Getty Images/iStockphoto

Coastal Orange County

It’s true you’ll find gorgeous sunsets, prime surfing and just-off-the-boat seafood when traveling the OC’s blissful 42 miles of surf and sand. But it’s also the unexpected, serendipitous discoveries you’ll remember: learning to surf the waves in Seal Beach, playing Frisbee with your pooch at Huntington Dog Beach, piloting your own boat around Newport Harbor, wandering around eclectic art displays in Laguna Beach, or spotting whales on a cruise from Dana Point.

Your mission is to find out which beach town suits you best. Seal Beach is the OC’s northernmost beach town. From there, crawl along Route 1, aka Pacific Coast Hwy (PCH), south along the ocean for more than 40 miles, passing through Sunset Beach, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Dana Point and San Clemente. The drive takes at least an hour (much more with bumper-to-bumper beachfront traffic on summer weekends). Don’t worry: it’s almost always worth it.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Coastal Orange County.