Orange County

Flanked by the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Santa Ana Mountains to the east, the 40-mile Orange County coast is wonderfully complex, with wetlands, estuaries, sea cliffs, headlands, coves, and wide stretches of golden sand. You’ll find quiet nature preserves and busy beaches that attract people from across California—and around the world—to surf, swim, ride bicycles, play volleyball, or just gaze out to sea.

Near the county's northern border, Seal Beach has a mile-long stretch of sand, a pier, and restaurants and antique shops along the waterfront. South of Seal Beach the highway follows the shoreline past three contiguous public beaches: Bolsa Chica State Beach, Huntington City Beach, and Huntington State Beach. Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve is across the highway from the state beach.

At Newport Beach, a peninsula shelters the harbor and Balboa Island. Farther inland, the tides flow into the Upper Newport Ecological Reserve, a beautiful estuary carved into a coastal mesa. The blufftop trail and historic district at Crystal Cove State Beach are great for a day-long outing--or an overnight stay.

You can visit historic ships at Dana Point Harbor, then hop over to Doheny State Beach for a picnic under an accessible palapa. San Clemente City Beach, at the county's southernmost end, is a two-mile stretch of sand at the base of sea cliffs.

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