The city of Dana Point was named after the headland of Dana Point, which was in turn named for Richard Henry Dana, Jr., author of Two Years Before the Mast, which included a description of the area. Dana describes the locale, including neighboring San Juan Capistrano, as "the only romantic spot in California." Although Dana describes the anchorage as poor, it is the best available in the vicinity, and is now a developed harbor containing a museum replica of his ship, the Pilgrim. This area is designated California Historical Landmark #189.
In 1923, Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler and General M.H. Sherman, Director of the Pacific Electric Railway Company, created a major real estate group to develop what is known today as the Hollywood Hills, Sidney H. Woodruff, already a prominent Los Angeles homebuilder, was hired to lead the project. In 1926, Woodruff, Chandler and Sherman created the Dana Point Syndicate. They invited other heavy hitters, company presidents, movie producers and real estate investors, to join them in purchasing 1,388 acres of land, some of which includes the Headlands of today. Promising tree-lined, paved streets, electricity, telephones, sidewalks, water mains, storm drains, sewers and other amenities, Woodruff built 35 homes and a number of commercial buildings.
Most of these "Woodruff" houses are concentrated in an area called Lantern Village, which is the most historic part of Dana Point. The streets are named after the different colored lanterns, street of the Violet Lantern, Blue Lantern etc. (colored lanterns were used by ships 200 years ago to advertise their fares when pulling into the Dana Point natural harbor). His crowning structure was to be the Dana Point Inn, a Mediterranean-like resort hotel. After a celebratory groundbreaking in 1930, a three-story foundation was poured and a 135- foot elevator shaft was dug. Unfortunately, the Depression caused construction to halt. Although Woodruff continuously sought financial support through the years, this project was abandoned in 1939.
Subsequently, he sold the remaining holdings of the Dana Point Syndicate. Thirty-four of the original Woodruff residences are still occupied.
Dana Point Harbor Overview
Dana Point Harbor is not only a beautiful harbor in one of the most romantic areas of California, it is also a bustling portside community, offering many amenities to both residents and guests. The Dana Point Harbor is divided into the East and West Basin, both of which operate as a separate marina. Combined, they have a total of 2,500 slips for vessels of various sizes. Included in the harbor are 50 guest slips for boats transiting the coastline and yacht clubs, which makes weekend cruises from the harbor ever more popular and exciting! Additional harbor facilities are a 10 lane launch ramp, dry boat storage hoist, fishing pier, shipyard, marine fuel dock, three yacht clubs and a commercial sports fishing operation, which offers whale watching trips throughout the year.
One-of-a-kind boutiques offer beautiful, unexpected treasures. You won’t want to miss the sterling silver and gold jewelry handcrafted by artisans of the Navajo, Zuni, Hopi and Santo Domingo from The White Pelican, which is family owned and operated by the Paulos family. For those last minute boating purchases that you’ll need before you head out to the open sea, visit West Marine, which offers all boating supplies, and are known for their outstanding customer service. Other shopping delights include special cards, art collectibles, designer perfumes, clothing for men, women, and children, artisan chocolates, and specialty coffee and teas from around the world.
After all of that shopping, you’ll want to enjoy a fabulous meal at one of the restaurants that is located within Mariner’s Village and Dana Wharf. Try the fish and chips from Jon’s Fish Market, where you can enjoy the sounds of a saxophone player in the late afternoon, providing a beautiful backdrop to the great food, and panoramic harbor views. For dessert, don’t miss The Scoop Deck, located within Coffee Importers, which sells Dreyer’s Ice Cream and an array of mouthwatering desserts. Try the Mocha Shake- a longstanding favorite with chocolate and coffee ice cream, a shot of espresso, mocha beans, and a shot of homemade whipped cream to top it all off- delightful!
At the far west end of Dana Point Harbor, you’ll find the Ocean Institute, which is a unique educational experience for children and adults alike. The Ocean Institute also displays 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.
In addition to the facilities that the Dana Point Harbor offers year- round, there are numerous events, which attract thousands of visitors and spectators every year. Kicking off in February is the Festival of Whales and its associated activities, which lasts for three weeks.
Other events during the year include: the Classic Wooden Boat Festival, offshore powerboat races in June, spectacular July 4th fireworks show, Tallship Festival in September, and the Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot Race. The annual Christmas Boat Parade concludes the year's events.