Orange County’s diverse landscape, from sand and surf to canyons and creeks, beckons us to explore the great outdoors — in many forms.
Host of the renowned summer U.S. Open of Surfing competition, Huntington Beach is home to some epic swells year-round. In the winter, paddle out to the north side of the pier for the best breaks. Also a stop on the AVP tour (the Huntington Beach Open), the town serves up some of the best beach volleyball spots in the area. Check the courts on either side of the pier — and bring your A-game, because this place attracts professional-level opponents. Hugging Huntington’s expansive sandy coastline is an 8-mile bike path, perfect for joggers, rollerbladers, skateboarders, and, of course, beach cruisers. Starting at Sunset Beach in the north, the path stretches to State Beach — from here, pedal to the Santa Ana River Trail or continue towards Newport’s bike path.
At Oak Canyon Nature Center in Anaheim, trek through 4 miles of rare oak woodlands and coastal sage, stroll along a peaceful running stream, and encounter local wildlife in this scenic 58-acre park. For a closer look at the cute critters, visit the interpretive center museum. If you’ve ever wondered what it feels like to fly but skydiving or paragliding sounds like too much of adrenaline high, try your acrobatic skills at the flying trapeze. At SwingIt Trapeze, you’ll learn the basics of mastering a catch, with the comfort and safety of a net below.
An historical boating destination, Newport Beach boasts New England seaside charm with sunny Southern California weather. Pack your Sperrys and sign up for a cruise on the water — be it a sailboat lesson, a whale-watching excursion, or a yacht charter. You can also rent a Duffy boat and enjoy a relaxing float around the harbor. With a vast network of nature trails, many overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Newport is also an epic place to hike. Check in at Crystal Cove State Park (a stop at the Beachcomber Café gets you free parking) and climb the canyons for an epic summit view over the swath of blue.
Slightly inland and surrounded by scenic rural beauty, Irvine is an ideal destination for a day on the links. Choose from a host of public courses including Strawberry Farms and Oak Creek golf clubs. If horsing around sounds like an exciting way to while away the day outdoors, head to Irvine Regional Park, where Country Trails & Riding School will have a four-hooved friend saddled up (Western style) and ready to take you for an adventure around the fields and beneath the oaks.
Laguna Beach is home to some of the county’s (and country’s) most breathtaking coastline, but it’s also got some hidden gems across the highway: Challenging terrain and verdant forests attract the world’s top mountain biking professionals to its dirt trails, especially during the winter months when British Columbia is blanketed in snow. Just be sure to mind the park signs — some routes are open only to hikers — or you might get fined! Laguna’s Aliso Creek Beach, on the south end of town, features one of the best shore breaks for skimboarding, which is why it plays host to the sport’s prestigious Victoria Skimboards World Championship of Skimboarding competition each summer. Those who reside here, or live nearby, are lucky to enjoy the activity year-round. For another way to see these deep-aqua seas — and what lies beneath — rent a standup paddleboard from an outfitter downtown and cruise out see kelp forests, marine creatures and epic views of the coastline.