Three Orange County Beaches

Augusta E. Towner

By May the school children of Orange county begin wearying papas and mammas with “O dear! how soon can we go to Newport?” For this is the place for the school-child's vacation. It is so accessible, safe, roomy, with chance for the rough and tumble of camp life, yet with the conveniences of civilization in sight.

It was after the “boom” that the Newport Wharf and Lumber Company was formed, railroad and wharf built — and Santa Ana gloried in a seaport. Before this there was an apology for one on New Port bay, a narrow body of water winding for miles between low, bare hills to the tule swamps at its head. But the bar was shifty and dangerous, and crossed by only a few small vessels.

Now, with its wharf over 1200 feet long, and railroad connection with the Santa Fe, all kinds of vessels, sail and steam, freight and passenger, plying between Puget Sound and San Diego stop here. Lumber comes in in vast quantities. Grain goes out by carloads, and produce from live stock to eggs; indeed, most of the traffic of the fertile Santa Ana valley is “yo-hoed” in and out here by brawny wharf hands and nimble sailors.

There are two hotels; the largest kept open during “the season,” the other all the year. There are dozens of cottages to rent, any amount of tenting room, very many private cottages, restaurants, and a store.

During “the season” the baker, butcher, milk man, fruit and vegetable peddler make regular trips. There is good water; also telephone connection with town, and passenger trains two or three times a day.

The bathing facilities are excellent and perfectly safe. There is pleasant boating on the bay. Clams of several varieties are gathered, both on the bay and ocean sides. And then there is fishing. When the fish are biting, the wharf bristles with poles like a giant porcupine. Many a thrifty workingman catches his year's supply of fish here, salting and smoking it himself — halibut, yellow-tail, mackerel and tom-cod.

Out a few miles are fishing banks where the professional fishermen work. The industry has grown enormously since the wharf was built. Seining is carried on regularly; and sometimes three tons of fish are shipped at once. The variety of fish caught off the wharf is very great —from the dainty pompano and silvery smelt, to the gamy yellow-tail and that big black pig of the ocean, the “jew fish.” Some claim the genuine Bay of Biscay sardine is found here, and prophesy California sardines, packed in California olive oil, as one of the industries of the future.

Laguna and Arch Beach, also popular, are not reached by rail. From El Toro (a station on the Santa Fe line to San Diego) a stage takes passengers over a most picturesque road to both these places — which are within about a mile of each other.

Arch Beach is a most romantic spot; set like an amphitheater amidst hills, its oceanward frontage precipitous, with fanciful arches at base of the cliff, against which the breakers fling high their spray. A curious natural rock-arch gives name to the beach. There is a small hotel, and good water is piped to the cottages. Arch Beach is exceedingly attractive, too, out of season, when wild flowers cover the hills, or winter storms roll in a thunderous surf.

Laguna — 18 miles from Santa Ana by carriage, a lovely drive through the Laguna canon, which is named from the two little lakes therein — is one of the oldest resorts in the county, and most patronized now by “fashionables.” The cañon’s mouth opens wide and level, with rising land on either side, and cottages scattered all the way to Arch Beach.

Families in Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, and even out of the State, own cottages here, as well as Orange county people. Here society functions alternate with the frolic of the daily “dip.” The hotel is comfortable; and there are fine opportunities among rocks and caves to study and collect marine forms.

Some one has said the people who can take inexpensive pleasures in a simple, healthful way are blest; and with such a trio of watering-places Orange county is thrice happy.

(Land of Sunshine, June 1895)