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).  More photos of the construction of Doheny State Beach and the early years of the park will be available for viewing in the Visitor Center upon its reopening.  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


Courtesy of the Jim Serpa Photography Collection
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.

The park area of Doheny once had many eucalyptus trees providing shade and beauty to the park.  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 a safety hazard, and new State Park regulations prevented the planting of new trees as eucalyptus are not a native to the southern California environment.


On June 24, 2006, Doheny State Beach recognized its 75th Anniversary with a celebration of its humble start as 41 barren acres donated to the State by the Doheny family, to today’s 62 acres, 122 camping spaces, a beautiful grassy park with wonderful group picnic/party areas, a famous surf break and almost two miles of sandy beach. Special guest for the occasion was California’s Gold, Huell Howser who mingled with park staff and guests in the park and on the beach, even taking time to greet new arrivals at the entry kiosk.  The celebration included exhibits of vintage camping from the 1940s to 70s, restored surf vehicles and vintage surfboards, fishing exhibits, surf music, historical displays, volleyball demonstrations and a Doheny birthday cake contest.  Animal life and native plants were featured in educational presentations throughout the day. The Doheny Longboard Surfing Association hosted its annual Menehune surf contest. Doheny has consistently been voted the most popular park in the California parks system and has regularly earned the distinction as Orange County’s “Best Camping Site” by the readers of the Orange County Register. More photos and memorabilia from the party will be available for viewing in the Doheny State Beach Visitor Center.

Huell Howzer

Jim and Mickey

Ranger Jim Serpa with Huell Howser………………………………………………Ranger Serpa with surf legend, Mickey Munoz