Settle into the quiet O.C. beach town and just enjoy the ocean
Celebrate the Pacific in Dana Point, California
David Fenton
Schoolchildren heave-ho on the Ocean Institute's tall ship, the Pilgrim. Open to the public on Sundays, the ship is a replica of the 1800s vessel in which Two Years Before the Mast writer Richard Henry Dana sailed around Cape Horn.

Lacking the bling of Newport and the art legacy of Laguna, Dana Point is the often-overlooked stepsister along the Orange County coast. Which is a shame.

Its unpretentious charm and ocean-oriented character have much to offer ― quiet tidepools, a busy marina, a sportfishing wharf, and the family-friendly Ocean Institute, where you can explore all things salty, from sailing to plankton.

Getting out on the water with a kayak or aboard a wildlife cruise is easy, and in September, the weather and water are still warm and the crowds are nonexistent – the perfect time to check out the life aquatic.


Dana Point is midway between Los Angeles and San Diego. From I-5, take Pacific Coast Hwy./State 1 exit, go north to Dana Point Harbor Dr., turn left, and follow signs to the harbor. For more information, contact the Dana Point Chamber of Commerce (949/496-1555).



The largest gathering of tall ships on the West Coast, the Tall Ships Festival (Sep 8-9; $10, $8 ages 3-12; Ocean Institute, 24200 Dana Point Harbor Dr.; 949/496-2274) includes cannon battles, living-history demonstrations, sea-chantey concerts, and public tours.

David Fenton
The Dana Point Harbor


Marine Wildlife Cruise Ocean Institute scientists lead excursions along the coast aboard the RV Sea Explorer to discover the wonders of sea life. INFO: 1-3:30 most Sun (call for dates); $35, $22 ages 4-12 (no children under 4), reservations required; 24200 Dana Point Harbor Dr.; 949/496-2274.

Ocean Education Center On weekends, the Ocean Institute invites the public to explore its aquariums, experience working marine labs demonstrating water cycles, and board the square-rigged Pilgrim to learn knot-tying and sea chanteys. INFO: 10-3 Sat-Sun (Pilgrim open 10-2:30 Sun); $6, $4 ages 3-12, including Pilgrim admission; 949/496-2274

Kayaking Rent a kayak and poke around the harbor. INFO: UP Sports Kayak trailer, 34451 Ensenada Place, next to Baby Beach; from $20 per hour; 949/443-5161.



Cannons Seafood Grill All things from the sea at the casual blufftop restaurant with panoramic views. Live jazz on the terrace Sunday afternoons (4-7). INFO: $$$; 34344 Green Lantern St.; 949/496-6146.



Jon’s Fish Market Fish and chips on the wharf; inexpensive and very fresh fare. INFO: $; 34665 Golden Lantern St.; 949/496-2807.

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