Salt Creek Beach Park is a family-friendly beach north of Dana Point. It's situated at the mouth of Salt Creek, found on the north side of the park. The park's amenities include half-court basketball, a 7-acre grassy area at Bluff Park, a mile of beach, and opportunities for excellent surfing and wildlife watching. Originally slated for private development similar to the adjacent gated community and Ritz Carlton hotel, public pressure in the 1960s urged the state government to purchase the land and convert it for public use, which it successfully negotiated in 1971.
A unique part of Salt Creek Beach are its tide pools, featuring a small cross-section of its marine life not present at the nearby shoreline at San Clemente. Best visited when the tides are lowest in winter, the tide pools offer an opportunity to see wild purple sea urchins, keyhole limpets, fish, barnacles, sea stars, sea anemones, hermit crabs, and the drama of predatory attacks from circling gulls. The best tide pools are located at north end of Salt Creek Beach. As part of the Dana Point State Marine Conservation Area, these tide pools and all of their inhabitants, both living and non-living, are protected; collecting is strictly prohibited. With some exploration, you may also find a few sea caves in this area.
Salt Creek Beach Park is a prime place for birdwatching. Orange County is home to an estimated 450 species of birds. Blue-footed and brown boobies, four species of cormorants, six species of grebe, herons, egrets, pelicans, nine species of gulls, and the occasional raptor, among many other species, may be seen at Salt Creek Beach Park.
Offshore, whale migrations offer yet another opportunity to see wildlife. Gray whales arrive in December during their thousands-mile journey from Mexico to Alaska. Blue whales can be seen from May to November. Although less common, humpback whales, orcas, sperm whales, and several species of dolphin have also been seen in the area.
Salt Creek Beach is also home to several great breaks, and surfers will find waves comparable to any other in Orange County. Established breaks from north to south include Gravels, Middles, and The Point. Gravels typically has the most powerful waves, Middles features both a left and a right break, and The Point features lefts and rights, depending on the swell angle.