375 Cliff Drive
Laguna Beach, California 92651
The city of Laguna Beach feels like it was specifically crafted with picnickers in mind.
Between the rolling lawns of Heisler Park, a selection of the most stunning beaches in the country, and ample opportunities for both seclusion and accessibility, the city boasts scores of prime spots. Whether you’re picnicking with a date, your family, or a larger group, you’re sure to find the perfect place to spread your picnic blanket.
“There are so many types of picnics I love here, from the beach fire to the old school blanket-in-the-grass-style,” says Sam Savage, owner of The Salt Horse grocer, which specializes in artisan foods made in Laguna. “I love them all, though I have to say that The Lost Pier café at Aliso Creek Beach makes hosting a picnic that ends with s’mores incredibly easy.”
Savage is definitely onto something with that pick. But there are plenty of other gems to check out in the city, too. See a few of our favorite Laguna Beach picnics spots – broken up depending on your group dynamic – and what to eat when you arrive below.
If your picnic is romantic in nature, you’re going to want it to be scenic and private – not the easiest ask in the fifth most populous county in the United States, but very viable in Laguna Beach. All it takes is a little extra effort.
Table Rock beach has all the drama and scenery you could possibly want for a romantic picnic. After walking down rustic wooden stairs, you reach a wind-protected beach with the famed table-shaped rock itself jutting out into the sea. Situating your picnic right up against the towering sandstone cliffs that enclose the beach will provide shelter, privacy, and protect you from that weird feeling you get when too many people are lined up behind you on the beach while you’re trying to be romantic.
If you’re really ready for some privacy, scale the (easy-to-climb) rocks at the south end of the beach and climb down on the other side. There sits a spit of sand so small and secluded that it feels like the perfect place to recreate the one of the most famous scenes in movie history – the kiss in From Here To Eternity.
If getting a little sand in your food sounds like a recipe for a ruined meal rather than part of the fun, head to the Brooks Street benches overlooking the one of the city’s most iconic surf breaks. This is a beloved sunset watching spot and is small enough to never get crowded. If you want extra privacy, lay out your blanket on the nearby rocks and watch the surfers ride this famous left-hander.
If you’re at Table Rock and want an intimate meal to go, grab sandwiches, salads, or even a pizza from Neapolitan Pizzeria & Birreria. It’s close enough that it’ll still be warm by the time you lay out your blanket on the beach.
If you like your picnic fare more traditional, visit The Salt Horse Grocer to pick up everything from organic fruits and vegetables to artisan snacks to fair-trade dog treats. Sam Savage, owner of the shop, has impeccable taste in what she carries and can help you curate a picnic basket sure to please discerning palates. Be sure to grab a bar of organic, handmade chocolate from Laguna-owned Cove Chocolate (sea salt is this author’s favorite).
If you’re keeping it healthy and vegan, we love the avocado burrito paired with a smoothie at The Stand on Thalia Street – one of the last visual reminders of Laguna’s notorious hippie era.
Picnicking with kids is a tough balancing act. On one hand, you hope to have a quant and scenic meal, but also… kids. That means engaging the young ones in ways that feels safe, contained, and fun.
This is a no-brainer – the park at Main Beach is accessible and sits on a lawn overlooking the boardwalk, the beach, and the city’s best play structure. Here, the kids can get a whole lot of energy out while you relax. If you’re a parent with little ones and “picnic” is sure to end up meaning “scarfing down a sandwich while pushing your toddler on the swings” well.. at least you’ll have a nice view and be able to do some fun people watching.
If Main Beach seems like too much of a mission (the parking can get a bit hectic), head to Bluebird Park, the hotspot for Laguna’s parents-in-the-know and toddler birthday parties. Not only is the park cradled in a contained space in Bluebird Canyon, it also features multiple play structures, open lawns, basketball courts, and barbecue grills.
Feeding a family with kids is all about utility—meaning Whole Foods downtown (with a full deli, hot bar, and pizza oven) is a solid bet. If you’re headed to Main Beach Park and ready to get a little more creative, ponder grabbing gyros and shawarma at Adonis Grill—just steps from the beach. The food is portable and incredibly tasty.
Naturally, with kids on hand means, visiting nearby Gelato Paradiso on Peppertree Lane is required by city mandate. (Parents: That’s your excuse – use it!)
Accessibility is key when you’re dealing with large groups of mixed ages. If you can get beaches and lawns at the same time—so folks can wander and explore a little—that’s definitely a double win.
Heisler Park is a family picnic dreamland. It’s got lawns that overlook the ocean and some of the town’s most secluded beaches just below. There are multiple bathroom facilities throughout the park, plus BBQ grills, tables, and trash cans.
Among Heisler’s many picnic locales, we love the section at the north end of the park, which overlooks the fittingly named “Picnic Beach.” Of all of Laguna’s many spots for eating and relaxing outdoors, it’s probably the best all-arounder. There’s parking that lines Cliff Drive and multiple stores and restaurants nearby for picking up food.
If you want to stay near the south end of town, Treasure Island Park at The Montage, which overlooks Treasure Island Beach (plus a few adjacent beaches), has the same level of accessibility – though it’s not quite as easy for everyone to just pop down to the beach for a few minutes.
If you’re at Heisler, you have a few grocery stores in easy striking distance, particularly the Pavilions at the Boat Canyon shopping complex. That said, sometimes it’s nice to support a local business and get something ready-made. If you’re passing through downtown on your way north to Heisler Park or south to Treasure Island Park, you could always stop at Laguna picnic-food icon Zinc Café & Market. If you do so, order the deviled eggs, garlic knots, and a lemon bar without an ounce of hesitation. Then pick up a few salads to balance your meal out.