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Dana Point Oceanfront

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Dana Point

Dana Point Photo

Once called the most romantic spot on the coast, Dana Point up to now lures vacationers and couples seeking the romantic getaway. Inspired by the panoramic views in and around the natural cove seaman Richard Henry Dana called this place the most romantic spot on the coast, when he landed here during the hide trading days of the 1830's and described the charm of the steep cliff cove in his renowned book "Two Years Before The Mast". In the days of the square rigged sailing ships, the rugged cove was known as Bahia Capistrano and was the major port between San Diego and Santa Barbara. It seemed only natural that this scenic cove was destined to become one of the most beautiful recreational harbors on the west coast.

At the turn of the 19th century, Dana Point was the only major harbor between San Diego and Santa Barbara. Now the harbor is a popular place for boats offering whale watching cruises from November through March. The harbor also offers restaurant dining with a harbor view and gift shops for taking home gift souvenirs from your vacation. Guest slips, launch ramps, boat rentals, yacht instruction, fishing, windsurfing, jet skiing and diving charters are available there.

Dana Point is a popular wedding place featuring romantic ocean views perfect for a wedding ceremony. It has a few such sites worth considering. Dana Cove Room, Lantern Bay Park, Salt Creek Beach and the Overview Gazebo at the end of Blue Lantern Street all provide those spectacular ocean and beach views.

Of course, gorgeous views are the only draw of Dana Point which offers a lot of recreational opportunities for its visitors. Most of the city attractions are clustered in and around man-made Dana Point Harbor, built and officially dedicated in 1971. Divided into two basins, the East Basin and West Basin each operates as a separate marina, holding a total of 2,500 ships. Also, included in the harbor are fifty quest slips for visiting guests. There is a ten lane launch ramp, dry boat storage hoist, fishing pier, shipyard, marine fuel dock, three yacht clubs and a commercial sports fishing operation which also offers whale watching trips during the migration season. Numerous restaurants and stores offer good food in a beautiful setting in either Mariner's Village or the Dana Wharf areas.

The Orange County Marine Institute, located at the far West end of Dana Point Harbor, offers a unique educational program for both children and adults which encompasses four separate ocean-focused adventures. The facility provides classroom instruction, wet laboratory equipment, display tanks, and exhibits to study marine life. On Sundays admission offers opportunities to discover what life was like aboard a 1800s tallship by mounting aboard the brig "Pilgrim" which is a full-sized replica of the square rigged vessel on which Richard Henry Dana sailed into this cove. The Pilgrim is docked adjacent to the fishing pier and offers school children the experience of life aboard a sailing ship in the 19th century.

The Ocean Educational Center is actually a school during the week, but on weekend it is open for visitors to enjoy interactive marine-focused exhibits. A 70 foot research vessel "Sea Explorer" provides daily cruises to study and observe marine life offshore. You may also join a “pirate” adventure on a 118 ft replica of a Revolutionary-era tallship the Spirit of Dana Point. Just beyond the base of the breakwater lies the Marine Life Refuge, a protected area for observing marine life in the tide pools at the foot of the majestic bluffs overlooking the ocean.

Dana Point Harbor offers the recreational boaters and county residents alike, numerous events which attract thousands of spectators and participants each year. Starting with the February "Festival of the Whales" and its many activities for a three week period. Other events during the year include: the Classic Wooden Boat Festival, offshore powerboat races in June, July 4th fireworks show from a barge offshore, Tallship Festival in September, a Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot Race and an annual Christmas Boat Parade.

Dana Point offers lots of spots perfect for swimming, diving and just relaxing on the sun. Just South of Laguna Beach is Salt Creek Beach, an 18-acre park popular with surfers, boogie boarders, bodysurfers and tidepoolers. The park features picnic tables, grills, restrooms and showers all located within the shadows of the bluff-top Ritz Carlton.

Adjacent to the southern border of Dana Point Harbor is 62-acre Doheny State Beach, with 170 picnic tables, 99 grills, volley-ball courts and a butterfly exhibit. Doheny State Beach has a five acre lawn with private picnic facilities rentals plus a sand beach and plenty of restrooms, food concessions and showers. It also allows beach camping and is voted as the best camp site of the country. With over a mile of whitewashed sandy beach and some of the warmest water and best swimming and surfing in California, it's no wonder that people return here year after year to vacation.