High atop the pristine California cliffs of the Palos Verdes peninsula lies the remains of a once-magical wonderland, where dolphins, pilot whales, and killer whales delighted millions of fans with their aquatic antics. A decade before there was Sea World in San Diego, there was “Marineland of the Pacific.”
Marineland opened in 1954 and, at the time, was the world’s largest public aquarium. It was also one of California’s first theme parks, offering a number of shows and exhibits. Certainly, the biggest stars of Marineland were Orky and Corky, two performing killer whales, as well as a pilot whale by the name of Bubbles. Guests squealed in delight as the killer whales would gracefully soar through the air and upon returning to the seawater, proceed to splash a few hundred gallons of it into the first few rows of tourists. A somewhat dryer experience could be had at the sea lion show, where these intelligent critters performed a number of feats, most involving the obligatory beach balls and musical horns. Marineland also introduced guests to a swim-through underwater experience called the Baha Reef Exhibit, the first of its kind.
Sadly, when Marineland was purchased by the HBJ Corporation in 1986, it was really beginning to show its age. Despite their promise to keep the park open, HBJ closed the park a mere 6 weeks after acquiring it. Orky and Corky part deux (who had replaced the original orkas that died in the early 70’s) took a late night trek south to Sea World in San Diego. Fans might be happy to know that Corky the second is still there. You may know him by his new name: Shamu.
From 1986 until last year, ghostly remains of the once-popular amusement park stood silent; disheveled from neglect and weathered by the hands of time. The once popular sky tower stood watch over the deserted park until it was finally disassembled in 1995. In 2006, what remained of Marineland was finally demolished to make room for the future $320 million dollar “Terrasea Resort”.
During its existence, a number of TV shows were filmed at Marineland over the years. You may have seen it in The Beverly Hillbillies, Sea Hunt, and Hart to Hart. The Flintstones even offered their own stone-age representation, the “Oceanrock Aquarium,” in the episode you might remember where Dripper (a sealasaurus) follows the family home after a day at the marine park. And, after Marineland finally closed, it became a popular filming site. Movies such as The Aviator and Pearl Harbor were filmed partly on location of the former site.
And while Marineland may be no more in California, a few places around the world still carry on the Marineland name, such as the Marineland dolphin conservation center in Florida, and Marineland in Ontario, Canada, which is part oceanarium and part amusement park. A similar park in New Zealand closed in 2008, while another park in Antibes, France is still going strong and drawing over a million visitors a year. And, of course, Marineland’s influence can still be felt in the other assorted oceanariums, such as Sea World, which has parks in San Diego, San Antonio, Ohio and Florida. Still, there was only one true Marineland, a place where orka and dolphins flew through hoops of fire and delighted audiences of all ages for many decades. For many of us, it was the first place we ever experienced the magnificent aquatic animals of the sea.
If you ever had the opportunity to visit this now-extinct tourist attraction, we’d love to hear your thoughts in our comments section, as we tip our hats to the fun that was Marineland.