Beaches and Parks in Southern California The California Coastal Commission was created by the voters of California, who adopted an initiative measure in 1972 that formed the Commission and gave it broad powers to plan and protect the coast. Later, the California Coastal Act of 1976 established the Commission as a permanent state agency with a mission to protect, maintain, and enhance the quality of the coastal environment. One of the Commission’s principal goals is to maintain public access and public recreational opportunities along the coast, in a manner consistent with environmental preservation.

UC Press has published numerous books written by the California Coastal Commission, which include: California Coastal Access Guide, Sixth Edition (September 2003), Experience the California Coast: A Guide to Beaches and Parks in Northern California (November 2005), Beaches and Parks from Monterey to Ventura (April 2007), and most recently, Beaches and Parks in Southern California (May 2009).

By: Steve Scholl, Editor of the “Experience the California Coast” guidebook series

How do I get to the beach? In Southern California, it’s not always obvious. Goal #1, then, for Beaches and Parks in Southern California: provide a complete guide, with detailed topographic maps, to every beach, coastal access path, shoreline natural area, beach campground, aquarium, and nature center that we know about. If we missed a coastal access site that is open to the public, let us know at and we’ll put it in the next edition.

What can I do, once I get there? Goal #2: describe where you can see a whale, launch a boat or a surfboard, find a wildflower in season, ride a bike along the sandy shore, or go for a run with your favorite four-footed friend. Also: list key site characteristics, including wheelchair accessibility, food and drink for sale, parking free or fee, and whether dog-friendly or not.

What is there to learn about the California coast? Goal #3: provide an introduction to the restless geology of the Southland and its earthquakes, oil deposits, and moving mountain ranges. Describe some key natural communities of plants and animals found even in populous coastal Orange County, or around the peaceful lagoons of San Diego County, or among the rugged peaks that lie west of downtown Los Angeles, or perhaps only on the Southern Channel Islands. For good measure, include a peek at some of Southern California’s outsized personalities of the past:

* George Freeth, the hero of Venice and Redondo, who a century ago invented the profession of lifeguard (as well as some lifesaving tools still in use);
* Marion Davies, glamour puss and ultra-hostess, who entertained during Hollywood’s golden age at her private compound on Santa Monica Beach (now you can visit the place too);
* Horticulturalist Kate Sessions, the “Mother of Balboa Park,” known (then) for her sensible shoes and salty vocabulary and (now) for her magnificent contribution to San Diego’s palmy appearance; and
* Henry Huntington, whose electric rail system brought the people of Los Angeles and Orange County to the beach before the auto age (oh yes, he also married America’s wealthiest woman, who happened to be his uncle’s widow).

Over 450 beaches, parks, and recreation sites in three counties; 352 pages; all-new color maps and color photos throughout. And if your destination lies farther north, see the Coastal Commission’s companion guides in the Experience the California Coast series or the California Coastal Access Guide.