Southern California is filled with dozens of state parks which preserve the history, culture, and beauty
of the Southland. Many of our parks are facing closures due to budget woes, but Orange County has
managed to keep all seven of its popular state parks and beaches open. Here is a snapshot of each one.
Bolsa Chica State Beach
19300 Seapoint Avenue
Huntington Beach, CA 92648
In the 1940s and 50s, Bolsa Chica was not the pristine beach destination we know today. Luckily “Tin
Can Beach” was taken over by California State Parks in the 1960s and the litter is long gone. This
undeveloped stretch of sand is located in north Huntington Beach and features a bike/walking path
which connects it with Huntington City Beach and Huntington State Beach to the south. Surf fishermen,
surf riders, and surf watchers all love spending time at Bolsa Chica. Across the street from the beach
is the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, a protected wetland home to various species threatened and
endangered species. Those who stay for the sunset or choose to camp in one of the RV sites should take
advantage of the firepits on the sand.
Huntington State Beach
22400 Brookhurst Street
Huntington Beach, CA 92645
Huntington State Beach is to Orange County what Santa Monica State Beach is to Los Angeles; both
serve as the backdrop for the quintessential California beach day. Summer crowds flock to this beach for
its wide stretch of soft sand, clean surf, and fabulous people watching. A pier juts out into the surf and
is a popular place to fish or watch street performers. Volleyball courts, basketball courts, and fire rings
are available for use. Dining options are numerous and include Duke’s at the base of the pier, Ruby’s at
the end of the pier, and several snack shops that line the bike path. If you happened to leave your bike
at home, rentals are available including beach cruisers and surreys.
Corona del Mar State Beach
Corona Del Mar, CA 92625
If you are looking for a beach that has crystal clear water and spectacular sunsets, look no further than
Corona del Mar State Beach. This beach is popular with swimmers who appreciate the clean waters
which are protected by a jetty. Fire rings are available and extremely popular, but the city of Newport
Beach has been threatening to remove them for some time, so check before you go. Corona Del Mar
State Beach is one of the few California State Parks that does not accept the Annual Day Use Pass, but
free parking can often be found in the surrounding neighborhoods.
Crystal Cove State Park
8471 N Coast Highway
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
After spending the day at Crystal Cove, it isn’t hard to imagine what beach life must have been in
Southern California generations ago. The sea cliffs and crashing surf block out the sounds and sights of
upscale suburban life taking place on the surrounding hillsides, and during the winter weekdays you
can have often have stretches of this beach all to yourself. There are tide pools teeming with life and an
offshore marine preserve to explore with either a snorkel or scuba gear. A unique lodging experience
can be found at in the Crystal Cove Historic District, which is home to an enclave of 16 vintage coastal
cottages that sit right on the sand and are available for booking. Reservations can be made on the 1st
of the month at 8:00 a.m. sharp for a cottage seven months in advance, and they go fast! Dining can be
found at the Beachcomber Café which sits right on the sand in a restored historic cottage or at Ruby’s
Shake Shack at the top of the hill.
On the other side of Pacific Coast Highway, Crystal Cove State Park offers 2,400 acres of backcountry
wilderness to explore in Moro Canyon. There are single track trails and fire roads which lead hikers
up into the chaparral-covered foothills. Campers can set up a tent or pull an RV into one of Moro
Campgrounds 58 sites or hike three miles into the backcountry to enjoy one of the park’s primitive sites.
Doheny State Beach
25300 Dana Point Harbor Drive
Dana Point, CA 92629
Doheny State Beach is very popular with beach campers who flock to its 120 campsites all year long.
The gentle surf at this beach makes it a popular place for local kids to learn how to surf, though the
proximity to the Dana Point Harbor can lead to less than stellar water conditions at times. The grassy
area in the northern portion of the State Beach is a popular spot for a picnic or a beach party. The
Doheny State Beach Interpretive Center features a tide pool exhibit, aquarium tanks, and a photo gallery
showcasing the long-board surﬁng era of the 1950s and 60s. Volleyballs courts and fire pits are available
San Clemente State Beach
3030 Avenida del Presidente
San Clemente, CA 92672
Halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, San Clemente State Beach has been providing locals, as
well as travelers along Interstate 5, the perfect spot to take a break and enjoy the coast. The beach has
been popular with surfers and swimmers for generations. There are campsites on the bluff sites that are
perfect for tents and trailers as well as RV sites with full hookups. The walk from the campground down
to the beach is short but steep, so keep that in mind when packing your beach gear.
San Onofre State Beach
San Clemente, CA 92672
There is perhaps no beach in California more famous for its break than San Onofre State Beach. There is
no pier, there are no volleyballs courts or fire rings, but there is a 3.5-mile stretch of undeveloped sand
and some of the best surfing in the country. For this reason, surfers from near and far flock to this beach at the
border of Orange and San Diego Counties in search for their own perfect wave. A campground can be found about a mile inland and 1.5 miles of wetlands created by nearby San Mateo Creek connects the campground to Trestles Beach, a world-class surfing spot.
Sharlene Earnshaw is the editor for Trekaroo, a website dedicated to helping families travel better.