California’s Huntington Beach in Orange County (OC) is fast becoming the new place to land for Aussies touching down in LAX. I recently travelled there to sample the buzz for myself.
From officially being known and recognised as “Surf City” (The US Open of Surfing venue since 1959) to its famous pier and laid back vibe, Huntington Beach (HB) recently got voted “The Best Beach of California” by USA Today.
It’s the perfect spot for singles, couples and families and is safe, clean and full of cool stuff to enjoy.
It’s no wonder then that more Aussies are choosing to head straight there after enduring a fourteen plus hour flight from Australia to ease the jetlag and begin their Cali experience.
Here’s five reasons why HB is worth spending some quality time in.
1. LOCATION, LOCATION
First up, HB is only around a 40-minute drive south from Los Angles International Airport (LAX) and is also an excellent base for day trips to the theme parks of Anaheim (Hello Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge!) as it’s still only a 35-minute drive if you’d rather stay by the cool breeze of the ocean.
Catch an Uber, taxi, shuttle or a bus or drive yourself. Whichever mode of transport you choose, you’re covered.
Given most flights from Australia arrive first thing in the morning, you can be in checked into your hotel and washing away the jetlag in the Pacific in no time.
2. There are beautiful people everywhere
And when I say that, I mean ‘beautiful human beings.’
Of course, there’s the iconic Californian hot surfer dudes and gals with beach toned Callipygian’s (that’s another word for impressive bum cheeks btw) but it goes a lot deeper than that in Surf City.
Generally speaking, the locals in HB are super friendly and seemingly not in a rush to be anywhere else (After all, why would they be?).
‘Stress’ is not a word that gets used much unless the surf is flat and it’s definitely less about the Kardashians and more about good Karma in HB.
Tune into the community vibe by taking the time to chat with people you meet, and you’ll soon realise that Surf City is considerably more distinctive (and dare I say it, more pleasant) than many other areas of the City of Angels.
One of the highlights of my visit was meeting Kevin, a Surf City Ambassador from the tourism info desk on the pier who epitomises the HB vibe.
A passionate local surfer ‘dude’, he shared so many insider tips with me that made my short time in HB even more memorable. If you’re heading there, tell him I sent you.
3. Learn to surf, SUP or chillax on or by the beach
Unlike our city beaches in Australia, people use the vast expanses of sand here for all manner of activities from dawn until late at night.
Take a stroll along the adjoining ocean boardwalk, and you’ll encounter a colourful array of cyclists, rollerbladers, dogs, people rollerblading with dogs, skateboarders, dogs on skateboards and joggers of all ages, shapes and sizes.
Come the weekend you’ll find social American Football games being played on the soft sand by people in fancy dress costumes alongside organic food markets, festivals, music and iconic Baywatch lifeguards. There’s always something going on here.
Livin’ the Californian dream? You better believe it.
I took a 2-hour morning surf lesson with local legend Rocky McKinnon, a god-like HB local and Ex-Pro Surfer who started his own surf and SUP (Stand up paddleboard) lesson business on the beach.
Aside from helping me actually catch a wave or two (a miracle in itself), what impressed me most about Rocky and his business was his ‘Adaptive surf program’ that enables people of all ages with disabilities to experience surfing too. Rocky is a solid pillar of the community here and much loved for so many reasons.
4. Eat, drink and people watch
Exhausted from all of your active exploits? Or just more of a cocktail fuelled people watcher?
No dramas. In HB you can choose to watch the sights unfold in front of you at one of HB’s many beachfront bars and restaurants.
Fred’s Mexican Cafe is a great choice to munch on the Mexicali good stuff and sip on ice-cold margaritas above the beach, Sandy’s Beach Shack gives you the best vistas literally on the beach, while the Shorbreak Hotel and The Bungalow are uber-cool places to hang day or late into the night.
The other Californian experience you simply must not miss is toasting ‘s’mores’ (America’s most loved campsite sandwich) in your personal beach firepit. HB has 500 free concrete firepits to use all along its main beach area that you can fire up and enjoy to your heart’s content free of charge.
Don’t know what a ‘s’more’ is? Prepare to be enlightened.
Come sunset on HB, you’ll find people congregating around bonfires roasting marshmallows, chocolate and graham cracker sandwiches to make S’mores. The toasted melting marshmallow is wedged between two graham crackers together with a slab of chocolate. Heaven.
To make life easy for yourself, Waterfront Adventures offers an epic bonfire and s’mores concierge service. Sit back and let your personal beach butler load you up with all the s’mores supplies you need, and set up a roaring bonfire in the sand, perfect for toasting marshmallows.
5. Shop by the beach
They say the sea soothes the soul – as does retail therapy. So Imagine a shopping centre that combines indoors and outdoors, has unobstructed beach views, free firepits to sit around and take in the sunsets and a diverse range of designer shops, cafes and restaurants.
Welcome to Pacific City. One of my favourite shopping centres for all the above reasons. You’ll also find the Bungalow Bar there.
Dotting the iconic Huntington Beach Pier and Main Street are also souvenir shops stocking the perfect trinket or painting to take Surf City USA home with you.
A blend of California surf shops and both trendy and vintage boutiques downtown seem to capture the laid-back luxury vibe.
HB is the home of the Doggfather – Snoop Dogg. Not that he lives there these days, but rumour has it he still loves to pop in for the odd gin and juice every now and again.
I was lucky enough to see the D.O. Double G play live at a special one-off event for Huntington Beach Tourism and Visit California literally on the beach when I was there.
Smokin’ much? You can toke away to your hearts’ content or chomp on marijuana filled Gummie Bears anywhere in California now too (If that’s your thing) because weed has been legal here since 2018.
Get there: American Airlines flies daily from Sydney to Los Angeles on a Dreamliner 787-9 and is a fantastic option for travelling onward throughout the USA. Read my review here.
Stay there: The Hyatt Regency Resort & Spa is a gorgeous luxe hacienda-style beachfront property that’s perfect for anyone and especially families. Close to the action but just far enough away, it’s a beautiful place to be to enjoy all that HB has to offer.
Find out more: www.surfcityusa.com
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