Oil tycoon Edward L. Doheny and his son, Edward “Ned” Doheny Jr.


1930 DoHo

This photo, looking west up the Roosevelt Highway (today’s Pacific Coast Hwy.), was taken in the 1920s before there was a Doheny State Beach.  Much of the land that makes up the park was donated to the State in May of 1931 for public use by oil tycoon Edward L. Doheny in memory of his son, “Ned”, killed in a tragic and mysterious shooting at his mansion in Beverly Hills.  Additional land was donated or otherwise obtained from  Santa Fe Railroad, the University of California Regents, and the Union Oil Company. Photo from “Sons and Daughters of Capistrano Valley,” Facebook.

Dana Villa Doheny 1928
Looking southeast, across Roosevelt Highway (Pacific Coast Hwy.), the Dana Villa and the empty land that would become Doheny State Beach.  The pier and the Capistrano Beach Clubhouse in the distance were built by Ned Doheny for his development of Capistrano Beach estates, a town he hoped would rival and surpass in prestige, the developing village of San Clemente to the south.  These structures are now long gone, but great stories about them live on.  The pier is where today’s South Day Use area ends and the county parking lot begins.

Doheny and San Cemente state beaches were build by the Civilian Conservation Corp. (CCC), a “New Deal” program under the Franklin Roosevelt administration.  By 1940, CCC workers had constructed picnic areas, campgrounds, parking lots, and a custodian’s lodge at Doheny SB. Only one feature of the CCC work remains at the park today – a plastered and tiled adobe entryway and wall along Coast Highway (near the entrance to the camp ground).
Photos courtesy of the California State Parks.

“If you build it, they will come!” 

1940s and 1950s


Above photo, circa 1940s, courtesy of the Jim Serpa Photography Collection.  Panel truck at the bottom of photo belonged to legendary waterman “Pop” Proctor.  For a biographical article about Pop, click here.

Doho Park mid 30's
Above and below photos from “Sons and Daughters of Capistrano Valley,” Facebook

Surf pre harbor

Surfing Doheny before Dana Point Harbor

Photos below from 1940s, 1950s (Jim Gilloon Collection) and 1960s



Nothing better than a greasy burger, fries, a root beer float and sand under your feet!
It was located at the northwest corner of the beach by the creek which now flows between the County parking lot and Doheny horseshoe pitch.  Visible behind is the old Richfield Tower and Motorcycle Hill.  Courtesy of the Jim Serpa Photography Collection

“Down at Doheny where the surfers all go…”

A 1963 photo by Gaylor Campbell shows what Doheny is most known for, surfing (and perhaps the crowd).  In the background is the Capistrano Beach Club House, built by Ned Doheny.

Doheny, 1969


California had only one pirate who plowed the waters off the coast. Hippolyte Bouchard, a French privateer working for the “United Provinces of Rio de la Plata” (Argentina), raided the Spanish missions of Monterey, Santa Barbara and San Juan Capistrano in 1818.
In 1984, a group reenacted Bouchard’s and his band of buccaneers’ landing at Doheny, stealing bags of Adopt-A-Beach trash before heading out to raid the warehouses of the mission.
Did the real pirates land on the shores of Doheny?  No, they rowed their longboats up San Juan Creek carrying cannon to raid the mission.  However, everything of value had already been evacuated and hidden. 
 Photos from the Jim Serpa Photography Collection


The park area of Doheny once had many eucalyptus trees providing shade and beauty.  During the Monarch Butterfly migrations, their branches would hang low with the butterflies so thick one couldn’t see the green of the leaves.  Unfortunately, most of the trees were removed because of disease or because they became safety hazards, and State Park regulations prevented the planting of new trees as eucalyptus are not a native to the southern California environment.

Click here to see Huell Hower’s visit to Doheny State Beach

Huell Howzer

Jim and Mickey