Crystal Cove State Park spans 3.2 miles (5.15 kilometers) of beach and over 2000 acres (809.37 hectares) of wilderness. Visitors to the park can relax on the beach, hike or go horseback riding on the many trails that criss-cross the verdant landscape. Explore tide pools and hidden coves as well as canyon flora and fauna. Finally, the crystal clear waters have been designated as an underwater park and are great for scuba diving, skin diving, and underwater photography, thus covering all aspects of outdoor exploration.
The area is 900 acres (364 hectares) of estuary, marsh, and coastal sage scrub habit, and it is home to several endangered bird species. Seventy species of fish use the bay and during winter migration thousands of shorebirds and ducks either visit or spend the winter here. Kayak, canoe, walking and electric boat tours are offered and a state of the art Interpretive Center is located at 2301 University Dr., Newport Beach.
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.
Sherman Library and Gardens is located on Pacific Coast Highway and has extensive botanical collections with examples of plant life from desert regions to tropical regions. It is a veritable outdoor museum of plants. Walk along the paths and smell the fragrant flowers and listen to the bubbling fountains. It really is an oasis that will take you away to a calmer, more peaceful place. The place also has a library on site which a delight for art lovers and bibliophiles.
If the air inside one of the area's many malls seems too stuffy for you, head to Newport Pier for a day of shopping and dining right on the water. Whether you are in search of a quick buy for a day out on the beach, or are looking for souvenirs to bring back home, you can find it among the many shops and restaurants in this bustling oceanfront area. Here you can pick up an OC sweatshirt to properly emulate those moody walks by the waves, or get the kids some toy shovels to built expert sand castles. Then stop by one of the many kiosks for a fruit smoothie for the ride home, but before you go make sure to walk out to the end of the pier for some great views of Catalina Island and the surrounding beaches.
Founded in 1932, this is likely the best all-around museum in Orange County. The complex has particularly come into its own since its re-opening in 1992 with expanded and improved exhibition spaces. Created with funds donated by Charles Bowers, the complex was built in the style of the California Missions, and is adorned with murals honoring that motif. Originally intended by Mr. Bowers to focus on local history, the museum has since enlarged its focus to incorporate artifacts from the cultures of Southeast Asia, Oceania, Mexico and Native America.
Dawson Cole Fine Art showcases paintings, drawings and sculptures created by American and European artists. Drop by to admire the varied artworks showcased through regular exhibitions. While here, take a tour of their outdoor sculpture garden that has some interesting works of art
Laguna Beach has long been a center for art. Creative types flocked here in droves to work their magic along Laguna's pristine shores. The Laguna Art Museum continues this proud heritage with an impressive list of year-round exhibitions and programming. Within these hallowed halls, you'll find classic and contemporary works by artists both fledgling and world renowned. An emphasis is placed on artists hailing from California, but the museum's scope is global nonetheless.
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.
The picturesque Orange coast is home to a wide variety of marine animals. 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 work hard to nurse the creatures back to health until they are strong enough to go back to their natural environment. Visitors to the facility can get an overview of the site as well as meet the mammals.
Dominated by rolling ridges and rugged canyons, Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park is a remarkable natural canvas streaked with picturesque meadows, undulating grasslands, and stands of majestic trees. The park's scenic landscape has stirred the imagination of many a visitor, and there is much to do and discover within its stunning bounds. Sheltering yellow warblers, Cooper's hawk, and white-tailed kites, and providing a conducive habitat for species such as Pomona rattleweed, hummingbird sage, and sycamores and oaks, this expansive natural area is a delight to explore. Keep your eyes peeled for the peregrine falcons and bald eagles soaring overhead as you hike along the trails, or settle down for a rejuvenating picnic with loved ones.