I think a key to finding peacefulness is to find new outdoor activities, such as paddle boarding. Dana Point Harbor provides a plethora of outdoor activities, all while being surrounded by sweeping vistas, wildlife, and the ocean. I particularly like the little parks that dot the cliffs above the harbor that provide nice areas to picnic, walk, and take in the expansiveness of the coastline. As with most treasured areas, I found this cliffside park by accident. The locals enjoy it for concerts, weddings, and of course, the view. The sidewalk meanders down to the harbor, where I discovered you can also walk all the way out to the edge and see the waves crashing near Dana Point.
One benefit of exploring seaside towns and finding these cliffside areas is that I can get the lay of the land below it. I kept hearing about Baby Beach, but was not really sure where in the harbor it was located or what to expect. When I was up at the cliff park, I spotted Baby Beach below. It turns out that the beach area is protected inside the harbor with no waves. I saw people learning how to paddle board and kayak, and it looked fairly safe. I have a little trepidation about the open ocean since I do not have any experience paddle boarding or kayaking out there, so when I found Baby Beach, I knew it would be a good area to try it out.
The area that flanks both sides of Baby Beach are perfect for launching small watercraft. The sand is soft like powder and the water is fairly shallow (ankle- to calf-deep), but then it drops off. You can see down into the water where it drops off, which made me feel safer when I was getting on the paddle board for the first time. My only fear now is that because I can see into the water, I can also see what is in it. There are small sting rays just past the drop-off out in the deep area, particularly around the rock edges of the harbor. Regardless, I enjoy exploring and the protected harbor area is a great place to start. It helps that there are other people out there trying paddle boarding for the first time, too. Paddling out into the harbor, and even up and down the aisle past the boats and yachts, is very peaceful – especially early in the morning.
I quickly discovered that the harbor area fills up once the fog burns off; I would rather be out there paddling amongst a few learners and nature-lovers like me early in the day in the fog, than with a large crowd later in the day. (I think that is all a matter of preference and whether or not you are a morning person.) Regardless, Dana Point and its harbor are beautiful and there’s something for everyone, including amazing sunsets.
My next stop is to bring my old kayak out into the harbor and try it out. I also think the Ocean Institute looks interesting and may check that out, but that is just my inner science nerd speaking. I am quickly learning that as long as I practice mindfulness and really take the time to appreciate the nature around me, especially while trying new and fun activities, I am on the right path to finding inner peace.