Hollywood's First Hidden Getaway - Atlas Obscura

Santa Monica, California

Hollywood's First Hidden Getaway

Discover Santa Monica's scandalous past during a beachfront tour of the fabled and star-studded 'Gold Coast.'

Uncover the secret past of a stretch of oceanfront below the craggy Palisades that was once home to the stars like Cary Grant and Greta Garbo, referred to by many as "The American Riviera" and "Rolls Royce Row." 

Join Atlas Obscura for a beachfront walking tour of this "Gold Coast" stretch of Palisades Beach Road in Santa Monica, one of America's most exclusive and fabled streets during its heyday in the 1920s and 1930s. Los Angeles field agent and writer Hadley Meares will guide the tour viewing the exteriors of the remaining homes of heavyweights like Mary Pickford and Norma Talmadge, recounting tales from the storied coast's scandalous past. 

The 30 or so eclectically styled summer "cottages" along this stretch were designed by California's most noted architects: Richard Neutra, Wallace Neff, Julia Morgan, John Byers, Paul Williams, and Webber and Spaulding. But the reason for this neighborhood's international fame had nothing to do with its innovative architecture and everything to do with its residents, who included the most powerful men and women in the movie business. Here, stars like Cary Grant, Mae West, Peter Lawford, Orson Welles, Harold Lloyd, David Niven, Errol Flynn, Greta Garbo, and Anita Loos frolicked in the surf after long days at the studio. Most famous of all was Marion Davies' gargantuan "Beach House," where epic, star-studded parties lasted all day and night.


  • This will be a walking tour on the beach. Dress appropriately.
  • Parking: There is a pay lot at Annenberg Community Beach House at 415 Pacific Coast Highway (not included in ticket price). Parking is difficult so Uber and Lyft is highly suggested.
  • This event is weather-dependent. If we are expecting significant rain on this date, we will cancel the event. Tickets will be refunded or transferred to a rescheduled date, depending on your availability.
  • A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Marion Davies Guest House.


Contact Hadley Meares at hadley@atlasobscura.com.

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Advance tickets only. All sales final. No refunds or exchanges.