California Best Beaches: Laguna’s Victoria Beach

Victoria Beach is one of the best spots in Laguna Beach, California. Despite featuring one of the city’s most famous icons (a pirate tower!), this beach is also a hidden gem in terms of crowds. This post covers what you need to know about visiting, including practical tips for getting here and other points of interest in the area that you should check out.

In general, one of the most important things to know about Laguna Beach is that it has exceptional beaches. This isn’t exactly profound insight. The quaint seaside town is known for its gorgeous coastline. However, many of these are well-known, touristy hotspots where you’re likely to find hundreds or thousands of people on a large swath of sand in a public area. Laguna Beach (the city) has several stunning beaches, but unfortunately, most visitors to the city never venture beyond the large Main Beach.

There are also lots of tucked away coves and bits of shoreline with amazing beauty, be it in terms of rocky coastline or other unique wrinkles that give them identifiable character. One of my favorite beaches that fits this criteria is Victoria Beach, which is why it tops my List of the 10 Best Beaches in Laguna Beach, California.

It’s really a shame that most visitors don’t venture beyond Crystal Cove or Main Beach Park, because those are probably the most crowded and least intriguing of the beaches in and around Laguna Beach. Victoria Beach is one of the “South Laguna” beaches, located just north of Treasure Island and south of Keyhole Arch. It’s also north of the Montage Resort. You can see where it’s located on this map showing the various beaches in Laguna Beach.

One of the big reasons why Victoria Beach is among of my favorite beaches in Laguna is its famous tower. It’s known by locals simply as the “Pirate Tower,” and the name is somewhat apt in terms of the 60-foot tall tower’s appearance, as it certainly looks to me like something you’d see along the coast in Tortuga, a look-out tower for unfriendly vessels returning from pillaging the Spanish Main.

In reality, OC Weekly reports that the Pirate Tower was built in 1926 for the family of William E. Brown, a state senator representing California’s 37th district, and this ornate tower actually served as nothing more than a spiral staircase for Brown’s home to access the beach. So, why the “Pirate Tower” nickname?

That story is much more interesting. As it turns out, Brown sold the house in the 1940s to Harold Kendrick, a retired naval officer. After he took ownership, Kendrick was known for dressing up as a pirate and hiding treasure all around the tower. It became a popular spot for local kids, who would search the area for Kendrick’s treasure, and were allowed to keep whatever they found.

But Kendrick’s treasure was not what it seemed. Kendrick had somehow cursed certain medallions, and the local children who took these medallions would become undead skeleton pirates by night. These children still haunt the area by the light of every full moon. I might have made up the last part of the story, but how is the legend of this ever going to grow beyond “just stairs” and “local man dressed as pirate” to something greater without a little help?

Regardless of the Pirate Tower’s history, this is a beautiful stretch of beach, featuring not just this, but some awesome rock cliffs, white sandy beaches, and a nice little reflecting pool that fills at high tide.

Getting to Victoria Beach can be tricky. From Pacific Coast Highway, it’s off of Victoria Drive. There are two ways to access the beach; first, via a narrow, unmarked set of stairs (public access to beaches is required, but I suspect the wealthy residents of Laguna Beach lobby to make that access as difficult to find and uninviting as possible) as the road winds around. You can see the stairs on Google Street here.

The easier option that you’re less likely to miss is on Dumond Drive. This splits off from Victoria Dr., and dumps out directly into Victoria Beach, just a bit farther away from the Pirate Tower. There are no stairs here, it’s just a long incline–but it’s also impossible to miss. Just stay left instead of going right onto Victoria Drive.

The best way to access Victoria Beach is to turn onto Nyes Place (on the other side of the PCH) and finding free parking up and around the hill. It’s about a 10 minute walk from there down to Victoria Beach, but you’re unlikely to find parking closer. If you park in a NO PARKING residential area, you will absolutely be towed. Don’t even bother looking for spots on Victoria or Dumond Drives.

Another way to access Victoria Beach that might prove easier is to head south to the metered street parking near the Montage Resort. If you walk down to the gorgeous public park at the Montage, there’s a beautiful pathway with beach access. The problem with this route is that you won’t be able to get to a large portion of Victoria Beach at high tide (and there’s no way through the apartments between the Montage and Victoria Beach, so don’t even try–it’s gated).

But you can see the Pirate Tower from the Montage Resort, even if tide prevents accessing it (I took the top photo in this post from the Montage). It’s also worth noting that Treasure Island Beach & Park is another of our favorite beaches/parks in Laguna, and Aliso Beach to the south of that is also nice.

