Dana Point Harbor makes up a huge part of my outdoor life. One day we can be down near the Ocean Institute enjoying Baby Beach and another day we are up on the Headlands hiking down to Strands Beach.
Even though there is water all around and the bluffs are high above the surf, there are plenty of kid friendly things to do near Dana Point Harbor.
Dogs are not allowed on a lot of the beaches and nature trails, but they are allowed on leash in the harbor. And, it’s a super popular outing to bring your dog while you eat breakfast outside at Coffee Importers. Dog lovers paradise!
Kid Friendly Things to Do Near Dana Point Harbor
There are so many hikes, walks, and things to do for families visiting Dana Point Harbor. I have all these posts scattered around my blog, but when someone asks I usually send them ALL these links. It's time to have all of them in ONE place.
Dana Point Headlands Nature Interpretive Center
This is the post that started it all. Dana Point Headlands is what I call the open space behind the Dana Point Nature and Interpretive Center. Yet this has taken YEARS for me to sort out in my brain. Years of exploring, years of changing access, and visits throughout all the seasons!
Here is the scoop:
- This one post has FOUR hikes or walks you can do around the Headlands area above the Harbor.
- I don't know of any other resource out there that explains it for families as well as this post does! It's a labor of love and I try to keep it updated based on what I hear from you -- so if you have updates then send them my way!
Doheny State Beach and Dana Point Harbor
This one is here to provide you with the basics. You'll learn all the highlights of Doheny State Beach and Dana Point Harbor. All my posts have links to the official information so you can also visit the official California State Parks website for this location and the Dana Point Harbor website which is much improved since when I first wrote this post!
Daily parking fee at Doheny State Beach ($15)
Free parking at the Harbor
Baby Beach in Dana Point Harbor
Baby Beach is on my Toddler Beaches with No Waves list, too. It can be crazy busy during the summer and completely empty on blustery winter days. I like the sweet spot in between on warm spring or fall days.
Lantern Bay Park in Dana Point
The views are amazing from this park. Maybe you've heard of the yoga class that takes place here? The playground is fairly new and it's actually gone through 2 complete replacements in the 14 years that I've been covering parks. Kids will love the roller slide. Parents will love the views and ocean breeze.
Family-Friendly Walks near Dana Point Harbor (with Route Maps)
We walk here ALL the time! There are so many routes and I've ended up taking some of the FIVE walks I wrote about in this post and actually writing a full post on the walk (like the Dana Point Bluff Top Trail). This one has recommended ages and even restaurant suggestions along with full route maps! It took SO long to write.
Dana Point Bluff Top Trail
Here it is! All the views! How to take this short, but sweet walk above the Harbor.
Ocean Institute in Dana Point
As the only location in this post that requires a true admission fee, you'll find all sorts of classes and camps in the description and a little peek at what's inside (including an ocean-themed playground).
Admission Fee to go inside (open weekends) but FREE to walk around outside.
Dana Point Tide Pools
We never go here specifically for tide pools, but we go here for sunsets and low tide A LOT. It's super easy to get to and the view never disappoints. Bring a coat or jacket, though. It can get cold in the evenings when the fog rolls in or a storm is blowing out.
Always know the tides when you enter this beach! High tide can have a big impact on your safety.
Strands Vista Park in Dana Point
Strands is on the other side of the Headlands from the harbor, but it's reachable on foot on some of the trails. This trail map shows all the ways you can navigate the Headlands on foot.
Heritage Park above Dana Point Harbor
I almost didn't put Heritage Park on this list, but it does have fun grassy hills for rolling down and also a small fenced dog park. You might enjoy the solitude and walking the winding sidewalk up or down the hill.
Creekside Park in Dana Point
Creekside Park is definitely a "near" the Harbor destination since it's off Stonehill Drive. It's not right at the harbor. I included it because it's a a really fun spot and sometimes it can be sunny here when it's foggy and cold at the beach.
Bonus: Holiday Lights at Dana Point Harbor
This only happens during the holidays, but I feel like it needs to be on this list! You will fall in love with Dana Point Harbor throughout the year and then it will feel like home when you go to visit during the holidays.
I have more to add! I will be updating existing posts on whale watching via Dana Wharf and from shore to add to the list.
One thing you WON’T see on this list is the Dana Point Waterfall. I’ve never covered it on the blog because it’s basically a glorified storm drain. Pretty on Instagram? Yes! In real life, it’s a bit of a mess because everyone flocks to the Harbor when we get a heavy rain and there is no place to park to actually see the water so all the traffic just clogs up the main road and many times the street can become flooded, too.
Please tag me on Instagram @ocplayparks if you end up taking one of these outings to let me know how it goes or if something needs updating!