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Huntington Beach: Sun, Sea and Surf
Less than an hour from the hustle and bustle of Hollywood, the city of Huntington Beach offers a much more laid back atmosphere. Its sandy beaches, colourful seafront and world-class surf make it the quintessential Californian destination, one where the notion of sun, sea and surf is well and truly brought to life.
Welcome to Surf City USA
Make no bones about it, surfing is the crest of the wave when it comes to Huntington Beach attractions. Locals climb out of bed (or off the beach) at four in the morning to hit the surf. Workers clock-off and head straight to the beach, shortboard in hand. Professional surfers head to the city to compete in championship tournaments. There’s a reason they call this place Surf City USA! Even for first time visitors, surfing becomes something of a religion in Huntington Beach. Bolsa Chica State Beach (best surfed during the winter months) and Huntington State Beach (a summertime favourite) welcome novices and old hands alike, with the breaking waves offering up some of California’s very best surfing. If you want to know what life is really like in these parts, you almost have to pull on a pair of board shorts. For those looking to stay dry, you can relive the history of surfing in the region at the International Surfing Museum and the Surfing Walk of Fame. For those looking to get out there and hang ten, many of the city’s hotels, which are mostly found along the oceanfront, provide storage space for surfboards.
Living the Beach Life
If surfing is Huntington Beach’s yin, then the beach itself is the yang. Even if you’re not into riding the waves, it’s still practically illegal to come to this part of the world and not spend some time on the beach. Huntington State Beach and the area around Huntington Beach Pier are the main go-to places for tourists. Here you’ll find long and wide stretches of beach, complete with Baywatch-style lifeguard towers and a mass of humanity. Expect to see sunbathing, paddling, kite-flying, kite surfing, and beach volleyball. If you’re looking for something a little quieter, head north to The Cliffs (A.K.A. Dog Beach) – the only dog-friendly beach for miles around. Another local icon, Huntington Beach Pier is a must visit. Extending nearly 600 metres out into the Pacific Ocean, this is the longest pier on the west coast. At the end of the pier stands Rudy’s Diner, a legendary eatery that deserves a visit. Flanking the beaches is Ocean Strand, a paved path packed with shops, restaurants, bars, hotels, and more. Skateboarders and in-line skaters hustle along the path, while the cool kids cruise along on their chopper bikes. Walking the path is a great way to take in many of the Huntington Beach sights and sounds.
Out on the Ocean
If you’re looking for an adventure, leave your hotel behind and hop aboard a boat. An afternoon or day spent on the Pacific Ocean will not only clean out those sinuses, it’ll leave you some of those Good Vibrations the Beach Boys sang about. Local captains offer an array of tours, including deep sea fishing outings, coastline excursions and whale-watching and dolphin-watching jaunts. Whichever you choose, you’re bound to be blown away by the stunning scenery and serene atmosphere. One of the most popular boat trips is to Santa Catalina Island, located 20 miles off coast. You can catch a ferry to the island in Newport Beach, just south of Huntington Beach. Once on the island, scuba diving, snorkelling, shipwrecks, nature trails, and much more await.
Back on Dry Land
Leaving the beach and ocean behind, take a stroll around Huntington Beach and you’ll discover an array of interesting sights and sounds. Huntington Beach Art Center and Huntington Beach Library and Cultural Center both display an impressive selection of art work and cultural exhibits. You’ll also find a series of pop-up galleries here and there, not to mention colourful graffiti. Huntington Beach is also known as a shopper’s delight. Not far from the city’s hotels you’ll find a host of boutiques, shops and stores. Bella Terra outdoor shopping mall is wildly popular with visitors, while The Strand is a good option for upmarket goods. Surf City Nights, held every Tuesday night, features a farmer’s market with a carnival-like atmosphere. There’s also plenty of food and drink to be had. Huntington Beach Central Park is a pleasing green space in the heart of the city, while Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve and Huntington Beach Wetlands Conservancy both offer eco-friendly ways to see the local flora and fauna.
Travellers looking to explore California at large will find Huntington Beach ideally-placed, with all of Orange County readily accessible. The likes of Laguna Beach and Newport Beach are just a bike ride away, while the famed Disney theme parks in Anaheim are less than 40 minutes away by car. The sprawling metropolis that is Los Angeles is less than an hour’s drive from Huntington Beach, traffic permitting, of course. Meanwhile, San Diego and its famed zoo and SeaWorld park are less than two hours away. From your hotel in Huntington Beach, exploring the Californian coast will leave you California Dreamin’.