When it comes to accessing Victoria Beach, the best option of all–especially if you’re visiting Laguna Beach between June and September–is taking the free trolley. This now runs daily year-round, with expanded service during the peak summer season. Uber and Lyft are good options if you need to get outside of Laguna Beach, but the trolley is surprisingly fast and efficient. Get off at the Nyes Place stop and then go under Pacific Coast Highway down to Victoria.

This is our recommendation because parking can be really brutal during the summer months, with the spaces along Nyes and even along PCH over by the Montage entirely full. This is especially true on weekends, and is a big reason why we recommend relying on a car within Laguna Beach. You’re so much better off parking upon arrival and using the trolley to get around!

For more tips, info, and advice, please consult our Laguna Beach, California Planning Guide. If you’re visiting other spots during your California vacation, check out our California category of posts for other things to do. If you enjoyed this post, help spread the word by sharing it via social media. Thanks for reading!

Your Thoughts

Have you been to Victoria Beach? What do you think of it? Have another favorite secluded beach in Southern California? Interested in finding this pirate beach? Have any questions or other thoughts? Please share below in the comments!

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16 replies
  1. Bethany
    Bethany says:

    Your photos are absolutely gorgeous and perfect! I’ve done a lot of research on this hidden gem in Laguna Beach for our episode about the pirate tower on our YouTube channel and this article and photos are some of the best I’ve seen. Amazing work! Here’s our own special journey and adventure spent with the Pirate Tower.

  2. Albert L.
    Albert L. says:

    I finally made it to Victoria Beach yesterday. Thank you for posting instructions on how to find this! That stairway IS hard to find, and if I hadn’t read this, I wouldn’t have been able to get to the general right area. I parked on PCH yesterday just south of Nyes Place with no issue. There are parts that are free parking, north of the Montage. Once you get to the metered parts, then you’ve gone too far. I’ve driven by this area once before as well and seen spots available. So that might be a good tip to offer.

    It IS beautiful, and I definitely intend on going back!

    • Tom Bricker
      Tom Bricker says:

      Yeah, the spots north of the Montage and south of metered parking directly on the PCH might be the safer bet. I just prefer parking on Nyes itself. Hope you got some good shots!

  3. Todd Burgess
    Todd Burgess says:

    I walked up and down those stairs hundreds of times back in my college days, but never knew about the tower. That was back in 86/87 when OJ Simpson still owned the house on the right side of the stairs and I don’t think you could walk in front of his house back then. Don’t think he owns that house anymore. : )

  4. Albert
    Albert says:

    Wow, these are stunning! What a sunset! But I definitely get why you recommended Victoria Beach. I’ve only been to Heisler Park and the beach below, which is nice, but this has some more unique features. I’ll have to stop by, hopefully on a dramatic sunset afternoon! Thanks for the info on access and stuff too!

  5. KCmike
    KCmike says:

    I would love to hear and see more from your California beaches reports. We are headed back this year and plan to try to possibly camp in Big Sur and I’ve always wanted to stop in Santa Barbara and need some ammo to talk my wife into it. We also plan to hit Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, and possibly Monterey for a night. Looking forward to seeing what else you have to offer us.

  6. Matt
    Matt says:

    California has some amazing coastlines and the best places are the secluded spots away from the crowds because they are a little harder to get to. My favorite drive is the PCH between Morro Bay and Monterrey. Absolutely spectacular and something that most people not familiar from California have never heard of.

    • Tom Bricker
      Tom Bricker says:

      YES! I’ll take that stretch a little farther, and say it’s stunning all the way up to Davenport (just north of Santa Cruz) and then after that, you’re pretty much into the Bay Area, which of course is gorgeous, as well.

  7. William McIntosh
    William McIntosh says:

    I can’t believe how fast you got this post up! I’m still uploading photos. Of course it took me about an hour and a half to get home with a couple of accidents to deal with on the Northbound 5 AND on the 55, but well worth sitting in that mess after that sunset. I love your colors. I’ll be happy if mine turn out half as good!

  8. Kevin
    Kevin says:

    We drove past that going from LA to San Diego after dark. If I’d know there was a pirate tower would have made a point to stop anyway!

    There are definitely some pretty beached in southern Cal – we thought a couple of the ones around La Jolla were really nice. (If onlt my pictures were as good.)


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