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For those who can make only one stop in Corona del Mar, make it the Corona del Mar State Beach. This area alone can make everyone fall in love with CdM, a laid-back multi-million-dollar neighborhood accented by the Pacific, with streets lined by palm trees and flower beds. On the bluff, three signs mark beach access: Lookout Point, Main Beach and Inspiration Point. Each point has a different view, but all share Catalina Island in the background, and Newport Bay and Balboa Island in the foreground. A few steps towards the south end of Ocean Boulevard is a secluded cove near the Robert E. Badham Marine Life Refuge, and some of the most extravagant mansions follow.
Huntington State Beach is one of the best beaches in southern California. It is popular with both locals and tourists alike. It has barbecue pits that used year-round but especially in the summer as well as fire rings that can be used for bonfires. It's a great spot for families and children because the waves are not that big and there are several lifeguards on duty. There are all kinds of snack shops and places where you can rent bodyboards and other beach gear. Huntington State Beach is also known for its bird watching, keep a look out for California Brown Pelicans.
Stretching 1853 feet (564.80 meters) into the Pacific Ocean, the Huntington Beach Pier is one of the West Coast's longest piers. This attraction is visited by millions of people each year, creating an eccentric crowd. It is home to several important events, such as the U.S. Open of Surfing in July, Kite Party in February and Huck Finn Fishing Derby in August. You’ll also find excellent oceanfront dining at both ends of the pier.
The picturesque Orange coast is home to a wide variety of marine animals and it's not uncommon to see them washed ashore in need of help. Established in 1971 with the aim of rehabilitating such marine mammals along the coast of Orange County, Pacific Marine Mammal Center is an excellent rescue facility. Volunteers and workers are hard at work to lovingly take care of the creatures until they're healthy enough to be released. Visitors to the facility can get an overview of the site as well as check out the mammals. Since this is not a zoo or an aquarium, you won't find facilities geared to visitors. Visits are free, but you can donate for the cause.
Laguna Coast Wilderness Park is a locals' favorite for hiking and biking, particularly during spring when a spectrum of wild flowers bloom. Two entrances are available. One is at the junction of El Toro Road and Aliso Creek Road where limited street parking is available for free. Despite its isolation from the majority of the park, this area features Barbara's Lake, Orange County's only natural lake. The other entrance is across Laguna Canyon, by the junction of Laguna Canyon Road and El Toro Road. Although there is no free parking, you can head straight to Crystal Cove from here. With "wilderness" in its name, no pets are allowed in the park. Some residents you may have the pleasure of seeing are deer, mountain lions, and snakes.
This is a non-profit botanical garden situated on 26 gorgeous acres of the California State University Fullerton. Botanical collections are sectioned into zones: the temperate zone, the tropical zone and the arid zone. There is a rare fruit grove featuring subtropical fruits like cherimoyas, kiwis, papayas, guavas and rare citrus varieties. The Children's Garden is the site for educational programs and hands-on fun. Also on the grounds is the Heritage House, an Eastlake Victorian cottage built in 1894 by Dr. George C. Clark, an early Fullerton physician, as his home and office. There is a lot of nature and a little bit of history here, making for a wonderful outing. Although admission is free, a voluntary donation is suggested.
A short walk from the bustling downtown Laguna Beach, this park is an amazing hidden oasis. The grassy bluff and the sandy beach with giant rocks and hidden caves makes this park a favorite spot for photographers, brides and grooms, sunset watchers, picnickers (barbecue grills are provided, first come first serve), and even sea birds. There are also a variety of art stands selling local artwork. Keep your eye out for the one-of-a-kind sculpture benches. Heisler Park is considered one of the best parks in Orange County.
There aren't really 1,000 steps leading from highway down to the beach; there are only about 227. Still, it's quite a hike, especially going back up. This secluded beach is popular for surfers and lovers alike. You'll also see people working out by running up and down the steps. It's not very practical if you have kids or a lot of things to carry, so just bring yourself and a loved one and enjoy the solitude and the sand. Metered parking is available on the street before the beach.