Nothing says summer like a road trip along California’s famed Highway 1. a.k.a Pacific Coast Highway. Start about an hour south of LAX in Huntington Beach at the International Surf Museum, a jewel box size treasure trove chronicling the history of those who hang ten among our oceans, starting with Duke Kahanamoku, the native Hawaiian who first popularized this Polynesian tradition. From here, it’s a short walk to Havaianas Huntington Beach, to stock up on the cult favourite Brazilian flip flops perfect for Orange County coastal cruising.
While televisions shows like The O.C., Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County and The Real Housewives of Orange County spin a single, bleach blond impression of these beach towns between Los Angeles and San Diego, beyond the Botox, a world of unfussy, laidback luxuries awaits discovery.
Top down, tunes on, continue south to Newport Boulevard, hang a right and you’ll soon spot the line that forms daily outside the Crab Cooker. A fire engine red building, its walls and ceilings hung with nautical kitsch, this iconic diner serves shrimp and scallop skewers straight off the grill with heaping scoops of homemade coleslaw and cricket ball sized, steaming hot homemade bread.
Further along the Balboa Peninsula we go, where anyone with adventurous spirit should plan to careen along the Wedge, one of the most challenging body surfing breaks on earth. This jetty built in 1918 to protect the entrance to Newport Beach Harbor is a manmade phenomenon for wet suited thrill-seekers as swells rise and foamy seawater grinds along the boulders creating an engorged wave, amped up in size and power. As regulars know, a red flag hoisted above the lifeguard station signifies an especially dangerous day.
Seeking something more Zen? Test your core muscles by stand up paddle boarding, or SUP as insiders call this of-the-moment outdoor activity, around Newport Beach Harbor, home to around 10,000 boats, many of them super yachts. Then to get back on the iconic highway by driving onto the Balboa Island Ferry, a quaint three-car craft sailing the 245 metres between the Balboa Peninsula and Balboa Island, a charming enclave of historic bungalows that is some of the U.S.A.’s most expensive real estate. Inhale the fresh ocean air and watch for sea lions.
Turning back onto Pacific Coast Highway and continuing south, head for La Fogata, a low key eatery serving healthy Mexican quesadillas and fish tacos at prices almost south of the border, best chased with the fat free yogurt at CDM Yogurt, where the selection rotates among 150 homemade flavours including our faves: cake batter, mint chip and oatmeal cookie.
Follow the Cali coast’s dramatic curves, at the speed limit please, until Laguna Beach announces itself with the newly opened Urth Cafe rightly famous for their luscious honey vanilla latte. Get one to go and roll on to The Stand, a humble shack serving organic veggie burritos and avocado sandwiches with alfalfa sprouts since 1975. Appetites for eating and exploring sated zoom on to San Clemente, a classic coastal town with some of this state’s best surf. Surfs up care to join us for a whirl in some serious curls?