I had the pleasure of staying at the beautiful London Bridge Resort in Lake Havasu City, AZ last year. I wanted to go to Lake Havasu, Arizona for one reason: to see the bridge. The UK is known to be a little sun-challenged and, while Brits regularly retire to warmer climates, the same is not normally true of bridges. Contrary to the lyrics in the famous song, London Bridge is not falling down; it is just chillaxing and enjoying a slower pace of life.
The Colorado River runs right along the California & Arizona border going into Lake Havasu where plenty of vacationers and boat-goers come to relax and soak up the sun in the Summer.
It felt surreal seeing the coat of arms for London, which still decorates the edifice, surrounded by palm trees. It seemed as if the bridge was just waiting for a cabana boy to wander over with a tray of piña coladas. So how did London Bridge go from transporting millions of people across the Thames to being admired by the 50,000 plus residents of Lake Havasu, Arizona?
London was founded in Roman Times and, since then, many bridges have spanned the River Thames. Early versions of London Bridge collapsed or burned. Then a man named John Rennie designed the 928 foot long, granite structure now living in Lake Havasu. His son completed the endeavor in 1831 when King William IV and Queen Adelaide formally opened it.
After that, London Bridge was widened to accommodate the many feet and vehicles traveling across it. The structure survived World War II without being bombed but, in the end, the song came true – sort of. London Bridge wasn’t falling down, so much as sinking into the Thames. A new bridge was called for and, initially, the original was going to be torn down. There was public outrage at the news.
Enter Robert P. McCulloch, a Stanford grad and avid boat racer. He had discovered a 26 square mile tract of land on the edge of Arizona, which was the perfect spot to test his motors. In fact, why stop there? He could have his own city, but he needed something to put Lake Havasu on the map.
In 1968, McCulloch paid $2,460,000 for London Bridge and then spent an additional $7 million transporting it to Arizona. The edifice weighted 130,000 tons and each piece had to be disassembled, labeled, shipped to California, and then driven to Lake Havasu, where it was put back together. The process took three years. Unfortunately, McCulloch died in 1977, because I’ve got some random pieces of wood that Ikea claims can be turned into a bookcase – I suspect this guy could have helped.
Lake Havasu is the tanned, bikini-clad, distant relative of London. Sure, there are other touches of England sprinkled here and there, such as a red phone box or a replica of the royal carriage (located in the London Bridge Resort), but this is a city of watersports and boating.
Havasu means ‘blue water’ in the language of the Mojave tribe and the lake lives up to the moniker. It was formed as a result of the Parker Dam and is fed by the Colorado River. You can rent watercraft ranging from houseboats to pontoons and jet skis but, if you’d rather be in the lake than on it, head to Winsor Beach. There is a fee charged on a per car basis, but this gives you access to the whole of Lake Havasu State Park.
Take a few minutes to wander around the Arroyo-Camino Interpretive Garden, which is filled with cactus. Or stroll along the 1.5-mile hiking trail (ranked ‘easy’) that weaves along the shoreline.
When you’re ready to cool off, stop at Windsor Beach, which offers panoramic views of mountains and red rocks. Dump your stuff at one of the covered picnic tables then slip into the water: it’s extremely refreshing, but the lakebed is pebbly so keep your flip flops on. While I was floating around, I glanced back at the beach and spied a bunny hopping across the sand.
Barley Bros. Restaurant & Brewery
We ended our day at Barley Bros. Restaurant and Brewery, which looks out onto London Bridge. The microbrewery produces six beers – you can order a sampler if you want to taste them all. Lane was won over by the Tripleberry Wheat, which has notes of blueberry, cranberry, and raspberry. I was sold on the medal-winning JennaGrace Hefeweizen due to its light and lemony flavor (if you’ve had a few too many to pronounce that one, it’s also called American Wheat).
The other reason to hit Barley Bros is rotisserie chicken. There are six different options: classic cacciatore, teriyaki, spicy Cajun, honey glazed, Sonoran green chile and Southern BBQ – the latter was particularly good. We’d recommend picking pasta as your side dish because the linguine is fresh and topped with parsley and garlic oil.
After dinner, we strolled around, expecting to see this relatively small city winding down. Not so much. Instead, people caught a ride, by boat shuttle naturally, to a nearby casino.
Lake Havasu is very popular with spring breakers so avoid visiting then (unless you want to share the lake with drunken jet skiers). London Bridge is on McCulloch Blvd, between the 95 and Beachcomber Blvd.