Dana Point Harbor Walk
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California, Dana Point Guide (A): Dana Point Harbor Walk

Come explore the magic that is Dana Point Harbor. We'll visit the sport fishing fleet, restaurants, shops, monuments, tall ships, the Ocean Institute and some tide pools. Along the way, you'll learn about the harbor's history, Richard Henry Dana, and the impact the Ocean Institute has on over 100,000 students each year. This leisurely walk is a mile each way and is suitable for all ages.
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Walk Route

Guide Name: Dana Point Harbor Walk
Guide Location: USA » Dana Point
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Article (A))
# of Attractions: 14
Tour Duration: 2.0 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.2 km
Sight(s) featured in this guide: Dana Wharf   Mariners Village   Renaissance Cafe and Music Store   Heritage Park and Compass Plaza   The Blue Heron Nesting Tree   The Hide “Drogher,” Statue   The Arches and the Doheny Legacy   Summit Trail   The Chart House, Cove Road & Nature Trail   The Ocean Institute   The Pilgrim and the Spirit of Dana Point   The Fishing Pier   Sailing Center and Baby Beach   Richard Henry Dana Statue  
Author: Scott Weber
Author Bio: Scott is a longtime resident of California. He loves to explore the Southwest and write about his adventures.
Dana Wharf

1) Dana Wharf

The Dana Wharf is the working center of the harbor. Built in 1971, shortly after the harbor was completed, it provides a home to six restaurants, two clothing stores, and three gift shops. It is also the terminal for the Catalina Express, the only daily boat service from south Orange County to Catalina Island. Our first stop is the Dana Wharf Sportfishing and Whale Watching center. Opened in 1971, the owner, Don Hanson, moved his sport fishing boat up from the San Clemente pier to the safety of...
Mariners Village

2) Mariners Village

Mariner’s Village is the largest of the harbor’s two commercial centers and the first one you see when you arrive. Harpoon Henry’s and El Torito are the two main restaurants and each one has fabulous views of the marina. The shopping mall adjacent to the restaurants is home to gift shops, art galleries, cafes, boat brokerages, and marine supply retailers. Walking from the Dana Wharf along the main harbor promenade, the first spot you’ll hit is the Coffee Importers. They’ve been a...
Renaissance Cafe and Music Store

3) Renaissance Cafe and Music Store

Built in 1925, this is one of the first commercial structures in what was soon to become Dana Point. Sydney Woodruff, the man who developed Hollywood and one of the major players in Dana Point’s early days, built the core of the building where the Renaissance Café is now, and used it as a garage to service his earthmoving equipment. The section that houses the music store was built shortly thereafter and was called an auditorium, but it was really a sales office and an all-purpose facility....
Heritage Park and Compass Plaza

4) Heritage Park and Compass Plaza

This park was established in the early 1980’s as part of the Dana Point Harbor development plan. In a deal struck with the newly formed California Coastal Commission, the still unincorporated city of Dana Point sought to develop the areas around the harbor. This park, as well as several neighborhoods that would be dedicated for low-income housing, were the concessions made by the city to allow for the construction of a resort hotel and some high-end developments. The park rises 120 feet from...
The Blue Heron Nesting Tree

5) The Blue Heron Nesting Tree

If you’re a bird watcher or even have a casual interest in our feathered friends, the huge flat-topped black pine tree in the backyard is home to a colony of mating Blue Herons. There’s a half dozen of these nesting trees in the harbor area. The Blue Heron grows to forty-six inches tall and has a six-foot wingspan. The birds arrive in late winter and build nests on the very top of the tree canopy. Remarkably, more than forty parents share this one tree. After the chicks are hatched, the...
The Hide “Drogher,” Statue

6) The Hide “Drogher,” Statue

This beautiful, bronze statue called, “the Drogher,” was designed by the artist, F. Benedict Coleman and was installed in 1990 as one of many historical landmarks in the harbor honoring the city’s namesake, Richard Henry Dana. In 1835, Dana arrived in this harbor on a merchant vessel from Boston to trade iron-wares, foodstuffs, and finished leather goods for cowhides with the ranchers of Capistrano Valley to be taken back to Boston and turned into leather goods. Hundreds of these hides...
The Arches and the Doheny Legacy

