You probably have an image of Malibu formed from movies, TV shows, newspapers and the evening news; the long pier, surfers and swimmers on unending beaches, movie stars and music legends in exclusive gated neighborhoods, an international film festival, mud slides and forest fires and the Pacific Coast Highway running through the center of it all.
Malibu really does have all this and more.
Malibu is, as the road sign said, “27 Miles of Scenic Beauty.” A narrow strip of land with Los Angeles as its eastern boarder and the Pacific Ocean on the west, Malibu ranges from just one to eight miles wide.
Drive north or south on California’s Highway 1the Pacific Coast Highway or PCHthrough Malibu and you will typically have the ocean, frequently lined with large expensive homes, on one side and the mountains, frequently covered with large expensive homes, on the other.
The Pacific Ocean side of Malibu features an almost continuous beach from end to end.
Leo Carrilo State Beach is the northern most Malibu beach at 23050 PCH.
A 127 site campgroundreservations through ReserveAmerica, coin operated laundry and video game room make Carrilo State Beach one of the most popular of Malibu’s Beaches. The beach is narrow but you can explore tide pools and the coves, boulders and tunnels at Sequit Point which divides the beach into north and south halves.
A mile south at 33850 PCH Nicholas Canyon Beach is typically less crowded than most Malibu beaches. This photo, which I grabbed on day at sunrise, was once featured on the cover of the Malibu phone book.
Surfers call Nicholas Canyon Beach Zeros and appreciate one of the few perfect left point breaks in LA County. In addition to surfing, body surfing and body boarding there is plenty of sand for sun bathing and other beach activities. Upper and lower parking lots, picnic tables and rest rooms make Nicholas Canyon a good beach for family outings.
A little further south Robert H Meyer Memorial State Beach consists of three pocket beaches all sharing a spectacular view; El Pescador, La Piedra and El Matador. With limited parking along the bluffs each location has stairs leading to narrow sandy picturesque beaches and rocky coves so if you get here early you may find the least crowded conditions of any LA beach on busy summer weekends.
Zuma Beach at 30000 PCH draws day trippers from all over LA to its crystal clear though somewhat cooler water, more than 2 miles of white sand and waves that even hard-core surfers appreciate. Zuma's ample parking and food concessions are another draw.
You are likely to see lots of teenagers, particularly between towers 6 and 7 which are just a couple blocks from Malibu High.
Point Dume forms the northern end of Santa Monica Bay. Point Dume Beach (Westward Beach) at 7103 Westward Rd. is another popular surfer beach, even in early April when this photo was taken.
The known history of Malibu begins with Chumash Indianswho lived along the coast from modern day San Luis Obispo to Malibu and named their settlement at the foot of what is now Malibu Canyon “Humaliwo” which probably meant something like “loud surf.”
Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo claimed the land around Malibu Lagoon for the King of Spain when he made a three day stop here on his way north from San Diego in 1542. “Pueblo de las Canoas” was the name he gave the area reflecting the many well made canoes sighted on the layover.
Some 200 plus years later Jose Tapia was first attracted to the area while participating in the 1778 Juan Bautista de Anza expedition.
Returning years later, in 1800, Jose Bartolume Tapia received a “use’ concession for the property then known as Rancho Topanga Malibu Sequit.
Ownership of the Ranchowithout clear titlepassed to Tapia’s widow, then to their granddaughter and husband, Maria and Leon Victor Prudhomme, who later sold it to Irish born Don Mateo (Matthew) Keller for about 10 cents an acre in 1857. Keller eventually cleared the title when he received a grant to Rancho Topanga Malibu Sequit in 1872.
In 1881 Matthew Keller's son, who had inherited the land, sold it for $10 and acre to Frederick Hastings Rindge.
Ringe wrote the book Happy Days in Southern California (which can be read online about his life on his Malibu ranchwhich he called an “American Riveria.”
His widow, May Knight Rindge, was referred to as “Queen of the Malibu” by the press for her battles to keep their Malibu Ranch intact after Rindges early death at the age of 48. Public access, in the form of roads and railroads crossing the ranch from north to south, were fought all the way to the California State and United States Supreme Courts.
The Pacific Coast Highway (then named “Roosevelt Highway”) opened in 1929 and the last Spanish Land Grant in California to remain privately intact was divided.
Improved transportation provided by the new road helped make a ceramic tile manufacturing facilitybegun in 1926 by Mrs. Ridge and known as Malibu Potteriesa successful venture.
