherwise we’ll head towards the Main Pavillion to check out the views and play tag. Bonus, both destinations have free binoculars that actually work!

Stellar views at Port of Oakland’s Middle Harbor Shoreline Park | Photo: Julia Gidwani

No matter where you are in this park, there are outstanding views of the San Francisco skyline, Oakland Ports and bird watching on the beach lagoons. Though I’ve seen people walking along the beachy area, I’m not totally sure what the water quality is there. With all the activity and ships there, I’m assuming not great, so we don’t play on the beach, or in the water. At the time of the writing, the bathrooms were open and operational (We love several other Bay Area beaches if we want to dip in the water).

middle harbor playground
Middle Harbor Playground Oakland | Photo: Wikipedia

What else you should know about Middle Harbor Shoreline Park

  • Watch out for goose poop! It’s not everywhere, but there are certain paths the geese frequent and it’s obvious.
  • As with many places in the Bay Area, lock the car and bring valuables with you.
  • There are not many trees here. The shaded space has some lunch tables, but you should still bring hats and sunscreen!
  • There isn’t much green space if you’re looking to lay out. Definitely bring a blanket if you’re looking to picnic, or tailgate it.
  • There is a playground; it’s not huge, but it’s fun for younger kiddos.
  • No dogs allowed!
There are shaded picnic tables in the background that are currently closed | Photo: Julia Gidwani

Fun facts that will impress your kids (maybe)

  • Port of Oakland has 33 ship-to-shore cranes serving 1,500+ ships annually.
  • The biggest container ships can hold 745 million bananas in 15,000 containers. That’s one for every European and North American!

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