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Paying Homage to a Television Actor, His Famous Role and the Resort Eatery that Keeps the Legend Alive

Overlooking that stunning Pacific view at the northwestern tip of the property sits Nelson’s, a restaurant and bar that resembles a grown-up beach shack, assembled from stone and glass rather than driftwood and seaweed. Whoever envisioned it certainly embraced the mantra “location, location, location.”

Formerly home to Marineland, which was opened to the public in 1954, the property hosted the first oceanarium in California and the largest of its time. It was a visionary campus of buildings for maritime research, in addition to being a popular resort destination. Many television shows were filmed there including The Beverly Hillbillies, Hart to Hart, The Lucy Show and Benji Takes a Dive at Marineland. However, it was the hit show Sea Hunt that most famously utilized this location, now home to Terranea.

For those who remember Sea Hunt, and for those new to its legacy, Nelson’s provides a unique homage to the show. Airing from 1958 to 1961, Sea Hunt exposed audiences to the coastal scenery of Palos Verdes and the aquatic wonders of Marineland. Lloyd Bridges played Mike Nelson, a local diver who often served as underwater detective with a charismatic cool. It was more than an acting job for Lloyd; it made an impact on his family lifestyle and inspired his activism. He learned how to dive and eventually performed most of his stunts himself—except those that were dangerous.

As daughter Lucinda notes, “He would swim ‘to the point and back’ for exercise and the sheer love of it. Mask, snorkel and flippers. We often did that with him! He did that swim to the point till he was 80.”

Lloyd knew of marine pollution before the environmental movement came along and raised awareness about the state of our oceans. Sons Beau and Jeff followed his lead; each had their acting debuts on Sea Hunt and would inherit Lloyd’s passion for ocean conservancy.

While Nelson’s is a haven for oceanside dining, it also provides a slice of Hollywood history. Taking their cue from this rich history, the developers at Terranea reached out to the Bridges family to request their involvement in the planning of Nelson’s. The family was excited to be involved and donated their collection of photos to decorate the space. The posters are from their Sea Hunt comic book collection.

Lucinda provided back-story on the framed coin that hangs on the east wall: “The souvenir coin was an idea of our mom’s brother, Frederic Simpson, Jr. My mom’s dad, our grandpa, used to help with Dad’s fan mail, and he would include a medallion in each autographed photo. We all have one of those good luck medallions on our key chains … so do our kids.” As a result, the room has a personal feel from the photos and posters. Lloyd’s diving helmet is there on loan from the family as well.

With respect for the Bridges family as environmental ambassadors, building green was also a goal. The construction team only used stones that were quarried on-site, and the Dracena Draco tree that lives outside the restaurant was one of the original trees saved as part of the construction process.

Beau Bridges echoes this sentiment: “My dad would have loved the place! He was one of the first activists to fight for saving the oceans, and he would have approved of the `green’ approach used at the resort. See you at Nelson’s!”