As you know, we are always looking for something interesting to see or do in California so we can report back to you on the chance this might be something you would also like to explore. So in that spirit, I heard about a hidden tower in Laguna Beach that sits directly against an ocean cliff and that you can only access during low tide.
With a free Sunday and a few friends wanting to take a drive, it was time to finally check out this mystery structure.
Not really knowing much about it, I asked my friends if they wanted to go see a lighthouse in Laguna, their reply, “you had us at lighthouse.”
The History of the Tower
As it turned out, I was wrong, it was not a lighthouse at all. It wasn’t until I researched it later that I found out exactly what it was and why it was there! When we saw it, we were speculating that maybe it was a lookout turret constructed after Pearl Harbor, or something really old from the swashbuckling days.
It was nothing like that; it was actually constructed in 1926 as an enclosed staircase that allowed its owner who at the time was Senator William E. Brown, to reach the secluded beach below. The 60 ft. structure does in fact sit right up against a cliff and as mentioned can only be accessed at low tides and a rugged journey over rocky terrain.
The home was sold sometime in the 1940’s to a retired Naval officer who, as the story is told, would dress up as a pirate and hide coins around the tower for neighborhood kids to find. Eventually it got the name that the locals call it today, Pirates Tower.
How to Get There
Along Pacific Coast Highway and Nyes Place sits Victoria Beach which is actually well known as a popular beach for the hard core skim boarding crowd.
It is an awesome setting with the dazzling blue water and a super clean sandy beach.
Offshore, rock formations dot the coastline and on this extremely clear winter day, you could see Catalina as well as San Clemente Islands perfectly in the distance. The whole place is amazing and looks like it could be a scenic beach somewhere in Hawaii. Once we were finished admiring our setting, we turned our attention to finding the tower.
Catalina Island in the distance was as clear as a bell this day
Locating it isn’t a problem or hard to figure out, just follow the trail of people. When reading how to get there I saw that it said, to go on a weekday or early on the weekends to avoid the afternoon crowds. Here we were at 2:00pm on a Sunday so a crowd is what we got. The people are no big deal unless you want to take a photo without a body in the shot. I stood there until it was clear and was lucky to get the tower alone.
How to Get There, Part Two
It takes a little hiking over rocks to reach the tower as it is not directly seen from the beach. You have to traverse over an uneven rocky surface to finally get around a corner to get your first view. One friend in our group didn’t want to go because she felt her balance wasn’t up to snuff for that rough of a trek. I think I made her decision even easier as my first steps landing me directly on my knees.
Luckily it was on a small patch of sand so it was like landing on a cushion. Just a few feet more, I would have been in a great deal of pain.
I lumbered on because I was the picture taker, but I definitely choose the wrong shoes for the journey, thin and flimsy sneakers just don’t cut it. As I was gingerly stepping on the rocky landscape I was thinking that I should research my destinations better.
The Tower in Person
We finally reached the tower and it was pretty cool; however, I was more impressed with the surrounding area. Against the rocky terrain there was a small natural pool of clear blue water that I thought might be pretty amazing to swim in during the summer. I wondered if the locals did just that.
Tide pools were everywhere and again there was the beautiful Pacific Ocean as a backdrop.
Back to the tower, we were able to walk right up to it by virtue of the low tide. I am told it is not accessible during high tides or large waves.
The lower half was built of stones and a staircase leads you right to the rusty door which of course is locked. A small metal window shows its age with years of salt water damage.
Even though I didn’t know its history at the time, I was expecting to daydream about pirates and treasures like I normally would. I guess I was too concerned with watching my every step as to not land on the ground like before. It was all rock now and no sand to soften the blow…it would hurt.
This 92-year-old structure didn’t have the captivating history we expected but it was still an interesting sight to see. I am glad I can say I saw it and it is off the bucket list.
If you choose to see it yourself, expect to have to park on the coast highway or streets above the beach. The neighborhoods nearby do not have any parking areas.
Expect to walk over rocks and be sure and check the tides. Obviously low tide is the best.
Also, plan to stay a while so you can enjoy the beach, the tide pools, and the scenic area.
Lastly, take good shoes for walking over the rocks and learn from my mistake…luckily all I got was a bruised ego.
Photos and story: Debbie Colwell