Sampson Overview Gazebo is a historical point of interest on the headland bluffs overlooking Dana Point Harbor and the beaches of San Clemente and Dana Point Headland Conservation Area to the west. The Sampson Overview Gazebo, a covered, cobbled area with benches, is a great place to enjoy the spectacular vistas to the west and south.
The historical point of interest celebrates the history of Dana Point, named for Richard Henry Dana Jr., the American lawyer and politician who visited the area briefly in 1835. A descendent of a colonial family, Dana was a champion of the downtrodden and a prominent abolitionist. While at Harvard in 1834, Dana contracted measles, which led to a case of ophthalmia. His declining vision inspired him to take a sea voyage, and rather than visit the ports of Europe, as was fashionable for a gentleman of the time, he enlisted in the merchant marines and sailed for Alta California, then a province of Mexico. He sailed on a brig called the Pilgrim, a replica of which was ceremoniously sailed around Cape Horn and now lays anchor in Dana Point Harbor. Dana engaged in the hides trade at the Mission San Juan Capistrano and called the surrounding bluffs and beaches the only romantic spot in California. The same bluffs obstructed his ability to carry hides to the beaches below, and so Dana and the crew flung hides as frisbees from the bluffs. He left Alta California in 1836, and his voyage was memorialized in his memoir, Two Years Before the Mast, considered a classic piece of California history and emblematic of the American temperament of defending the oppressed and downtrodden. The work is considered an influence on Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick.
Dana Point Headland Conservation Area to the west, sparsely dotted with coastal scrub brush overlooking the lapis lazuli sea, gives us a glimpse of what the bluffs may have felt like before dense settlement.
Sampson Overview Gazebo was named for the late Ken Sampson, Orange County director of harbors and beaches.