7) The Arches and the Doheny Legacy

These Arches are all that’s left from the Dana Point Inn. In the late 1920’s, Ned Doheny, the son of the oil baron Edward Doheny, and his partner Sydney Woodruff sought to develop the area. They bought 1,000 acres and proceeded to start a town. After Doheny and Woodruff mapped out the city, foundations were poured for the new Dana Point Inn. Several homes and some commercial building were completed in the immediate area, but the Inn was slow to rise. The 1929 stock market crash left the town...
Summit Trail

8) Summit Trail

Around the corner from Cannon’s Restaurant are the steps that lead up to the headlands summit. It’s a short climb and you don’t want to miss this 360-degree view. At the top: to the west, the coastline leads up to Monarch and Laguna Beach. On clear days you’ll see Palos Verdes Peninsula. Turning toward the sea, the big island is Santa Catalina Island, 26 miles away. Turning further south you might glimpse the top of San Clemente Island, 60 miles away. And looking down the southern...
The Chart House, Cove Road & Nature Trail

9) The Chart House, Cove Road & Nature Trail

This intersection illustrates three of the ongoing issues every coastal community struggles with: how to integrate progress, conservation, and recreation. If you’re going to build a harbor, you have to provide opportunities for food and retail establishments. How you do that without destroying the bluffs and the natural sightlines is the challenge. The Chart House Restaurant was built in 1976. The developers carved this modern architectural beauty into the edge of the bluff leaving as much of...
The Ocean Institute

10) The Ocean Institute

The Ocean Institute has become nationally known for its marine science and maritime history programs. More than 100,000 students and 6,000 teachers participate each year in the Institute's 61 award-winning, immersion style programs. The Institute started in 1980 and has grown in size and reputation ever since. In 2002, this new 16 million dollar facility opened its doors and they’ve never looked back. Inside the Institute, you’ll be treated to a variety of oceanic exhibits, aquariums,...
The Pilgrim and the Spirit of Dana Point

11) The Pilgrim and the Spirit of Dana Point

The Pilgrim is the larger of the two ships and is named after the ship Richard Henry Dana sailed on. The real Pilgrim was built in 1825 and sailed for 31 years before catching fire at sea. This Pilgrim was built in 1935 as a three-masted schooner and earned her strips in the Baltic coastal trade. Today, the Pilgrim serves as a classroom for over 16,000 students a year. Although the public is prohibited from sailing on her, the Pilgrim does make a goodwill tour and participates in Dana...
The Fishing Pier

12) The Fishing Pier

This pier and Cove Road are the only elements left from the original harbor. Although the pier is still used for fishing, construction of the harbor wiped out hundreds of rock reefs that supported colonies of abalone, lobster, and halibut. The pier was rebuilt during the harbor construction and it is still in the original location. On a historic note, during prohibition this pier and harbor as well as many of the coves up through Laguna Beach and Corona del Mar were dropping off points for...
Sailing Center and Baby Beach

13) Sailing Center and Baby Beach

Dana Point Harbor is divided into two marinas and over 2,500 yachts and small craft are moored here. The County of Orange oversees all harbor operations and they wanted to promote educational services for kids, so the Youth Sailing Center was built. It offers year-round classes in sailing, stand up paddling, boat safety, and navigation. They also use the facilities for the yearly boat show, fitness programs, and wedding receptions. Next to the center is what’s known as Baby Beach, aptly named...
Richard Henry Dana Statue

14) Richard Henry Dana Statue

This harbor and city is named after Richard Henry Dana. This statue is 9 feet tall and weighs just over 1,700 pounds. It was placed on its island pedestal in 1972 and from here we see the view Dana must have seen as he gazed at the cliffs that inspired him to write in his journal, “This is the most romantic place on earth.” Dana was a crewmember on a ship called the Pilgrim when it moored in this harbor in 1835. In the early 1800’s, many ships sailed from Boston to California with...