The Marine Canal is almost six hundred metres long. It runs across the entire breadth of the Lower Park, and its banks project far out into the Gulf, thus connecting the Great Palace and Cascade with the sea, and opening up the park. The deep waterway, with its granite-faced walls and rows of fountains on its banks, effectively emphasizes the main axis of the park's design.
The canal and sea harbour were planned, built, and decorated by Braunstein, Le Blond, and Michetti, and the hydraulic engineer Tuvolkov between 1714 and 1723 on the basis of a rough drawing by Peter the Great. A contemporary eyewitness of the official openinig of the Peterhof residence in August 1721 wrote that the canal was 500 metres long and could take 115 vessels at a time. To deal with the gradient, Peter the Great ordered the engineer Vassily Tuvolkov to build a sluice 40 metres long and as high as the rising of the water - 3 metres. The sluice had one chamber and was closed with oak gates. Tuvolkov's sluice allowed small craft to sail from the Gulf past the Marly swing bridge and straight into the Pool of the Great Cascade. In 1770, the sluice walls were built from ashlar blocks of granite to designs of Yury Velten, Semion Volkov, and Piotr Paton who planned to give a granite facing to the whole canal; and in 1859 and 1860 Nikolay Benois lowered the brick walls between the Pool and the Marly Bridge and decorated them with fourteen jutties of Pytarlaks granite, each placed opposite a fountain. But it was only as a result of major restoration work of 1962-63 that the canal was finally faced with granite.
The austere architectural decor of the Marine Canal accentuates the park's principal seaward view, and presents a vivid contrast to the expressive play of the fountains' waters.
Parterres of intricate design were an indispensable part of a formal garden. In front of the Great Cascade, work was begun in 1716, and by 1723 Harnigfelt and Borisov, following designs by Le Blond and Michetti, laid out embroidery parterres fringed with closely clipped box shrubs and fenced with trellises adorned with shells and carved ornaments.
When the Great Palace was being extended between 1755 and 1760, Rastrelli and the master-gardener Fock created new parterres, bordered them with glazed tiles, and decorated them with a variety of patterns in crushed marble, brick, and shells, with colourful china vases, rare plants in gold-hooped painted tubs, topiary work, and paved pathways. In 1769, however, the Baroque parterres were replaced by landscaped lawns in the English style, and it was not until 1953 that mid-eighteenth century drawings were used by the garden designer Regina Kontskaya to re-create Rastrelli's design, and to harmonize the parterres with the patterns of the balcony grilles and the embossed gilded ornamentation of the Palace's cupolas.
On the east and west sides of the Marine Canal are marble colonnades and pavilions with gilded domes. The roofs of these structures have three vases with jets spurting out of them. The water splashes down the domes into semicircular marble basins, forming a kind of veil over the pavilion windows. The colonnades provide a fitting crown to this section of the park.
The original seven-arched wooden colonnades, with twin columns and brick pavilions, were constructed from designs by Michetti and Zemtsov between 1722 and 1724, and at once became an essential feature of the area. It was planned to decorate them with sculptures, fountains, and musical instruments worked by water. But by 1724 only a glockenspiel had been installed in the eastern gallery: this was a water organ with crystal bells, made at the Yamburg glass factory by the mechanic and musician Johann Christoph Forster. In 1745 the organ-builder Balthasar Nikolaus Fries installed in the western gallery an organ which was worked by water and had moving figures that produced various sounds. There were dogs, a deer, a huntsman sounding a horn, twelve birds, a Kapellmeister beating time, and two satyrs playing flutes. The glockenspiel and the organ gradually fell into disrepair and were dismantled in 1799.
Between 1800 and 1803 Andrey Voronikhin replaced the old wooden colonnades with brick ones, faced with Pudost limestone, and built granite porches, decorating them with sculpted lions, carved from a model by Prokofyev. The grey marble columns were brought from the Catherine Park of Tsarskoye Selo (now the town of Pushkin) and complemented with four columns of grey granite.
Fifty years later, in 1853 and 1854, the colonnades were partly rebuilt and faced with Carrara marble; columns of grey Siberian marble and Serdobol granite were erected; the lead fountaining vases were replaced by others, of beaten copper; and the floors were inlaid with Venetian mosaic. The plans for this work were drawn up by Stakenschneider.
During the Nazi occupation of 1941-44 the colonnades were severely damaged, and the vases and copper plate from the domes were stolen. It was only in 1966, after three years of painstaking restoration work, that the colonnades finally regained their former aspect.