Archive, Field Notes

Dana Point

🌊 Welcome to Dana Point, California – Your Ultimate Coastal Escape! 🌴

Nestled between the sparkling blue waters of the Pacific Ocean and the breathtaking landscapes of Southern California, Dana Point is a paradise waiting to be explored. Whale watching excursions, sailing, parasailing, stand up paddleboarding, jet ski, fishing, and
more await.

🛥️ Top Attractions:

  • Dana Point Harbor: Enjoy a day on the water with boating, kayaking, jet skis, and paddleboarding. As the whale watching capital of the world, you won’t want to miss out on whale watching tours.
  • Doheny State Beach: Perfect for family and friend picnics with ample seating, smores with the firepits, and famous surf (The Beach Boys composed songs for this iconic place). This beach offers a gift shop to supports the California State Parks Foundation and Doho Cafe.
  • Salt Creek Beach: A surfer’s haven known for its excellent waves and stunning tide pools. It’s also a great spot for beachcombing and sunset photography. Enjoy the Young’s Beach Shack for culinary creations from Chef Kyle St. John (The Ranch Executive Chef)
  • Dana Point Headlands Conservation Area: Explore scenic trails with panoramic ocean views, native plants, and wildlife. Ideal for hiking enthusiasts and nature lovers.
  • Ocean Institute: Dive into the wonders of marine science and maritime history with interactive exhibits, educational programs, and historic ship tours.

🍽️ Dining and Shopping:

  • Stroll through our vibrant Latern District downtown area, where you’ll find a variety of boutique shops, art galleries, and charming cafes.
  • Indulge in Dana Point Harbor fresh seafood and gourmet dining at one of our many waterfront restaurants, offering everything from casual bites to fine dining experiences. The shops are fantastic, too! Don’t miss the new Vinatage Yacht Club filled with treasures.

🎉 Events and Festivals:

  • Join us for the annual Festival of Whales and Maritime Festival, a spectacular celebration of our migrating gray whales, featuring parades, street fairs, and marine activities.
  • The Ohana Festival in September at Doheney State Beach has the best musicians and culture. Storytellers gather to share the heritage of the area.
  • Experience the holidays near the waterfront. The 4th of July fireworks show is a must-see event. The harbor holiday lights is a perfect photo opportunity. See #happyharbordays for iconic ideas.


Dana Point will leave you with memories to last a lifetime. Come visit us and discover why Dana Point is harboring the good life.

📸 Share your adventures with us using #VisitDanaPoint

Download the free Visit Dana Point app to learn more about our free trolley and experience the coastal city! The app is available at Apple – Dana Point on the App Store – and Google Play – Dana Point – Apps on Google Play.

Dana Point is the world headquarters for whale and dolphin watching. The city celebrates gray whales and other marine wildlife during the annual Festival of Whales in March and Maritime Festival September 13-15, 2024.

The Ocean Institute offers an incredible opportunity to join a chartered cruises. Set sail aboard the schooner Spirit of Dana Point and experience California from the perspective of an early tallship explorer.

History of Dana Point

Spanish Mission Padres with hides being thrown over Dana Point cliffs (1769-1821), Coutesy of First American Company
Richard Henry Dana III (1851-1931)
The Pilgrim replica tall ship is based off of Richard Henry Dana, Jr. journey mentioned in his novel "Two Years Before the Mast." Dana made two visits to Dana Point in 1835 to collect cattle hides, or "California Bank Notes" that was exchanged like currency. Learn more at the Ocean Institute and Dana Point Historical Society.

“On its 1835 visit to this coast, the Pilgrim carried a seaman whose name would become part of the local culture. Richard Henry Dana, Jr., far from his native Boston, was struck with rugged beauty of this anchorage within Capistrano Bay, calling the rocky coves and bluffs, ‘the only romantic spot in California’ in his descriptive volume, Two Years Before the Mast, published in 1840.” “Dana Point, Doris I. Walker, A Hundred Years of Yesterday

Richard Henry Dana III was a sailor, lawyer, and politician. He was a student of Ralph Waldo Emerson and a friend of Herman Melville. He married Edith Longfellow in 1877 who was the daughter of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Anna Gertrude Walters by the historic 1920s sales office off of Del Prado Ave. in the Latern District.

In the 1920s, Los Angeles develops created a Dana Point Syndicate for the 1,400 acres of coastal land. S.H. Woodruff developed of these parcels that were sold in the Auditorium (Today it’s the Stillwater Restaurant and Danman’s Music School). The centerpiece of the development was to be the luxurious cliff-top Dana Point Inn, which was modeled on similar buildings located on the Italian and French Rivieras. The arches still stand the test of time as a lookout into the past.

The Dana Point Historical Society offers a driving and virtual historic walking map of the Lantern District in Dana Point to be used via computer or smartphone.  The tour comprises 18 stops and includes brief descriptions at each stop with one or more photos.  We encourage you to take the tour from the comfort of your home computer, or, walk the actual tour with your smartphone to get an all-inclusive experience.

The Gateway Building is the oldest historic structure in the city. It used to be a sales office for the original development syndication. Woodruff’s Dana Point Syndicate desolved in 1939. Over the years, its been a gift shop, winery, sports equipment rental, and currenly is on the market.

Before After

Dana Point Harbor Development

Development as a Harbor: In the early 20th century, efforts were made to develop Dana Point as a harbor. In 1923, the Dana Point Syndicate purchased the land with the intention of creating a resort town and harbor. However, these plans were delayed due to economic challenges and World War II. They harbor was completed in 1971. Dana Point was officially incorporated as a city on January 1, 1989. The harbor redevelopment project is underway.

Aerial view, Dana Point Harbor, 1930s
Dana Point harbor 1969 construction, courtesy of OC Stories

Harbor Commercial Core

The Dana Point Harbor revitalization will exponentially enhance the Harbor experience for Dana Point residents and visitors to the area. The revitalization will uphold an appreciation for the Harbor’s rich history, while providing an invigorating meeting place that enhances a sense of community, improves local businesses, and serves as an even greater Orange County icon.

A key feature of the revitalized Harbor will be increased pedestrian connectivity and grand public spaces that will link the community from the Headlands, all the way to Doheny State Beach. Dana Point Harbor Partners (DPHP) recognize the importance of the Harbor to the Dana Point community and beyond. DPHP are passionate about instilling the Harbor’s rich history and renowned reputation as a waterman’s paradise into the revitalization, and will honor the Harbor’s legacy for generations to come.

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