For centuries before it became a modern marina, the curve of the Pacific Coast, that is now known as Dana Point, was a natural Harbour and a natural anchorage for wind dependent trading ships. It was on, one such ship, that young Richard Dana, first visited. In his1840 Classic “Two Years before the Mast” he described it as a poor anchorage, but one of the most romantic spots on the coastline.
Over the years Dana Point has become one of the most sought after destinations on the Southern California coastline. The harbor has been fully developed with a large Marina filled with, small boats to large luxury yachts, that are moored there. Visitors can see a replica of young Dana, which sits in the harbor, and they can also see a replica of his ship ‘The Pilgrim’ which is owned by the Ocean Institute and used as a classroom.
Today the city and Harbor of Dana Point which is situated halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, has been developed into a popular recreation and resort area, attracting visitors from all over the world. These visitors will find that the easiest and shortest way to get to Dana Point is to fly into the Orange County Airport, which has easy access to the 405 freeway heading south, exit where it says beach cities, then a short ten minutes to the harbor. Visitors who live close enough to drive can either use the freeways, or take the scenic Pacific Coast Highway and of course entry can also be gained from the ocean, for those who come by boat
Where to stay, when you get here.
There are many options to spend a couple of nights, or longer, within easy reach of the harbor and Marina village.
1. Holiday Inn Express is on Pacific Coast Highway at the junction with Dana Point Harbor Drive that leads directly to the Marina, it has free parking for guests and one of the rare amenities, it accepts dogs of all sizes. A free continental breakfast is included in the rates.
2. Dana Point Harbor Inn is across from the entrance to Doheny State Beach on Dana Point Harbor Drive, and just a few minutes from the Marina. Guest rooms are affordably priced, some with views of the harbor.
3. On the Cliffs above, with one of the best views of the harbor, marina and the entire south coastline is Laguna Cliffs Marriott’s Resort and Spa. There are winding paths that can be taken to the road below and on into the Marina, but they can be steep, check before starting out. Beside having over 300 rooms there is an outdoor pool, lounge and bar and a full service health spa. The beautiful landscaped gardens and lawns is the perfect spot to relax or hold a family function.
Inside the Marina.
1. The Dana Point Marina Inn, which is very accessible to the restaurants and shops in the Marina village. All of its spacious 136 rooms have private balconies with views of the many yachts. There is also an outdoor pool and fitness center.
There are also many other hotels and motels close by along Pacific Coast Highway.
The Dana Point Marina Village is located in the heart of the Harbor, abounding with small souvenier shops, boutiques, art work and a myriad of restaurants with a variety of cuisine, from bagels to seafood and authentic Mexican to delicious steaks. Some are located at the harbor side patio, where dogs are welcome and delicious ice cream is on sale, others can be found in their own individual buildings with excellent views of the yachts and ocean. The only thing you cannot do in the Marina is go swimming, but the white sands of Dohney Beach is just a short walk away.
There is a walkway that goes thru the village, continues around the Marina and gives access to the picnic areas which are found throughout. People watching is a favorite past time as there is lots to see, boats of all sizes, kayakers, paddle boarders and the occassional row boat. Along the rocks, that border the inside waterway from the ocean, there are thousands of nesting birds.
Outside the breakwater, on the ocean side, whales can sometimes be seen putting on a show especially during the season, which is usually January thru March. Whale watching boats also takes visitors out to find migrating whales and the occasional dolphin..
Festivals and art shows are popular events in the Marina, a full calendar of information can be found on http://www.danapointmarinainn.com. One of the special events is the “Parade of the Christmas Boats” which is an annual event usually held a few weeks prior to Christmas.
The Ocean Institute, at the farthest end of the Harbor is a popular place on weekends, as they offer educational programs and summer camps for students. On Sunday the Institute opens it’s doors to all visitors who can explore it’s facilities or join any of the family-friendly programs being offered. They also offer tours of the historic brig ‘Pilgrim’, programs based on the book “Two years before the Mast” and adventure sails on the Tall ship “Spirit of Dana Point”. Visit http://www.ocean-institute.org. to learn more about the Ocean Institute.