Beacon’s Beach Name

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It’s not really Beacon’s. Some people are surprised to learn that the real name of this beach is not really Beacon’s… 


Unless you know it is there, Beacon’s beach is hard to find. It is just another little side street off of Highway 101, leading to the ocean. Homes on the street block the view along its entire length except for three small portals; Grandview, Stone Steps and Beacon’s.

And it’s not really a beach, at least not a family beach. The beach access is only about ½ block wide and sits on Neptune Avenue, a one-way street. Parents, with small children, rarely come here due to the long trek with tired, screaming kids demanding to be carried up a 10 story bluff path.

Almost all walkers, joggers, bikers (both kinds), Rollerbladers and many a passing car will pull into Beacon’s because of the spectacular bluff top view coupled with its ease of car access, for a quick ‘search check’.


Many people acquire an alternative name, for many reasons: 2-Stroke, who effortlessly catches waves with a couple of strokes; or Chip, short for his last name; or Shredder, for someone who doesn’t really shred. Often, people have had a nickname for so long, no one can remember the origin. Over the years I’ve asked many people how Beacon’s got its name. Its name, for the most part, is only recalled by tribal memory, with no written record.

I called the Encinitas visitor Bureau and the Parks and Recreation Department. Both said that Encinitas had inherited the beach called Leucadia State Beach when they incorporated in 1986, so they did not have any history on the name. They both knew the beach well and indicated the locals always just called it Beacon’s.


I asked one person about the name and she replied, “Oh, you mean Dog Beach?”

“They used to allow dogs to play there, then a few dog owners couldn’t pick up after themselves and dogs were banned. Now the only time you see dogs on the beach are either with owners that can’t read the ‘No Dogs’ signs or people who think they are somehow immune to the law or can talk themselves out of a $282 ticket.”


Susan wrote, “I grew up on Neptune from the age of 5 years old in 1950 – my parents are still residing there I remember when it was quiet and I was the only one on the beach most of the time because that was my back yard. The old steps used to be huge telephone poles sunk into the cliff ground and rail road ties walking path until Encinitas changed the path and took out the old ramp and put in a cement side walk which I think made the erosion worse and caused the collapse of the cliff the old wooden ramp going straight down at an angle. I miss the benches that jutted out because we could watch the fireworks from there in Oceanside we could have bon fires on the beach and everyone stood around to get warm especially when it was a cold day I miss those days it has changed to much but I guess we can’t stop progress or city people coming here to get away from the city and changing their new home to a city again what they were trying to move from.”


Chuck, and his wife Hildegaard, have lived across from Beacon’s since 1970. When they first moved there, Neptune Avenue was sparsely populated, full of small two bedroom bungalows. Their sons surfed Beacon’s on an old board that now lies dormant in their garage, silent with memories of fun waves once ridden.

Chuck pointed to the north end of Beacon’s and told me the bluff top protruded 30 feet further and there was “Martini Point,” where the locals would go to watch the sunsets. That slid away about ten years ago, although you can still see remains at the bluff’s base.

Chuck has heard several stories on the name including, there was a Scottish family, named Bacon, that lived on the bluff top and the enunciation of their name led to Beacon’s.


I asked Kahuna Bob how the name came about and he told me it had been a Coast Guard station. During W.W.II there actually was a beacon, not a lighthouse, located atop the bluff. It guided warships down the coast, similar to a road marker. Bob told me he learned that from a Neptune Avenue old-timer, who had been in W.W.II. The Kahuna also said Pillbox in Solana Beach was actually a military bunker and thus the name.

I received an email from Grampa71 and he said, “Yes, there was a beacon at the north end of the upper landing. It actually was situated where the three story house at the north end is now, and it was lit during WWII. When it was necessary. It was still there when I went grunion hunting at beacon’s in 1946.”

An email from the Lam Master states, “The stories about how Beacons got its name are pretty much right! There used to be a beacon on the north end, a small one on a wooden tower, as I remember! I’ve lived in Encinitas since 1946, and surfed Beacons since the late 1950’s!”


I then talked to Bill, one of many teachers who frequent Beacon’s (who occasionally sneaks a long board session in). He remembers coming down from LA to surf Beacon’s and recalls seeing a two story Beacon. He said it sat north of the path, between Bobby’s home and the house that looks like the Battleship Galactica.


Larry, the Chief Lifeguard for Encinitas, has been a local since he was a kid. He believes that at one time there was a rock outcropping, and a beacon marked it. It eventually was blown up to remove it.


Up at City hall is a large old map on a wall in the Services Dept. from I think 1887. Virtually the only landmark in Leucadia was at Beacon’s. But it was called CAVE HOUSE TOWER. Use your imagination! There’s no cave house or tower now. (Unless you count a nearby mansion or two as a tower.) When I was a kid there was a remnant of a dirt road that you could drive a car down to the beach on. Since 62, there’s been 4 different stairways down to the beach, each clinging closer to the parking lot than the last. I also heard there was a dance hall down on the beach in the 20’s were they danced on weekends and could drive down to the beach. Like to find some tangible evidence of that, but so far that one’s just hearsay.


Grandpa Heitzman said, “There was a hotel –and restaurant, I think–in the 50s and 60s -the name was the Beacon Inn. on the beach –but I believe it was in Cardiff. Before it was demolished the surfer kids sort of broke in and helped themselves to some of the chairs that were still there/. When I asked my son where the one he brought home had come from he finally told me . I chose not to pursue this.! If you can find some of the old surfers–they would be in their 50s—they will confirm the above. Now do you know why another surfing spot is known as Pipes? actually that ‘s an easy one.

Yes, there was a beacon at the north end of the upper landing.

It actually was situated where the three story house at the north end is now, and it was lit during WWII, when it was necessary….. It was still there when I went grunion hunting at beacon’s in 1946


I grew up in Oceanside but spent a lot of time in Cardiff and Leucadia. I surfed the area from 1959 to 1967. The Beacon’s Hotel was on the beach at low tide and in the water at high tide. My mom worked at the old George’s Restaurant across from the Hanson Shop. The Beacon’s Hotel was the same vintage as the Coronado, I think. If the hotels were of the same vintage and the Beacon added to the bluffs in World War II, the origin of the word “Beacons” is still unresolved. Yes, as a 10 year old I entered the old hotel and brought out 4 green crystal glasses. The inside was still furnished, but a mess. We called the location just North of Swami’s Beacons. I remember the steel and footings, but not a light. Beacon’s Beach (today) was called The Wall. I remember wood steps at the North end. By the way, the waves are exactly the same today as they were then. Great place to nose ride.


The NC Times tells a story of the when the Beacon actually worked – in 1939. Read the full story here


According to the maps, it really is “Leucadia State Beach.”

Ask any member of the local tribe and they will just say, “It’s always been Beacon’s. Even the sign at the top of the bluff states “Beacon’s. Its real name isn’t Beacon’s Beach, or Dog Beach or Martini or Leucadia State Beach, it’s Beacon’s; always has been, always will be.”
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