California’s Laguna Beach, usually brings to mind images of modern mansions and sunny, sandy shores, so finding a relatively hidden gem like this was exciting. It is quite hidden and hard to get to. First thing you have to accomplish is finding a parking space, and then you need to locate these isolated stairs that lead down to the secluded beach.
Known to some locals as “the pirate tower,” this mysterious, enchanting structure looks more like something from a storybook than anything you’d find in the OC.
Like a castle turret emerging from the shore, the tower at Victoria Beach captivates visitors who ponder its purpose. The enigmatic Pirate Tower makes for an intriguing oddity of the built environment to those visiting this sun-drenched stretch of the rugged California coast, not far from Laguna Beach.Built into the rocky beach cliff face, a 60-foot tower reaches from the edge of the water up to the top of the cliff where the house sits. The ocean breeze moans through small portals covered by rusting metal grates on the tower’s sides and a large door at the structure’s base, also covered in rust, reveals a wooden spiral staircase twisting to the ledge above.
So what exactly is the story behind the Victorian turret? Was it a lookout for Spanish pirates? Is there treasure buried nearby? Should I bring my metal detector?
In 1926, LA State Senator and noted Christian Science lecturer, William E. Brown, built the tower as a means of getting himself and his family from their cliff top home to the beach below. Brown sold the property in the early 1940’s to retired Naval officer Harold Kendrick purchased it, and as it turns out he earned the tower its swashbuckling nickname. As the story goes, he would dress up like a pirate and hide coins and candy in the nooks and crannies between the rocks of the tower, so that the local kids could go hunting for the buried treasure.
So it’s not the pirate history I had hoped for, but still worth the trouble to find parking.
The estate has changed hands numerous times over the years, but was most recently owned by Bette Midler.
Many will remember Midler’s turn in the 1988 film Beaches, which featured scenes filmed a few miles north at Crystal Cove State Park’s historic cottages. The quaint little dwellings were built in the ’30s as a movie set and a seaside colony followed.The buildings were spared from the bulldozer’s blade in the new millennium through the efforts of the Crystal Cove Alliance and are available for weekend getaways.
Victoria Beach is located south of main beach and is known for its white sandy beach, beautiful blue-green waters and unique residences (old and new). The beach itself is super secluded and peaceful, but provides VERY limited parking.
When was the last time you felt a sense of magic? I promise you, it still exists, if you know where to look for it.
Location: 2700 Victoria Dr, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
If you visit, don’t be embarrassed to poke around the tower’s base…perhaps there’s still some treasure left after all.
Note: The Pirate Tower can only be accessed at low tide.