Dexter Filming Locations: The Dockside Cafe


The location: The Dockside café.

Q. What is it supposed to be on the show?

    A. A patio café.

Q. Where is it supposed to be on the show?

    A. Somewhere near the docks in Miami.

Q. When did we see it on the show?

    A. In Episode 9 (of the third season), "About Last Night".

    Dexter has just discovered that his "friend", Miguel Prado, has murdered an innocent victim, defense attorney Ellen Wolf.

    Determined to confront him, Dexter phones Prado and arranges for them to have lunch together.

    In this scene, they are having lunch outdoors on the patio of a café. In the background, we can see freight elevators, boat docks, and other indications that they are next to the harbor.

    Dexter tells Prado that he knows he killed Ellen Wolf. Prado is clearly unrepentant, insisting that it's just a matter of minor differences between friends.

    When Dexter rules out any more "independent projects", Prado makes it clear that he plans to continue killing whomever he chooses. He believes he is untouchable.

    Dexter is determined to show him that he's not.

    What follows is the scene at the cemetery.

Q. What is it actually in real life?

    A. The patio behind a rental office building at a small marina. (It's not a restaurant.)

Q. Where can I find it in real life?

    A. The scene was shot down at an obscure, little marina called Light House Yacht Landing, at 1500 Anchorage Road, in Wilmington, CA, about a quarter mile west of the Terminal Island Freeway. It overlooks the channel that runs between the mainland (to the north) and Terminal Island (to the south).

    Those three freight elevators, seen in the background, are located across the channel, on Terminal Island.

    When you think of marinas, you usually think of upscale nautical spots like Marina Del Rey or Newport Beach.  But there are a number of small, isolated marinas, some hidden away in industrial areas. This is one of them.

    It has just 72 boat slips, and to get there you have to endure a lengthy drive through an isolated stretch of road (along Alameda Street & Henry Ford Ave) filled with junk yards, oil refineries and railroad tracks. (Most people would probably tend to think of this as west Long Beach, rather than Wilmington, but technically, it's still within the Wilmington borders.)

    Once there, the marina itself is a decent little place, although it's overshadowed by it's location, a harbor spot dominated by massive steel bridges, passing trains and looming freight elevators.

    The patio, where they filmed this scene, is located behind the small, blue office building that guards the entrance to the marina. It faces the water on the south. The patio is surrounded by a wrought-iron fence, and contains a few tables (although, let me stress, this is not a restaurant).

    The producers, though, brought in their own tables for the shoot. Another notable difference is the archway/portal framing the gangplank which leads down to the boats. On the show, it is white, and they added some plants to the top.  Since then, the archway has been painted a bright blue & red, and there is now a sign on top (where those plants were) insisting on quiet and no running.

    For the wider shots, the camera is facing south.

    If you're touring "Dexter" locations, you might want to think twice before adding this one to your list.  It's not exactly a pleasant drive.  But you'll find it just south of two other isolated locations from last season: the marina coffee bar and the Coral Cove marina (where Debra and Lundy dangled their feet in the water).

    Here is an aerial photo of the location. And here is a map link.

    (I shot the photos below in 2009)

    (The photo above is looking west.  The patio where they shot the scene is behind the wrought-iron fence on the left.)

    (Above is a photo of the patio, looking south/southwest.  Below is the view from the location, looking west/southwest down the channel.)

Q. How the heck did you figure out where it was?

    A. This wasn't easy. It was obvious that it was at the harbor, but the L.A./Long Beach harbors cover a large area. At first, I assumed it was probably an actual restaurant.  So I checked the obvious suspects along the main channel in the Ports O'Call area, but nothing matched there.

    My best clue was a line of three huge, red freight elevators.  It let me know that it was near an industrial part of the harbor, not at some purely pleasure marina like Marina del Rey. But I also spotted a train moving in the background (behind Prado), an it was high, which let me know there was a train trestle/bridge nearby.

    So, using Bing aerial photos, I began hunting for those red freight elevators (which move cargo containers on & off ships at the harbor). Unfortunately, there are countless elevators at the harbor - standing like Quixote's windmill giants overlooking the channels.  The train tracks helped.

    After a search, I finally found what I thought might be the same trio of elevators. Then I had to line up the buildings on the other side of the channel and determine exactly where the camera were. I finally narrowed it down to this small marina, but I still wasn't 100% sure until I went there in person. The place was locked up, so I had to settle for shooting the photo above through the fence, but all the details matched up perfectly to the screencaps.

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