The Legendary Cannonball Run at The Portofino Hotel

Jill Weinlein

The Cannon Ball Run was created in 1971 by legendary race car driver Brock Yates and car magazine editor Steve Smith. The race began at the infamous Red Ball Garage on Manhattan’s Eastside in New York City and about 2,906 miles later finished at the Portofino Inn in Redondo Beach. Also called Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining Sea Memorial Trophy Dash for its coast-to-coast race, it became an underground sensation in the racing world. Since the 1970s, the race has continued each year with the Portofino Hotel as the finish line.

This hotel site near Los Angeles was developed in the 1960s by racecar and stunt driver Mary Davis. As a pioneer woman in a field dominated by men, Davis developed the hotel and marina on 8 acres in Redondo Beach and named it Portofino Inn after the Italian seaside town of Portofino. She wanted to replicate the same Mediterranean ambiance in California, and soon her Portofino Inn became a favorite finish line for car racers. 

Similar to the 1981 movie The Cannonball Run starring Burt Reynolds, Farrah Fawcett, Roger Moore and Dom DeLuise, the race is filled with eccentric competitors who will do anything to win. In the 2019 documentary APEX: The Secret Race Across America, cars used in the race have included a modified 2000 BMW M5 averaging 90 mph, with a top speed of 157 mph, a Ferrari 550 with extra full tanks, and a variety of Mercedes-Benz AMGs.

During the pandemic in 2020, the racers took advantage of the empty roads and absence of a police presence. According to Road & Track, Fred Ashmore completed the race as a solo driver in 25 hours and 55 minutes driving a Ford Mustang GT. 

Last year in October, the overall record to complete the race by drivers Arne Toman and Doug Tabbutt, along with spotter Dunadel Daryoush was 25 hours and 39 minutes, with an average speed of 110 miles per hour.

Jill Weinlein

Once the drivers hit the finish line, they probably head over to the onsite BALEEN Lounge and Kitchen for a chilled craft cocktail during Grog Hour. Sitting at the upstairs bar with fireside sofas and comfortable chairs, the lounge serves bites and beverages before dinner. Menu items include blistered shishito peppers and grilled chicken drumettes. The bar makes their popular Marina Margaritas, Moscow Mules, and a Bourbon Gold Rush.

Jill Weinlein

Dinner to celebrate the race is a fine dining experience overlooking the marina filled with boats as the sun sets. Menu items include a hearty King Harbor Bouillabaisse, ahi tuna tacos, citrus-grilled swordfish, Baleen burger with melted white cheddar cheese and crispy onions, and lobster Mac & Cheese.

Jill WeinleinPhoto taken before Covid-19

Now named Portofino Hotel and Marina, the recently refreshed lobby, underwater theme elevator, guest rooms and suites are decorated in hues of green, blue and cream. There is an elegant nautical theme that mirrors the colors of the surrounding outdoor environment.

Suites offer an extended balcony overlooking Palos Verdes, the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island. The living room and separate bedroom have a double-sided fireplace and plasma screen television in each room. The four-post wrought iron bed looks directly out to the ocean, and nearby is a clawfoot bathtub in the private marble bathroom.  

Jill Weinlein

During the day, the hotel’s heated swimming pool overlooking the Pacific Ocean is a popular gathering place. There are lounge chairs on the expansive deck to relax and feel the warmth of the sun, and a heated whirlpool to soak in during the day and evening.

There is also a fitness center and complimentary cruiser bikes for guests to ride along the oceanfront bike path. This 27 miles path runs from Redondo Beach to Manhattan Beach, El Segundo, Marina del Rey, Venice, Santa Monica and ends at Malibu. The hotel offers locks, baskets, and helmets for guests.

Jill Weinlein

Other races happen near the Portofino Hotel and Marina in the water. Guests staying in the oceanview rooms and suites can watch sailboats tacking back and forth, fishing boats leaving for their day’s catch and long thin sculls rowing during a practice or race.

Across the channel and near the breakwater is a colony of California sea lions basking in the sunshine on a wood dock. The hotel sells a stuffed sea lion with an adoption certificate and donation from the purchase to the Marine Mammal Care Center. 

The Portofino Hotel and Marina is an ideal respite before any race in life to enjoy a soothing So Cal lifestyle.

Source: JustLuxe: LuxuryTravel News

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