Doheny State Beach near Dana Point Harbor is one of my favorite spots in Orange County. We like to hang out at the harbor for breakfast, walks, and visits to the Ocean Institute. I always seem to be walking through Doheny State Beach or driving past it on my way to the harbor.
Things to Know about Doheny State Beach
- A California State Park offering day use areas for picnicking or beachgoing, plus a beach campground and day use area with fire pits.
- The Visitor Center / Interpretive Center at the entrance booth has an aquarium and small displays of local wildlife. Consult the calendar for interpretive programs for families and kids.
- A great spot for large gatherings with reservable picnic areas — many in the shade.
- Walkable to Dana Point Harbor
- The Boneyard Beach Cafe has awesome Rosemary Garlic Fries — plus other breakfast and lunch items from their concession stand and cafe menus
- Be Aware:
- Ocean bottom is rocky at this beach
- In recent years, witnessed a rising number of homeless sleeping on the grassy area
- Access to fire pits and day use area can be effected by high surf or storm surge
- Big events like the Doheny Blues Festival make the park extra busy and hard to navigate during the event – make sure you check the park calendar before you go.
- $15 day use fee for parking (or use your CA State Parks annual pass)
Things to Know about Dana Point Harbor
- One of my favorite places for family strolls because you never know what you are going to see. Park near the restaurants at the dead end of Golden Lantern walk the sidewalk all the way to the Ocean Institute or across the bridge to the small island where many of the yacht clubs are located.
- Coffee Importers is a local favorite, but hidden from view from the parking lot. Go down the stairs and grab your breakfast below El Torito (or get ice cream for dessert from the Scoop Deck Ice Cream Shop under Harpoon Henry’s)
- Best calamari steaks around are at Harpoon Henry’s — the Harborside Patio has a happy hour menu that makes it budget-friendly for families.
- Walkable to Doheny State Beach
- Be Aware:
- Parking is free, but can be a challenge on busy weekends or during the summer
Here are posts I’ve already written on the area:
- Dana Point Headlands Nature Interpretive Center
- Visit the Ocean Institute in Dana Point for Learning about Local Nautical History and Marine Animals
- Baby Beach in Dana Point Harbor
- Dana Point Tidepools – Marine Protected Area (MPA) and State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA)
- Heritage Park doesn’t have a playground, but it’s nice for walks and views.
- Lantern Bay Park does have a small playground and restroom.
Lots of people have covered the surf history, special events and activities related to this beach/park/campground/picnic area. Here are the top online sources I consult when planning a visit:
- Huell Howser – California’s Golden Parks (see the video online!)
- Doheny State Beach Interpretive Association
- Doheny State Beach (Official California State Parks page)
- Dana Point Harbor
- City of Dana Point
- The Ocean Institute
Originally posted in September 2010.