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Favorite Beaches in Orange County California

Updated on September 20, 2011
Beach in Southern California, one of my sons boogie boarding years ago.
Beach in Southern California, one of my sons boogie boarding years ago.

Orange County, California

Orange County, California:
Orange, California, USA

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Orange County California Beaches

Next time you are in Orange County in Southern California make sure you take time to hit one of the local beaches. I have 3 main beaches that I frequent more than others, over the span of my life. They are Huntington Beach, Newport or Balboa Beach, and Corona Del Mar Beach. There are some others as well, like Laguna or Treasure Cove and some down even further south like Dana Point.

Southern California is busy but wonderful and has changed a lot over the decades. One thing that remains the same for me is the beaches, the beautiful coastline. Now whenever I go back, which is usually once a year or more, I can try to go to one or more of these beaches. The closes freeways to these beaches are the 405 freeway, the 55, the 5, as well as Pacific Coast Highway of course. Don't get me wrong, as the beaches all up and down California have a lot to offer, but these are ones I know the best and experience the most.

Surfing Corona Del Mar after a big storm, when waves are big.

Tide pools at the beach

Corona Del Mar

Corona Del Mar Beach:
Corona Del Mar Beach, Corona del Mar, CA 92625, USA

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Corona Del Mar Beach

This is a wonderful beach, without that massive stretch of beach that you may picture sometimes.  Its definitely wonderful though, and has a big jetty of rocks on the one edge, and a huge bunch of large rocks on the other end, including caves and tide pools. It's a good walk down the whole beach and back.  There is a complete snack bar, and bathrooms and lifeguard stations that have lifeguards during the busier months of the year. They also have fire pits so people can cook food over a fire, into the night.  Growing up we did this on occasion and I always really enjoyed it.  There are places to play volleyball, as well as do some climbing and exploring on the rocks. 

There is a path over a huge bunch of rocks, with stairs that end up going down to a more secluded beach that includes some cool caves basically carved out of a "hill of rock".  Growing up and even now, this is a favorite thing to do.  There are plants and trees and picnic areas and you can see boats coming in and out of the harbor from this little beach on the side.

There is a nice path to walk along, towards the jetty that you can also go out on.  You can see seals and crabs and many sea birds in the area.  When a big storm comes, the huge waves crashing against the big rocks can sound nearly terrifying, but its actually very awesome to experience.  You just don't want to get too close or else get swept away. 

On a regular day at the beach you can expect small to medium waves that may not be as large as some can get elsewhere along the pacific coast.  This is due to the jetty, which allows boats to come in and out with ease and safety.  The swimmers, on the other side of the jetty are completely separate from any boats, and this is where you can have the most fun.  Body surfing, or boogie boarding are great fun, once you get used to the cooler water.  I have to say that never in my life did I wear a wet suit in these waters, and I have had a huge amount of fun!The kids enjoy playing in or near the water, and playing in the sand building sand castles, or throwing a frisbee.  Its fun to learn to hunt for sand crabs, catch them then release them again.  They don't pinch, but just like to dig in the sand and it tickles the kids hands.

During low tide you can go to the tide pools part of the beach.  There are many little critters there enjoying sea life and just doing their own thing.  Its a great little education or adventure for adults and kids alike.  Please don't ever remove any creatures or shells from there, as it hurts the life cycle over time for the tide pools.  The diversity of life is best over the long term if left to grow and change on its own, from what I understand.

There is free parking at the top of Corona Del Mar Beach, but you then need to walk down a hill or many many steps.  We have done this hundreds of times probably and its great exercise.  I would highly recommend going to this beach at least once.

Balboa, Pier, Peninsula Ferry and Island

Walking along Balboa Beach by the wedge

Balboa Beach, near Newport Beach

Balboa Beach and Balboa Peninsula is kind of in between Newport Beach and Corona Del Mar.  The part I like to go to, is very near what they call the wedge.  The wedge is a favorite, though sometimes dangerous, of surfers and body surfers alike.  The danger is that you have huge waves coming in at their usual angle from the great Pacific Ocean, then they are abruptly stopped at the jetty there.  The sheer force and power of these waves, is amazing at times.  If you were to be stuck in between the rocks and waves, well you can just imagine the "danger" part.  However, do not let this deter you one bit, for this is a beautiful and fun beach to visit.  You will see boats going out to sea from the nearby harbor.  You can often see Catalina Island in the distance as well.  There are lifeguards on duty on occasion during summer months I believe.  There is no place to get food, or go to the bathroom from what I recall, so keep this in mind.

Many people choose to go fishing off of the jetty there.  While this is a little trek out sometimes, you can be rewarded with some great fish!  We were told by one fisherman there, that if you go out to the end of the jetty, you are very likely to catch some halibut with the right bait.  This is something my son wants to do in the future.  As described, you can imagine that one side is very calm, nearly no waves, while the other has huge crashing waves.  Depending on what you want to catch and your skill level, there is something for just about everyone.

We have gone to this particular beach even in the heart of winter before.  It being Southern California, sweatshirts were all that was needed.  This particular time, the boys took off shoes and socks, rolled up their jeans, and played in the water up to their knees, running in and out with the waves.  The dug in the sand, built castles, and had a great time.  We were only there for a little bit, and I was so happy even for relatively short visits to the beach.  We saw many sea birds, saw Santa Catalina Island in the distance, and it was just beautiful. 

Afterward, you can go a bit further down, and get a Balboa Bar, a special ice cream treat that is just wonderful.  If you go to body surf, or surf, or boogie board or just swim, do stay away from the large rocks, would be my only suggestion.  Its one of my favorite places on earth.

Balboa, looking away fromt the wedge

Balboa Beach

Balboa Beach:
Balboa Beach, Newport Beach, CA 92661, USA

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Huntington Beach, surfers, pier and ocean views

Huntington Beach:
Huntington Beach, CA, USA

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Huntington Beach, California

Huntington Beach has been an interesting one over the years for me.  For a few years during my high school years, we lived less than a half hour bike ride from Huntington Beach.  So it was wonderful to be that close.  I would go to this beach to just lay out and soak up the rays, relax, read a good book or listen to music with friends.  We would park and walk down, and just take our towels with us to enjoy the beach.  There was a little restaurant, a taco bell and another one too, that was handy if you got real hungry or needed a restroom. 

Huntington is one of those beaches where there is a walking and bike riding area along the back portion of the sandy area.  You will often see people roller skating, roller blading, skate boarding, bike riding, walking or running there.  Its a great place, and many people are out enjoying the sunshine and life along the beach. 

Huntington pier is available to go out on, and many enjoy it, as well as the very long stretch of beach that extends into the state park portion.  This is where we usually go for our evening outings with the family, to get a fire pit and we have the best time there!  We get to see the sun setting, and have a roaring fire and cook hot dogs and drink our cactus coolers!  To top it off, we have s'mores, those rich treats with graham crackers, big roasted marshmallows, and chocolate pieces all together in a little sandwich.  I am not sure when it turned into a family tradition, but it is as much of a family tradition with my extended family as Christmas is anymore!  So I just truly love Huntington beach for all the fun we still have there.  They have a great fourth of July celebration as well, for Independence Day from what I understand. 

To go to the State park portions, it does cost a little, but you have access to showers, bathrooms, fire pits, and lifeguards, etc. 

Once we saw a man fishing from the shoreline, and he caught a shark right in front of us!  Not a great white shark, but just a smaller one.  The fishing is great along the Californian coastline.  Do try to go to Huntington if you ever get the chance.

Huntington Beach, on the pier watching surfers, the ocean

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