With the prospect of my first all-too-brief visit to the Los Angeles area, I had two main goals: get my feet into the Pacific Ocean, and catch a sunset over the ocean, both novelties for a Florida native like me. I very much prefer my beaches on the undeveloped and uncrowded side, so that pretty much ruled out the beaches near L.A. itself, like Redondo and Santa Monica. No, I wanted something a little more secluded and natural for my first visit to the Pacific Ocean. So my research turned to Malibu, and I was surprised to find that most of the coastline in that area actually runs east-west and wouldn’t provide a good sunset view. But then I noticed Point Dume on the map, a promontory of jagged coastline extending out just a bit to the south. With the added benefit of being a nature preserve, it looked like a fine spot to catch the sunset, dip a toe in the ocean, and explore a bit.
Spoiler alert: the place wasted no time shooting to the top of my list of Southern California favorite spots. Take a look and you’ll see why.
From the (very limited) strip of parking along Cliffside Drive, you’ll find a sandy gravel path towards the Pacific, already beckoning with fresh breezes and the sound of the surf.
In the distance you can’t miss the park’s namesake, Point Dume, the rounded peak of the promontory. The name is actually a mistake: in 1793, George Vancouver named the point after Padre Francisco Dumetz, but it was misspelled on his map and the error stuck.
Here the land ends at a cliff which drops off sharply to the narrow and rocky beach. The path turns to parallel the top of the cliff, affording magnificent views of the beach below and the coast running off into the distance. Meanwhile, the elevation provides a great vantage point for photographs of the scenery, seabirds, foamy surf, and surfers. At certain times of year this can also be a good spot for whale- and dolphin-spotting.
Depending on the time of year, the vegetation can be an attraction as well.
From the cliff trails, access to Dume Beach itself is via this narrow staircase, which provides its own bit of character to the place.
The rocky beach isn’t well-suited to swimming, but offers lots to explore for the naturalist, and of course for the photographer.
Cormorants and seals were both in residence on one of my visits–amazing to see, but not so amazing to smell!
While wandering the trails winding among the cliffs and dunes, I noticed a phototographer with a couple on a photo session on the rocks below, and couldn’t resist snapping a shot of the proceedings from my vantage, which I thought came out nicely. If only I could locate the couple to share with them!
The windswept summit of Point Dume itself is the place to be for views down along Westward Beach, and of course the glorious Pacific sunset. A bit of trivia: being fairly close to Hollywood, Westward Beach and the cliffs of Point Dume have appeared in many film and television productions. A few classics: the famous final scene of 1968’s Planet of the Apes and part of the pilot episode of I Dream of Jeannie. The cliffs were also used as the location of Tony Stark’s Malibu mansion in the Iron Man films–the mansion was digitally edited in for exterior shots, since of course they couldn’t actually build on site.
My visits to Point Dume were too brief, and I had to leave much unexplored. Getting back there is definitely on my wish list, however, and next time I hope to have the kids in tow–they would have a great time exploring the trails and rocky beach. If you find yourself in Southern California, you won’t be disappointed with a visit!
Directions: Located in central Malibu, south of the Pacific Coast Highway near Kanan Dune Road. Beach-level parking is available along Westward Beach Road, which ends near the west side of Point Dume. The cliffside portion of the park (nearer to the rocky shoreline of Dume Beach) offers very limited parking along Cliffside Drive, or on-street parking is available on Grasswood Avenue, a short walk away. The trails and Point Dume summit can be reached from either side.