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Dana Point, California


In 1834, a 19 year old Harvard student named Richard Henry Dana shipped as a seaman aboard the brig Pilgrim for a two year voyage to California. The book he wrote about his experiences. Two Years Before The Mast, was an immediate best seller and in the century and a half since has never been out of print. This classic description of life aboard a merchantman in the first half of the 19th century is also a classic description of California before it became a part of the United States.

In his third year at Harvard. an attack of measles left Dana's eyesight so poor he could not study. A sea voyage was not an uncommon recommendation for this ailment. Yet (despite Dana's social and financial position- his grandfather had been chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court) he chose not to go as a passenger but as a common sailor, before the mast, as the phrase went.

The vessel on which Dana sailed was the brig Pilgrim which was engaged in the hide trade on the California coast. The ranchos and missions in California raised cattle and traded the hides for most of the manufactured goods they needed. The Yankees took the hides back to Boston to make shoes. Since the only way to get from New England to California by sea was around Cape Horn. the tip of South America. the vovage was long and dangerous. The Pilgrim reached California in January, 1835. 150 days out of Boston.

In the course of his time in California. Dana visited the area now called Dana Point. which was then known by the name of the nearby mission San Juan Capistrano.

"San Juan is the only romantic spot in California. The country here for several miles is high table land, running boldly to the shore, and breaking off in a steep hill, at the foot of which the waters of the Pacific are constantly dashing. For several miles the water washes the base of the hill, or breaks upon ledges and fragments of rocks which run out into the sea. Just where we landed was a small cove, or "bight" which gave us, at high tide, a few square feet of sand-beach between the sea and the bottom of the hill."

Dana had no time for sight-seeing however. The crew's job was to transport the hides on the bluffs above back to Pilgrim anchored offshore. To expedite this process the hides were thrown off the top of the cliff down to the waiting boats. This event was made famous in the dramatic sculpture by Benedict Coleman titled "The Hide Drogher" located on a bluff top trail overlooking Dana's "romantic" cove, now called Dana Point Harbor.

Dana Point was incorporated on January 1, 1989. The City's boundaries encompass the three distinct communities of Capistrano Beach, Dana Point, and Monarch Beach. Dana Point's adjoining cities include Laguna Beach, Laguna Niguel, San Clemente, and San Juan Capistrano.

Dana Point is located midway between the cities of San Diego and Los Angeles in the southern portion of Orange County. This location provides access to four major airports within about one hour's drive. The San Diego Freeway runs through the City from north to south and Pacific Coast Highway provides intercity access to the beach communities of Orange County. The Orange County Transportation Authority provides public bus service to all of Orange County. Local train service is provided within five minutes of most residents via Amtrak (San Juan Capiatrano) and Metrolink (San Clemente).

Dana Point Harbor provides slips and mooring for over 2,500 boats along with over 50 specialty shops and restaurants. The Harbor attracts thousands of visitors annually for shopping, sportfishing, walking, bicycling, parasailing and a whole host of recreational activities. The Harbor is also home to the Orange County Marine Institute, a nationally recognized research and teaching facility dedicated to the protection of the marine environment.

Dana Point Harbor is the gateway to Doheny State Park, one of California's most popular beach facilities. The 62acre State Park offers camping, picnicking, swimming, surfing, bicycling, tide pool exploration and more.

Dana Point provides over 1,400 hotel rooms ranging in accommodations and services from economy hotels to the five star Ritz Carlton. Convention and meeting facilities are available at the larger resort facilities. All provide access to Dana Point's unique coastal amenities.

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Important Dana Point Numbers All area codes 949 unless noted





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Chamber of Commerce
(Dana Point)

949-494-1018 ext. 5









South Coast Water District 499-4555 (serving Dana Point )
Moulton Niguel Water District 831-2500 (serving Dana Point )

Capistrano Valley Water District

493-1515 (serving Dana Point )








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