Seal Beach is located in the north-westernmost corner of Orange County. To the northwest, just across the border of Los Angeles County, lies the city of Long Beach and the San Pedro Bay. To the southeast is Huntington Harbour (part of Huntington Beach) and the unincorporated community of Sunset Beach. To the east is the city of Westminster and the community of West Garden Grove. To the north is the unincorporated community of Rossmoor and the city of Los Alamitos.
Early on, the area that is now Seal Beach was known as "Anaheim Landing", as the boat landing and seaside recreation area named after the nearby town of Anaheim.
By the 20th century, it was known as Bay City, but there was already a Bay City located in Northern California. When the time came to incorporate on 25 October 1915, the town was named Seal Beach. The town became a popular recreation destination in the area, and featured a beach-side amusement park long before Disneyland was founded inland.
The United States Navy's Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach was originally developed during World War II for loading, unloading, and storing of ammunition for the Pacific Fleet, and especially those US Navy warships home-ported in Long Beach. With closure of the Long Beach Naval Shipyard, the Weapons Station has become more involved in the research and development of missiles, torpedoes and conventional ammunition.
There were 13,048 households, out of which 13.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 38.2% were married couples living together, 5.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 54.9% were non-families. 48.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 34.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 1.83 and the average family size was 2.65.
In the city the population was spread out with 13.3% under the age of 18, 4.0% from 18 to 24, 21.5% from 25 to 44, 23.7% from 45 to 64, and 37.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 54 years. For every 100 females there were 78.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 75.4 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $42,079, and the median income for a family was $72,071. Males had a median income of $61,654 versus $41,615 for females. The per capita income for the city was $34,589. About 3.2% of families and 5.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 6.2% of those under age 18 and 5.3% of those age 65 or over.
Seal Beach is also home to the Bay Theatre, a popular venue for independent film and revival screenings.
The Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge is located on part of the Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach. Much of the refuge's is the remnant of the saltwater marsh in the Anaheim Bay estuary (the rest of the marsh became the bayside community of Huntington Harbour, which is part of Huntington Beach). Three endangered species, the light-footed Clapper Rail, the California Least Tern, and the Belding's Savannah Sparrow, can be found nesting in the refuge. With the loss and degradation of coastal wetlands in California, the remaining habitat, including the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Huntington Beach and Upper Newport Bay in Newport Beach, has become much more important for migrating and wintering shorebirds, waterfowl, and seabirds. Although the refuge is a great place for birdwatching, because it is part of the weapons station, access is limited and usually restricted to once-a-month tours.
The second longest wooden pier in California (the longest is in Oceanside) is located in Seal Beach and is used for fishing and sightseeing. There is also a restaurant (Ruby's) at the end of the pier. The pier has periodically suffered severe damage due to storms and other mishaps, requiring extensive reconstruction. A plaque at the pier's entrance memorializes Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works, 1938, Project No. Calif. , a rebuilding necessitated by storms in 1935. Another plaque honors the individuals, businesses, and groups who helped rebuild the pier after a storm on March 2, 1983, tore away several sections. Most prominent was a "Save the Pier" group formed in response to an initial vote by the City Council not to repair the pier. The ensuing outcry of dismay among residents caused the City Council to reverse its stance while claiming the city lacked the necessary funds. Residents mobilized and eventually raised $2.3 million from private and public donors to rebuild the pier.
Surfing locations in Seal Beach include the Seal Beach pier and "Stingray Bay" (or Ray Bay—the surfer's nickname for the mouth of the San Gabriel River—the stingrays are attracted by the heated water from several upstream powerplants). Classic longboards builders in the area include Harbour Surfboards established in 1959 in Seal Beach and Bruce Jones Surfboards in Sunset Beach. The classic surf trunks of Kanvas by Katin in nearby Sunset Beach are world famous.
The USA Water Polo National Aquatic Center, where the men's and women's US Olympic water polo teams train, is located on the US Military Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos, adjacent to Seal Beach. The facility is also used for major water polo tournaments, swim classes, and swim teams.
A marina for recreational craft operated by the City of Long Beach is adjacent to Seal Beach.
In the state legislature Seal Beach is located in the 35th Senate District, represented by Republican Tom Harman, and in the 67th Assembly District, represented by Republican Jim Silva. Federally, Seal Beach is located in California's 46th congressional district, which has a Cook PVI of R +6 and is represented by Republican Dana Rohrabacher.
The short-lived afternoon television soap opera, "Sunset Beach", was named after the unincorporated community of Sunset Beach just south of Seal Beach. All the still house shots were of houses in Seal Beach. They also filmed almost all of the beach scenes in Seal Beach.
Moses parted the "Red Sea" for Cecil B. DeMille's 1923 version of The Ten Commandments on the flat seashore of Seal Beach. (Cecil B. DeMille's 1956 epic color version with Charlton Heston as Moses has no connection to Seal Beach.)
The TV show "Greek" filmed its 2nd season finale at this beach, renaming it "Myrtle Beach".
The episode "Summer Song" from the popular television series "The Wonder Years" used Seal Beach and the Seal Beach Pier for the scenes on the sand and under the pier.