Surfing is the water recreation of choice in Huntington Beach, home of the International Surfing Museum, Surfing Hall of Fame, and one of the nation's most exciting surfing sites. When you're ready to shake the sand from your shoes, visit Old World Village, a European-style hamlet complete with shops and restaurants.
Farther south, Newport Beach's pleasure-craft harbor - one of the largest in the world - brims with activity. You'll find harbor cruises that depart from the Fun Zone.
Contemporary-art lovers will revel in the Newport Harbor Art Museum's collection of California post-World War II art. Browse in the charming shops and dine in one of the distinctive restaurants. Or, paddle a kayak in the lagoon, then picnic on a private beach. Rent a bike for a trip to the Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve, where endangered birds live in the freshwater marsh.
In Newport Beach, you can hop on the ferryboat to Balboa Island. With tight little streets and charming cottages, Balboa Island offers the flavor of an earlier California. Balboa Pavilion, a local landmark, was built in 1906 to serve as a Victoria bath-house and an electric car terminal. Today, it's the departure point for harbor cruises, trips to Catalina Island, and whale-watching boat excursions - a visitor bonus from late December through March. The Pavilion is outlined by lights at night. Nearby, nature aficionados can enjoy tide pools at the Corona del Mar Marine Life Refuge.