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While there’s plenty of magic to enjoy at Disneyland, after taking advantage of all the rides and attractions, it might be time to head to the beach for a change of pace. Southern California is famous for its beautiful beach resorts, and with more than 150 beaches nearby, there is a wealth to choose from. These are some of the very best to consider.
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Less than 20 miles south of Anaheim, Huntington Beach is frequently named one of the best beaches in California. In fact, it was named No. 1 by USA Today’s ’10 Best Readers’ Choice Awards’. It features 10 miles of wide-open sands, making it ideal for just about every beachgoer, including surfers, attracting the pros and competitions too. Enjoy a game of volleyball, concerts, movies on the sand, bonfires and fishing off the 1,850-foot-long pier. Near the south end of the beach is a natural preserve that’s perfect for bird watchers.
About 30 minutes from Anaheim, Laguna Beach is often referred to as Southern California’s prettiest beach town. It’s home to countless art galleries, an art museum, and hosts multiple art festivals, making it especially popular among art enthusiasts. But it also offers some magnificent beaches, with Crystal Cove State Park providing 3.5 miles of uninterrupted, unspoiled coastline edged by waters so striking clear, and in varying shades of vibrant blue, that you might think you were in Hawaii. One of the most famous stretches in the region, there are lots of tide pools to peek into too, filled with colorful sea creatures like anemones, sea urchins, hermit crabs and starfish.
Just five minutes further south from Laguna Beach, Salt Creek Beach in Dana Point has lots to offer visitors. Enjoy picnicking under the Southern California sun, building sandcastles and all the usual beach fun. There’s a basketball court, beach volleyball, and the seven-acre grassy Bluff Park too. Dana Point is also popular for its whale watching and was recently trademarked the Dolphin & Whale Watching Capital of the World. While you might be able to see these magnificent mammals offshore year-round, boat tours are available from the harbor.
Just south of Huntington Beach along the Pacific Coast Highway, Newport Beach is especially famous among non-Californians for being the setting for the hit TV drama “The OC”. It offers lots of beach fun, including on Balboa Island, accessed by car ferry from Balboa Pier. A picturesque village that feels like you’ve stepped into a quaint east coast town, it has a 1.6-mile boardwalk that follows the island’s shoreline with beaches to enjoy along with delicious eats and fun mom-and-pop shops to explore.
If you’re willing to drive a bit further, Zuma Beach is about two hours northwest of Anaheim in Malibu, but worth the effort to get there. Not only can you do some celebrity spotting and gaze up at some of the stars’ homes in the Malibu Hills, but this quintessential stretch of Southern California sands is wide, extending for 1.8 miles along the Pacific. It’s popular for swimming, and all types of surfing, including body surfing and windsurfing. It’s also a great place to watch grey whales in the winter, and you’ll find food stands at either end of the beach along with other facilities.
Just 25 minutes from Anaheim in the small beachside city of Seal Beach, Orange County’s northernmost beach town is Seal Beach. It boasts a wide sandy stretch that’s popular for sunbathing, surfing, sandcastle building, kite surfing and swimming while being just steps from local shops and restaurants. There are picnic tables for enjoying a meal with a gorgeous ocean view and on Wednesday evenings in the summer, free local concerts are hosted right on the beach. Be sure to take a walk on the pier to capture a panoramic view of not only Seal Beach, but Long Beach, mountains, seals and dolphins – it’s also the ideal spot for watching a sunset.
Sunset Beach is located in the town of Huntington Beach, and as the name belies, it offers one of the best spots along the coast to watch the sun go down. You could spend the entire day here or arrive just before dusk and enjoy an evening dinner on the sand after exploring Disneyland. In the summer, lifeguards keep watch over swimmers and surfers, and it’s a good place to fish all year-round.
Also only 30 minutes from Disneyland, Corona del Mar State Beach offers soft sands and gentle waves that make it ideal for families. Located near Newport Beach in the small town of Corona del Mar, it’s framed by cliffs that provide privacy and a secluded feel along with fabulous photo-ops. There are snack stands, restrooms and lifeguards here all year-round, and TV buffs will appreciate that it’s served as a film setting for multiple classic shows like “Gilligan’s Island”, along with Disney hits too.
A little over an hour from Disneyland, Santa Monica Beach is one of the most popular destinations in Southern California. Its beaches offer a great place to swim, surf, play volleyball or just soak up the sun. Of course, it’s arguably most famous for its pier. The Santa Monica Pier hosts an amusement park that includes a 1922 carousel that was featured in 1973’s classic, “The Sting” and the Pacific Wheel, the world’s only solar-powered Ferris wheel. While riding, you’ll be able to take in a breathtaking view of the coast from over 130-feet above the pier.
Just under an hour from Disneyland, Venice Beach is a great place for people-watching, especially along the famous Venice Boardwalk. It’s the quintessential L.A. scene, as the ultimate place to see and be seen, as well as being a mecca for many eccentric characters. The wide stretch of golden sand is backed by this walkway that’s always filled with joggers, walkers, rollerbladers and cyclists, while a variety of cafes, restaurants and bars can be enjoyed here as well. You can watch the muscle builders pump iron under the hot rays of the sun at an area called Muscle Beach and check out the hundreds of street vendors and performers, many of which are quite impressive. On any given day there might be everything from jugglers and glass-walkers to mimes, musicians and just about everything else you can imagine, and quite a few you probably can’t.