Living in Southern California, we have access to some truly beautiful beaches. And we love to visit different ones, though there are some that are better than others. If you like beautiful beaches of all shapes and sizes, read on. This is your go-to guide for the best OC beaches to visit with your family.
One thing I must stress is that many of the addresses listed below take you directly to the beach, which you obviously cannot park on. A few involve street parking, so going early is definitely advised.
Shaw’s Cove, Laguna Beach
The parking for this tiny beach is in a residential area and when we went it was a case of every man for themselves. We went before 10am and parking was fine. If you have very little ones this may not be the beach for you. That is because, depending on where you park, there is definitely going to be some walking involved. However, once we got there the kids LOVED this beach. There is a natural sand step which the kids used to ‘cliff jump!’
Bolsa Chica State Beach, Huntington Beach
Bolsa Chica State Beach is a beach in Huntington Beach. Because it is a state beach, there is a $15 fee to enter and park. This is not one of our favourite oc beaches but it’s often quiet and it has a lot of sand which makes it great for families with little ones who don’t want to go in the sea. There’s also lots of seagulls to chase if you are that way inclined (I have a seagull chaser; don’t judge!)
Crystal Cove, Laguna Beach
Like Bolsa Chica, Crystal Cove is one of the beaches that belong to the state parks. This means they are very well kept, but it also means you’ll pay $15 to park. You could park in the shops opposite, but $15 is a great way to support our local state parks. The beach itself is breathtaking.
Treasure Island/Goff Island, Laguna Beach
Please note that the address of this beach isn’t driveable and will take you to the housing above the beach! If you visit this beach it HAS to be in the morning. It’s very difficult to find parking, but it’s SO worth it. This really is one of the best OC beaches and is my personal favorite beach by far. So much so that I considered leaving it out to keep it a secret! It’s quite a walk from the parking lot to the beach, but you get the most beautiful views so it makes that walk worth it. You also walk past the stunning Montage Hotel which is one of the most beautiful hotels I have ever seen! Nip in for a cocktail and some nachos if you have time.
Main Beach, Laguna
When we want to go to the beach, but we want minimal effort we either hit Laguna or Newport’s main beaches (see below for Newport). The main beach in Laguna is long, sprawling and FUN! There are tide pools to explore at the far end of the beach. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes within walking distance and some delicious ice cream shops for a cold treat. As with many OC beaches, parking isn’t the easiest to come by. But there is street parking to be found all over Laguna. I would recommend going early to the main beach in Laguna if you plan to visit in summer or at the weekend.
Marina Park, Newport Beach
Marina Park is one of the beaches in the marina where there are no waves. This makes it perfect for taking little ones to. Whilst it isn’t the most beautiful of OC beaches, it’s a great place to bring the kids if they are little, if you are on your own and want the peace of mind of no waves, or if they want to try paddle boarding. You can bring along floaties and the water is shallow enough for little ones to play or for bigger ones to practice swimming. There is also an awesome park where the kids can play. The park centerpiece is a lighthouse ad my boys just LOVE it there!
Note that while there is a large parking lot here, you do have to pay for the meters. However, they’ve got a neat mobile payment app called Parkmobile which you can use if you don’t have spare change in your purse.
Little Corona Beach, Corona Del Mar
We like this beach better than the main beach at Corona Del Mar because it is quieter, smaller, AND has great tide pools. We park on Ocean Blvd and there is a short downhill walk to a beach surrounded by the most stunning houses. The walk means you don’t want to be carrying lots of stuff by hand. We pack up our wagon when we go to this beach. There are not really any places to eat nearby so be sure to bring a picnic!
Newport Pier, Newport Beach
choppier. Park in the area around West Oceanfront. This part of Newport Beach has plenty of food options for all different budgets which makes it a great place for a family day out.
Mother’s Beach (also called Baby Beach), Dana Point
Like Marina Park, Mother’s Beach has no waves so is often favored by families with little ones. Also like Marina Park, this beach is situated in the harbor. This might be a deal breaker for some, who consider the water in the harbor to be polluted. There is no doubting though that a beach with no waves make trips to the beach with little ones so much easier!
Victoria Beach (Pirate’s Tower), Laguna Beach
We visited this beach for the first time recently and it was SO. MUCH. FUN. The kids loved Rapunzel’s Tower, which our friends call it. They also loved looking for dolphins and whales (of which we saw both!) and playing on the huge beach near to the tower. There is a man-made pool right by the beach, which if you go at the right time of day, you will find full of sea water! Be sure to check the tides for this beach as some of it is inaccessible during high tide
1000 Steps Beach, Laguna Beach
Still on our list of best OC beaches to visit (thus no photo), this beach is actually accessed by 233 steps! It is one of the largest beaches in Laguna, where you can find volleyball courts, restrooms, and caves to explore. There is even a cave tunnel to Totuava Beach, one of the beaches that can only be accessed by tunnels at low tide!
Salt Creek, Dana Point
Salt Creek Beach is situated below the insanely beautiful Ritz Carlton Hotel in Dana Point. There is a large parking lot and a fun walk down to the beach with a giant grassy hill to run/walk/roll down. If you prefer not to walk, you can also pay $1 to take a cute tram up and down the hill to the beach. This beach is a great place to spot seals playing in the surf which our kids LOVE. There is a small food shack serving lite bites and drinks (which is great because the hill to walk back to the parking lot is a KILLER!)
San Clemente Pier Beach, San Clemente
Another beach we are yet to visit (and thus no photo), San Clemente Pier beach is situated in the gorgeous little town of San Clemente. There are some great restaurants by the beach and I am told it’s a lovely beach to visit in winter. We love winter beach trips, so I know what we’ll be doing this winter!! There is a paid parking lot near to the pier from 9am to 5pm daily (free outside of those times). There is also metered parking along streets near the pier.