Sailing 101: The Must-See Destinations While Sailing the SoCal Coastline

Ahoy sailors, welcome to Orange County, Southern California, a region lined with 40 miles of Pacific coastline and almost perfect weather year-round making it a treasure for those going through the boating seasons. The coastline is home to six coastal cities and even though they don’t all offer overnight docking; they are only a maximum of 50 minutes apart from start to finish and each city offers its own special coastal attractions. So, dock your boat and pick north or south; there is something fun in each direction.

Harbors with Overnight Guest Slips:

Dana Point Harbor

Dana Point, also referred to as the dolphin and whale capital of the world, offers a variety of recreational amenities, boater facilities, dockside dining, and shopping opportunities. If you feel like staying local, the harbor is a calm location filled with restaurants shops that operate to the sound of boats swaying in their slips. Or you can go on a whale watching tour. If you want to venture out of the harbor, Dana Point has several beaches to visit including Salt Creek Beach, Doheny State Beach, Dana Strands Beach, and Baby Beach, all different, all enjoyable. Dana Point is home to the Lantern District which often hosts festivals and fairs along Del Prado Avenue, and is lined with new, young restaurants.

The harbor hosts events throughout the year that generate lots of local and tourist foot traffic, such as the annual Festival of Whales which is held in March. The Dana Point Harbor has activities on and off the water, making it the perfect place to dock and enjoy some fun and food while passing through.

The Dana Point Harbor offers guests slips for overnight docking, allowing boaters from far and wide to dock and go experience not only the harbor, but the city as well. Guest slips are managed by The Marina at Dana Point, and it is recommended that reservations be made in advance. Reservations can be made at (949) 496-6137.

Visiting boaters have the choice of anchorage or guest slips. Anchorage is available within the Harbor in the East anchorage (near bait barge) or the West anchorage, adjacent to the Ocean Institute and Baby Beach. OC Sheriff Harbor Patrol monitors anchorages. For additional information, please contact DP Harbor Patrol at (949)248-2222.

Newport Harbor

Dock your boat overnight at the Newport Harbor and go explore the city. Newport Beach is home to Balboa Island, a harborside community filled with shops, restaurants, and the Balboa Fun Zone. Surf lovers will feel at home at The Wedge, a powerful surfing location powered by the waves that crash into the jetty. Check out the Balboa Peninsula, known as the three-mile stretch with Newport Harbor on one side and sandy California beaches on the other.

The Newport Harbor is the largest recreational harbor on the west coast. Its large size means there are activities for boaters just about everywhere. Boaters can explore the Back Bay of Newport Harbor where the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve and Ecological Reserve draw naturalists and scientists from all over the world. Here you will find where more than 35,000 migratory birds and more than 200 endangered species make their home across 1,000 acres of coastal wetlands. In addition, the area offers hiking and cycling trails as well as aquatic adventures for nature lovers and passionate outdoor enthusiasts. Newport Harbor prides itself on being accessible for overnight docking and allowing visiting boaters to explore its city.

The marina features 23 boat slips from 40-55 feet with a maximum continuous stay of 30 days. Charges are based on the slip or boat length, whichever is greater. Check in is at 1 p.m. and check out is at 11 a.m. The marina offers free WiFi, guest laundry, shower, and restroom facilities, outdoor fitness circuits and basketball courts, and a bayfront nautical themed playground and picnic area.

To learn more about availability and reservations, contact the Harbor department at (949) 270-8159 or email

Must See Locations in Each City While Sailing Through Southern California:

Although these must-see cities don’t have guest docking, they are easily accessible. A quick taxi, public transportation, or Uber ride can get you there in minutes.

Seal Beach

Seal Beach is the northern most city along the Orange County coastline and although it has no marinas or harbors for visiting sailors to dock at, it is only a 28-minute drive from the Newport Harbor. Seal beach has remained a quiet beachy town compared to its neighboring cities and its Main Street in Old Town is an adorable area to walk and browse shops and restaurants without crowds. Once you make your way to the end of Main Street, you will find yourself at the Seal Beach Municipal Pier, one of the longest wooden piers in California jutting out from the center of the city.

Huntington Harbour:

While the Huntington Harbour does not offer overnight guest slips, it is only a 27-minute drive up PCH from the Newport Harbor. Huntington Harbor is a nice break from the bustling downtown of Main Street. The Harbour has a quaint seaside setting with picturesque scenery. It was built in the 1960s and is located on the northwest corner of Huntington Beach, bordering Seal and Sunset Beach. It is home to five man-made islands with more than 500 stunning bayfront homes of all shapes, sizes, and themes. The Harbour also serves as the perfect place to enjoy outdoor water activities. Visitors can explore the Harbour by renting a private charter, an electric boat, a stand-up paddleboard, or a kayak. In addition, Huntington Harbour has plenty of places to eat and drink, including breweries.

Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach is another city that doesn’t have any harbors or marinas but is only 24 minutes up PCH from the Newport Harbor. Once you get to Laguna, you have endless options for entertainment. Laguna is an art-focused city filled with boutiques that sit between the sand and PCH. Laguna is home to many beaches and parks including Crystal Cove State Park, Heisler Park, Crescent Bay Point Park, and Victoria’s Beach. The Beaches are home to tide pools, coves, and even a Pirate Tower built in 1926. The city is perfect for foodies as it has loads of dining locations from casual to gourmet, ice cream shops to candy stores.

San Clemente

San Clemente is the southernmost coast city in Orange County known for its hills, mountain views, and Spanish-styled architecture. The city is a 12-minute drive south from the Dana Point Harbor where mountains meet beaches. The San Clemente Beach Trail is a costal walk alongside the Metrolink train tracks that will lead you to the San Clemente Pier where you can enjoy lunch at Fisherman’s. San Clemente is a famous surfing destination drawing visitors and locals to the San Onofre State Beach for big, beautiful swells. When you’re ready to leave the beach just walk up Del Mar Street for good food and cute boutiques.



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