I’ve lived in Southern California for nearly 5 years, on and off. I’ve traveled up and down the coast from San Diego to Santa Barbara. Honestly, I thought I had been to all of the beaches in LA, San Diego, and Orange County. But last week, I found my new favorite beach. One of the major reasons I couldn’t wait to move back to California is because of the beaches. Given that I have experienced a lot of what Orange County has to offer, I thought I’d share the best Orange County beaches.
The Best Orange County Beaches
My Favorite – Victoria Beach
It’s amazing to me I’d never heard of Victoria Beach before this month. As I was searching for something unique to do with my kids, I happened upon an article that talked about the pirate tower. Say what? A PIRATE TOWER?!?! I’m there. What was more shocking to me is that this hidden gem is not at all far from the hustle and bustle of downtown Laguna Beach, which I’ve frequented many times.
From the South Bay of Los Angeles, where I live, Victoria Beach is roughly an hour’s drive, depending on traffic. After driving past the main thoroughfare of downtown Laguna Beach, you go a bit further south and then you’ll start to notice cars parked all along PCH. My directions had me turn onto a residential street. If you’ve been to Laguna, you know a lot of the houses are built on pretty substantial hills, so this residential neighborhood doesn’t have street parking, per say. However, I did see on the map that there is a public entrance to the beach, so I drove back up to PCH and found a spot on the street. We had to walk, no more than, 5 minutes to get back to the beach entrance.
As we walked down the stairs toward the beach, the view was obscured. You couldn’t see much between the houses stacked along the coast. But then I caught a glimpse of the gorgeous teal water crashing on the rocks and it literally took my breath away. The views on Victoria Beach are some of my (new) favorite in southern California. There is no doubt it is one of the best Orange County beaches.
Once we ascended all of the stairs, someone directed us to the right to see the pirate tower. As we rounded the rocking corner, I saw it. To me, it appeared like the remnants of a 16th-century castle. It was stunning standing there solemnly among the rocks as the massive waves crashed all around it. I even managed to set up my phone on a timer to get some nice shots.
Honestly, my kids quickly lost interest and ran right for the giant waves. Soon after, we found a spot to set up our beach towels and sand toys. The kids continued to play in the water for quite awhile and then built an epic sandcastle. Our trip to Victoria Beach was definitely one of the favorite beach trips of the summer. It is definitely my new favorite beach and we will be back again soon, I’m sure.
For Walking – Crystal Cove
Crystal Cove State Park has it all. It has a gorgeous beach, tide pools for your kids to explore, and really gorgeous hiking trails. When I lived in Irvine, I would often drive down to Crystal Cove just to take in the views and also get in my steps. It’s a very serene place to spend an hour or a whole day.
For People Watching – Laguna Beach/Newport Beach
It was hard for me to decide which beach to pick for people watching because both are equally fun and also gorgeous. I do tend to love the tiny little downtown beach, called Main Beach Park, at the epicenter of Laguna because it is easy to access to all of the fun shops and restaurants. Plus, it has the cutest lifeguard tower that makes for great photo ops.
Newport Beach is also a lot of fun because there is so much to do in the area. I love the beach for walks and hanging with friends. I also like how close it is to Balboa Island if I want to hang out on the kitschy little Island. Make sure to get a chocolate-dipped frozen banana while you’re there.
For Dogs – Huntington Dog Beach
One of my other favorite beaches to visit is the Huntington Dog Beach. One of my dear friends lives very close, so I often park at her house and we walk there together. It is a long stretch of beach with great views of the lovely Huntington Beach pier. Plus, it’s a lot of fun to watch all of the dogs frolic in the water. If you have a dog, this is my personal favorite dog beach in Orange County. I also like Rosie’s dog beach in Long Beach, if you’re in that area.
For Surfing – Huntington Beach
There’s a reason it’s called Surf City. Huntington Beach is known for surfing. It’s actually where I learned to surf for the first time. It’s not my favorite beach, if I’m honest. I actually don’t think it’s that pretty because it’s just such an expansive beach. But I do like it’s proximity to the downtown area, and I do think it has one of the best piers in Orange County. It also has a really nice walking/biking path too.
Overall, there are so many great beaches in Orange County, it’s hard to even narrow it down this far. I hope my list of the best Orange County beaches is helpful as you consider exploring southern California. If I missed your favorite beach, drop me a comment! I’m always up for exploring more new places.