Orange County Coast
Orange County Coast

Orange County Coast

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California

The basics

The Orange County coast starts at Seal Beach, then runs southeast through several postcard-worthy towns: Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Dana Point, and San Clemente. Throughout the region you’ll find everything from gorgeous sunsets and world-class surfing to quirky art and seafood restaurants. Highlights for visitors include the 18th-century Mission San Juan Capistrano, the Orange County Museum of Art, Laguna Art Museum, and the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, home to more than 200 species of birds. You can travel the area independently or book a guided tour of the coastline, with many departing from Anaheim.

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Things to know before you go

  • You don’t need a wetsuit to surf in the summer, but most locals use one during the rest of the year.

  • Surfboards are available to rent near many major surf beaches, including Huntington Beach and Newport Beach.

  • Don’t miss the signature dessert served on Newport Beach’s Balboa Island—the Balboa Bar is a confection of chocolate-dipped ice cream rolled in sweet or salty toppings.

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How to get there

Orange County’s John Wayne Airport is located just 8 miles (12 kilometers) from Newport Beach, making this one of the best ways to get to the Orange County coast. Other options include Long Beach Airport and Los Angeles International Airport, each within easy driving distance of the shore. To get around the Orange County coast, most visitors drive, book guided tours, or use public buses operated by Orange County Public Transportation (OCTA).

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When to get there

Festivals, concerts, and special events make summer the most popular time to visit Orange County, and beaches fill to the brim in June, July, and August. Balmy weather extends into September—ideal for exploring the shoreline when it’s a bit less crowded. If you’re hoping to cheer on the return of migratory swallows to the Mission San Juan Capistrano, plan on attending the Return of the Swallows Celebration on March 19.

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Best beaches in Orange County

Beachgoers in Orange County have dozens of options to choose from. Huntington City Beach is the top pick for surfers, though beginners should also consider the easy-going waves at Dana Point’s Doheny State Beach. Flanked by soaring coastal bluffs, Crystal Cove State Park is beloved for snorkeling and tidepools. Most beaches in Orange County are family-friendly, but many beachgoers with small children prefer the Newport Beach Pier, Baby Beach, San Onofre State Beach, or Seal Beach Pier.

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