Known locally as Vic Beach, the sandy swath offers a public access down a long staircase that eventually lands you at the north end of the beach. Revered as a beach for those who don’t want to be bored, there is plenty to do here, from kayaking and volleyball to swimming, body surfing and snorkeling. And yet, there’s a feeling of seclusion, given that you have to hunt for parking on the Pacific Coast Highway and make your way down the steps. Your best bet: Get there early in the day to secure your parking spot, then stay and play for hours until the sun sets over the Pacific.
There are no bathrooms or running. A lifeguard is present. For volleyball, look for the courts at the north and south ends of the beach. Other activities include diving, fishing, body surfing and skim boarding (see below).
To reach Victoria Beach, go past Laguna Beach on the Pacific Coast Highway, looking for Sunset Terrace road. A staircase leads down to the beach at the end of Sunset Terrace. Wondering where to park? Finding a parking spot near Victoria Beach will be the only stressful part of your day at this iconic beach. Look for free or metered parking along the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) near the Nyes Place signal or look for metered parking along the PCH near the Montage Resort.
This mysterious landmark – an old stone tower built into a cliff base – is a must-see when you’re in Victoria Beach. It was built in the 1920s as a residential stair tower (and is sometimes referred to as “La Tour”). The castle-inspired architecture – ocean stone at its base, cone-shaped, shingled roof, narrow windows – gives it a mythical air.
The house at the top of the bluff, above the tower, is the “Norman House,” so named for its architectural style and was built for California State Senator William Edward Brown and his family as a summer and holiday retreat. Brown and his wife designed the house and tower based on their time in France at the end of World War I, when they were smitten with the many chateaux and castles of the area.
So why is it called “Pirate Tower”? Brown sold his home and the tower in the 1940s to a retired sea captain, Harold Kendrick, who was also a pirate aficionado. Mr. Kendrick dressed up as a pirate and regaled the local children with stories of the sea. The kids were encouraged to search the tower’s nooks and crannies for cleverly hidden coins.
To the south of the tower, you’ll notice the remains of a cement wall that once enclosed a circular pool – now a favorite Insta-spot. When the tide is high enough, the pool still collects water. In the winter however, the heavy surf removes much of the sand from Victoria Beach, so this area will be mainly rock.
Guests may walk up to the tower and pool, but not in it or on it. To find both, walk to the northern end of Victoria Beach. Go around the bluff, over the rocks and past another sandy section. You’ll see the pool first, in front of a contemporary staircase, then the tower, just north of the pool.
Victoria Beach holds the title of Skimboard Capital of the World, so join the locals for some fun at the south end of the beach. Skimboarding requires steep sandy slopes and a shore break, both of which occur at Victoria Beach. You’ll use a light foam, finless board to catch a wave from shore then race into the shorebreak to ride it. Feel like a true local when you give this fringe sport a try!
With a nine-mile-long waterfront and 36 beaches, you’ll never be far from a beach day in Laguna Beach. Victoria Beach has, perhaps, the most secluded feel, given that it takes some effort to park and walk down, but make it a point to include it in your stay. Then, branch out to Thousand Steps and Crescent Bay. The locals flock to Main Beach for its grassy areas, volleyball courts and proximity to shopping and dining.
At Thousands Step Beach, you can check out a large cave at the south end when the tide is out. Walk through the cave tunnel to a secret rocky cove on the other side. At the north end, walk through another rock tunnel to Totuava Beach, which isn’t accessible at high tide.
Crescent Bay Beach is popular for scuba diving – two favorites include Seal Rock and Dead Man’s Reef – and tidepooling (check out the pools below Twin Points at the south end). Above the beach, Crescent Bay Point Park is an especially good vantage point for whale watching.
Discover the tide pools, crashing surf, rolling hills, canyons, ridges and, yes, sandy beaches, of Crystal Cove State Park between Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach. Explore for hours the three miles of beachfront and 2,000 acres of wilderness, where you can decide whether you’re in the mood for hiking and biking or fishing and swimming. Search the tide pools for marine life or join a guided hike or geology talk with state park staff and docents.
A local favorite for picnicking, tide pooling and sunset views, Heisler Park is on Cliff Drive above Laguna Beach. Just north of Main Beach between Aster Street and Diver’s Cove, the park offers walking trails, picnic tables, tide pools and more. Notice the sculpture from 2011, which incorporates metal beams from the World Trade Center debris.
Laguna Art Museum
Looking for some shade? Head to the famous Laguna Art Museum, the oldest museum in California and just 300 feet from the ocean, so you can quickly get back to the sand when you’re ready. Dedicated to showcasing and preserving art by California artists, the museum highlights art that reflect the state’s history, with pieces from the 19th century to today.
