Drive to the Dukes in Newport and Huntington Beach

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Early autumn – with daytime highs still hitting the seventies – is a great time to hit the beach in southern California. The Pacific offers an endless expanse of wonderful coastline. Some of the wilder fringes to the north are too bracing at this time of year, such as the rugged coastline of Big Sur, but head below Los Angeles and you’re still in business. So let’s follow the sun…

nate2b / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND


Endless surf

Have you thought of taking a Huntington Beach car rental? With its eight-and-a-half mile sandy beach, it’s an ideal place to take a long walk or just hit the surf. By the beginning of autumn, it’s fairly quiet and the beach is still dream-like because construction is, thankfully, prohibited without consent.

Huntington Beach has four different beaches: Northwest, West, Southwest, and South. Northwest is Bolsa Chica State Beach (3.3 miles), the West consists of “The Cliffs” or “Dog Beach”, Southwest consists of everything north of the pier, operated by the City of Huntington Beach.

The long walk…to the end of the pier

The resort is home to the fifth longest municipal pier in California (1850 feet), one that celebrated its centenary in 2004. It’s strewn with souvenir and fishing stores. Walk to the end of the pier and reward yourself with a tasty burger, shake or fries at Ruby’s Diner which also offers great ocean views. The pier is wheelchair-friendly, has excellent lookout points and is a wonderful photo opportunity. Just bear in mind that skateboarding, pets and skating are not allowed.

Huntingdon Beach is best known for its surfing and the consistency of its waves. Why not visit the Surfing Hall of Fame where legends of the foam are celebrated? Perhaps the most famous was Duke Kahanamoku (1890-1968), a Hawaiian surfer who was also a five-time Olympic medalist.

Tai Gray / Foter / CC BY-SA


Star- spotting

Feeling star-struck? Don’t go to Hollywood because you’re liable to find yourself staring at huge electronic gates and bougainvillea – unless you board a helicopter, that is! Why not visit nearby Newport Beach, hangout of many screen icons? Believe it or not, not all movie stars choose to live in Malibu or Beverly Hills.

Newport Beach is an upscale community with palatial homes lining the shore. Perhaps the city’s most famous resident was John Wayne (1907-1979). “The Duke” – as he was known to his legions of fans – lived in a house at the end of Bayshore Drive and apparently used to wave at the flotilla of passing boats from his terrace. He also owned a yacht – The Wild Goose – on which he would cruise around nearby Catalina Island.

You can get a good view of some stars’ homes by taking one of the local harbor tours. The bay, nestled between Balboa Peninsula and Balboa Island, is lined with yachts and celebrity mansions. Recent famous residents of Newport include sex sirens Bo Derek and Michelle Pfeiffer.

Many homes have summer vacation rentals (during the peak summer period) or, alternatively, you can just rent a little cottage. If you really want to enjoy a stylish overnight stay, you could consider the Balboa Inn (pictured), where you almost have your foot in the water, or Doryman’s Newport Beach Hotel & Inn.

gcmenezes / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

The beach itself is always abuzz with volleyball and water sports and boasts a nice boardwalk. If you’re bringing the kids, they will have a ball at the nearby Balboa Fun Zone where they can enjoy the Great Ferris wheel and the bunjee jumping. (And if they really haven’t had their fill of fun, you can always take them to nearby Knott’s Berry Farm where there are even more attractions!)

You can take the morning ferry ride to Catalina Island or charter your own boat if you like. And you can watch fishermen bringing in sea trout and crab at the famous Dory Fleet Fish Market every morning between 7am and 9am.

Southern California has so many wonderful beaches. All you need to enjoy the sites in Huntington or Newport is a cheap car rental. But don’t think this is a reason to avoid walking to the end of Huntington Pier. You can’t spend all your time behind the wheel no matter how good your car is!



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