Location: Laguna Beach: Off South Coast Highway
Hours: Dawn to dusk for the beach alcoves (sunsets are magical); the paths are even lit in the evenings, however, if you’d like a quiet evening stroll along the park
For ages: All
Like a true hidden treasure, “Treasure Island” – for many decades – was a stretch of private beach that belonged to a mobile-home community. It was accessible only to scuba divers and those who could brave the precarious climb around the rocks to get to the remote coves. (Its name came from the movie “Treasure Island,” which was filmed in this OC hidden spot in 1934.)
When the new Montage Resort and Spa was built in 2000, however, the ocean-front land became public and the movie-like beach was opened to everyone. The cliffs surrounding the area were built out and converted into a linear public park that runs between The Montage resort and the ocean. Now both the clifftop park and beach below are easy to get to and enjoy.
Exquisitely landscaped in some of California’s most beautiful native plants – from the long purple plumes of madiera to colorful “birds of paradise” – this park is surely one of Orange County’s most beautiful gems.
The view of the Pacific must be seen to be believed, and there’s something here for everyone. Parents will love the constant beauty along the park’s winding paths – from the ocean view and gorgeous plantings to the detailed Arts and Crafts architecture of The Montage and the frequent “star sightings” of the resort’s clientele – while kids will simply love running through the grass, pummeling down the wooden staircase to the beach, exploring the tidepools, and feeling the ocean’s waves.
It’s also a great place for teens to come for an inexpensive date — they can bring picnic sandwiches, brownies, a Frisbee and a towel and enjoy an afternoon or evening with an incredibly romantic view and plenty of fresh, free fun in the park, sand or ocean.
There are several lookout benches amidst the flowers, public works of art to see, and even a wooden “balcony” that seems to hover over the edge of the cliff. At the end of the long park path is a large circular area with about ten concrete picnic tables rimming the view, a semicircle trellis for shade, and plenty of center grass for multitudes of picinic blankets. Here’s where you can stop for a small picnic and play a little catch in the grass. I see lots couples bringing wine and cheese here to catch the sunset.
Drinking fountains exist along the path and public restrooms are across from the grassy area near The Montage.
The views of the beach below, however, are a big part of the draw. A trek down one of the three the steep staircases or ramps to Treasure Island Beach is always in order. (Bring towels!) Although this beach, with its rocky shoreline and precarious surf, can be a little scary for toddlers, older kids will love it – especially climbing along the cove’s rocks and exploring the sea life in the rocky tidepools. Explore each of the descents to the beach to discover which you like best – each has its own charm. The first one you come to is (understandably) the most crowded. A little further down are two more staircases leading to different coves that are usually less crowded. Your clan can spread out a towel in the small patches of sand and simply marvel that so beautiful a place is right in our back yard.
There are a few outdoor showers for sandy feet and hands – one at the beach where the main staircase is, and two at the clifftop grassy park further down.
Where to park: There’s a pay-to-park underground parking garage at the south end of The Montage (off Wesley), set aside especially for Treasure Island Park, but it fills fast and is difficult to maneuver for very large cars. (It accepts cards, though, if you’re short on coins.) On weekends, there’s a free preschool parking lot if you go east on Wesley (available when school is out). There’s also coin-metered parking along South Coast Highway.
What to bring: Coins for parking meters in case you park on Coast Highway, water bottles, sunscreen. This is an ideal place for strollers. Great place for a picnic lunch and game of Frisbee. There aren’t any snack stands here, so if your kids will get hungry, be sure to bring snacks. Older kids will not be able to resist going down to the ocean, so bring towels and an extra change of clothes.
Best time to go: Spring and fall are best to avoid crowds. Summer is beautiful, but more crowded.
Do you love Treasure Island Park at The Montage? What are your favorite tips to share?