Check Out Public Art
Prefer your art walk to happen outdoors? You’re in luck. There are more than 100 pieces of public art found throughout Laguna Beach – many close to Victoria Beach. Look for murals, sculptures, park benches, signs and more. Favorites include the 16-foot-tall “Breaching Whale” sculpture in Heisler Park; the colorful “Laguna Tortoise” in Bluebird Park; “Sight and Sound,” metal, wood and stained-glass panels showcasing poems written for this favorite sunset-viewing spot; and the “Whaling Wall,” a 60-foot-high by 160-foot-long mural on multiple walls, painted along with others by the artists to call attention to the plight of the whales.
On the first Thursday of each month, all through the year, visitors can join the Art Walk, when the art galleries of Laguna Beach open their doors to all. Enjoy gallery tours, artist demos, live music – and perhaps a crisp glass of white wine as you browse.
Laguna Beach Trolley
Pack in several sights – and perhaps ride it to Victoria Beach to avoid the parking issue – when you hop on the free Laguna Beach Trolley. The trolley runs along the South Coast Highway on weekends, from the Ritz-Carlton in Dana Point to Cajon Street in North Laguna Beach. There are 34 different stops, so jump on and off for shopping, sightseeing and dining.
The breezy, beachside atmosphere of Southern California simply begs one to stroll for hours. There are a number of walking tours available in Laguna Beach, catering to all interest, so take advantage of this fun way to explore. Take the Heisler Park Tour, the Downtown Walk, the Pearl District Walk or the Fitness Walk – all tours are suited to all ages and ability levels. Visit art galleries, museums, restaurants, shops, gardens, public art, architectural landmarks and more.
The Laguna Playhouse
The Victoria Beach and Laguna Beach area is known for its arts scene. Take in a performance at The Laguna Playhouse, the oldest continually operating theater on the West Coast. World-, nationally and regionally renowned performers have included Bette Davis, Harrison Ford, Misty Copeland and many more. The theater is just steps from fantastic dining and shopping, so make a delightful evening of it.
Laguna Beach Art Festivals
When summer hits, so too does the festival season in Laguna Beach. Time your visit with the Sawdust Art Festival, the Laguna Art-A-Fair, Festival of the Arts and Pageant of the Masters (more than 80 years old). This one-of-a-kind festival happens every July and boasts a 90-minute stage show in which real people recreate original artworks.
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After sunset, head to the streets of Laguna Beach for some excellent California cuisine. Among our favorites is Starfish Laguna Beach, a hip, yet approachable spot of Pan Asian flavors. Pick and choose sharable plates with tastes from Thailand, Vietnam, China, Korea and Japan, from wok classics to fresh seafood. For European favorites, signature cocktails, amazing apps and more served in a quaint, shingled house from the 1920s, head to Dizz’s As Is. You’ll feel right at home as you feast on filet mignon, giant tiger prawns or the fresh fish of the day. At The Drake, your indoor or outdoor dining experiences comes with live music seven days a week. The French-trained executive chef impresses with his tuna tartare, lamp lollipops and limoncello tiramisu, washed down with specialty cocktails. Feast on tacos at Rasta Taco, created by Mario Melendez, an OC native who took a trip to Jamaica and brought back a love affair with tacos and Rastafarian culture. One taco is never enough when you’re faced with so many options, from Caribbean carne asada to seared white fish. Other favorites eateries for locals and visitors alike include Nick’s Laguna Beach for classic America comfort food, Driftwood Kitchen for an ocean-to-table dining experience, Alessa by Chef Pirozzi for Neapolitan pizza by the beach and Sapphire Cellar.Craft.Cook for fresh seafood, salads and more. For a special occasion, reserve a table at Las Brisas, considered one of the best for romantic, waterfront dining in all of Orange County.
Where to Shop in Laguna Beach
Shopping in Laguna Beach is almost as popular as its beach and arts scenes. It’s fantastic for those who love to shop local and independent boutiques. Check out these favorites when shopping for your sister, mother-in-law, cousin, best friend – or you!
Amenah offers a chic clothing line and accessories and homegoods created by local female artists and artisans. At Simple Laguna, you can find Italian and German brands you won’t find elsewhere and a great selection of high-end clothing. Thalia Surf offers retro beach clothing, handmade surfboards and kids’ clothing. Spice up your décor with a piece from Vertigo Home, brimming with carefully curated, Scandinavia-influenced furniture, accessories and gifts. Everyone loves a general store, so be sure to stop into Pearl Street General for their famous Spicy Mole Cooking Sauce, a hidden beer and wine bar and more treats from this family-owned favorite. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting during one of Sourced’s monthly pop-up markets, be sure to stock up on goodies for everyone, from clothing to jewelry to homegoods from local artists and designers.
What’s the Weather Like in Laguna Beach and Victoria Beach?
It’s lovely year-round in Orange County, particularly Laguna Beach and Victoria Beach, set between Los Angeles and San Diego. Daytime temps range from the mid-60s in the winter to the low-80s in the summer. The highest rainfall is in January, February and March. Plan your visit for April, May, September or October to avoid the crowds and still enjoy a comfortable daytime temperature. If you don’t mind not being able to swim at the beach, winter is a great time to visit for a lower cost.