In addition to being used in the Ridge's and Adamson’s homes, Malibu Potteries tile found its way into many Mediterranean and Spanish style homes, Los Angeles City Hall and the Simon Rodia Towers (Watts Towers) built by an employee of the company.
The Rindge's only daughter, Rhoda, took over her mother’s battles when her mother (and later Rhoda’s husband Merritt Huntley Adamson, Sr.) died.
Rhoda Adamson eventually became president of the Marblehead Land Company a corporation formed in 1921 to operate the Rindge Ranch and also ran the Adohr (Rhoda backwards) Milk Farms that she and Merritt had developed.
Merritt and Rhoda Adamson’s beach house is now a State Park with adjoining Malibu Lagoon Museum.
Bird watching, tide pooling, fishing and snorkeling are all options at Point Dume Beach. Hike to the top of the sandstone cliffs from January through March for whale-watching or just to enjoy the panoramic view. Use the viewing platform just below the summit or take the stairs down the east side to an isolated beach and more tide pools.
Paradise Cove is a private beach at 28128 PCH in Malibu. A fee is charged for beach access but waived if you spend time in the Paradise Cove Beach Cafe or bar. One of only a few restaurants in Malibu the Paradise Cove Beach Cafe is popular with locals.
Dan Blocker State Beach at 26000 PCH was donated to the state by the stars of the Bonanza TV series (who were joint owners) after “Hoss” died in 1972. Surfing, scuba diving and fishing are popular. There is limited free roadside parking.
Malibu Pier divides the beach below it into Malibu Beach on the west which extends into Malibu Lagoon State Beach and the famous Malibu Surfrider Beach to the east. The 780 foot pier was originally constructed as a dock for the Frederick Rindge family.
Acquired by the California State parks in 1980 the pier was closed for a few years due to storm damage. Malibu Pier reopened in 2004. Alice’s Restaurant is no longer at the foot of Malibu Pier.
Malibu Beach might seem familiar to you even if you’ve never been here as it has been a popular filming spot for Hollywood movies and TV shows such as Baywatch and Gidget. Surfrider Beach is considered to be one of the premier surfing beaches.
Malibu Beach Inn is one of only a few places for visitors to stay in Malibu, but it has a great location with guest room balconies overlooking Malibu Pier and Surfrider Beach.
A portion of the Rindge Ranch (see Malibu History in right column) was developed into what became a favorite home of movie starsthe Malibu Movie Colony. Today The Colony is a gated community still popular with writers, producers, rock stars and movie stars.
The Malibu International Film Festival held annually for 4 days in April with “move stars, expensive cars and open bars” attracts 10,000 or more attendees.
In addition to the Colony, the area east of Malibu Pier and more recently Point Dume are favorite locations for stars to live or maintain summer homes.
Movie Stars are not immune to the challenges of living in MalibuSean Penn and Ali MacGraw lost homes in November 1993 to one of several Santa Ana wind-driven dry chaparral brush fires that have roared through Malibu.
Malibu Lagoon State Beach is home to two endangered species of fishTidewater Gobi and Steelhead Trout. It's also a sanctuary for coastal birds and one of the last wetlands in the State of California.
Malibu Lagoon is formed by the second largest watershedMalibu Creek Watersheddraining into Santa Monica Bay.
Pollution has been and continues to be a problem in Malibu Lagoon and nearby Surfrider Beach, but organizations such as the Surfrider Foundation are working with State and local Water Quality Control to improve the situation.
Adamson House, a registered California landmark and designated National Historic Site, was built in 1930 for Rhoda Rindge and Merritt Huntley Adamson.
This home turned museum has views of Malibu Lagoon, Malibu Beach and Malibu Pier. Extensive use of Malibu Tileincluding a Persian-style tile “rug” complete with fringed ends designed into the tileshand-carved teakwood doors, hand-painted murals and molded ceilings make this a worthwhile visit.
The house was designed by architect Stiles Clements for the Adamsons and includes a pool and bath house and several fountains. In 1958 an elevator was installed in the two story house for for Mrs. Adamson who died in 1962.
Continuing south east on the Pacific Coast Highway beyond the Adamson House we come to Topanga Beach. Topanga Beach at 18700 PCH is another popular surf spot with a wide sandy beach. A general store is across the Pacific Coast Highway from the beach.
Pepperdine University has a campus located at 24255 Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu. Seaver College, the School of Law, the Graduate School of Education and Psychology, the Graziadio School of Business and Management, and the School of Public Policy are located on the Universitys 830-acre campus overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
Slideshow—all photos on this page
Website and all photos copyright © 2001–2016 Lee W. Nelson