Treasure Island Beach: A Time Capsule

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By Roderick Reed

When was the last time you saw a starfish while at a Southern California Beach? Probably a long time. It has been many, many years since we have been able to find shells, lobsters or abalone on a Southern California Beach. Generations of tourism have picked the beaches clean of beautiful marine life. Due to isolation from the general public, one exception exists.

The beach behind the Montage Resort in South Laguna was once known as Treasure Island. The movie Treasure Island, based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel was filmed here in 1934 and a trailer park existed on the site until 2003 when the Montage Resort was built. The views from the cliff above the Treasure Island Beach are arguably some the best views in California. The site is iconic.

Treasure Island Beach

Treasure Island 1953

In circa 1953, Treasure Island Beach became the destination of The Warner Brothers movie “The Long, Long Trailer” starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.

There are two small palm trees in this photo from 1953. During the filming of the “Long, long Trailer,” the trees were named Lucy and Desi. The trees are still there and they tower over Studio restaurant at the resort. The grown Lucy and Desi tress can be seen in this article’s featured image painting.

When the beach below Treasure Island Beach was surrounded by the vast trailer park, it was hidden from view of the public. Beach access was limited by the mere existence of the trailer park. Even as the city of Laguna each grew around it, the beach became a time capsule.

Treasure Island BeachTen years ago, Treasure Island Beach became the world-class Montage Resort. Upon purchasing the Treasure Island Beach property, Montage owners agreed to place a public park on the cliff side and to maintain pubic beach access via four new public staircases at two access points on either side of the resort.

Treasure Island BeachThe tide pools at Treasure Island Beach are where you can still see Starfish, lobster, and popular Wavy Turban snails. But you cannot take any of the marine life treasures home with you. The beach is enthusiastically protected by volunteer docents who patrol the beach with the intention of saving the natural beauty from “pickers” who unknowingly may take a shell from the beach that still has a live creature in it – killing the sea life one pick at a time. The docents also are there to educate the public about the sea life and tide pools. The docent themselves are now part of the rich experience of Treasure Island Beach. Just south of the tide pools lays a wonderful expanse of flat sandy beach, perfect for sunning or playing in waves.

Treasure Island Beach

Treasure Island Beach Today

Be prepared to walk if you want to go to this beach. There is a small, underground parking structure at the south end of the resort on Wesley Drive, which is usually full. Montage Resort charges $15 for valet parking. Beach parking in the shopping center across the street is prohibited. Street parking is your best bet. There are steep stairs and a long cement ramp to gain access to Treasure Island Beach. One time my mother-in-law lost her grasp on the cooler she was carrying while descending those stairs. We all watched our lunch roll down 100 feet of stairs. Pack light. Walking back up will serve as your cardio-workout for the day.

Roderick Reed

Painting by Roderick Reed

Be good stewards of this gem of a beach. Pick up your trash, do not disturb the tide pools, and our grandchildren will be able to enjoy this beach the same way Treasure Island Beach lovers have since before Lucy and Desi discovered it.

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Author: Roderick Reed

Roderick Reed is an interior designer in Laguna Beach. He lives in town with his wife Kathy and two sons Mason and Jack.

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