Top five beachs to take your children
Where to have fun, fun, fun for beach boys and girls
Taking kids to the beach isn’t always, well, a day at the beach.
There’s unloading all the toys, towels and beachy necessities, then trudging across hot sand to find a place in the sun – and that’s after you’ve navigated bummer-to-bummer traffic and miraculously found a parking spot.
Beach reporter Laylan Connelly, herself a mother, scouted the best stretches of coast in Orange County to take youngsters, whether to explore the sand with a baby or find tidepool critters with your grandchild.
Newport Pier: This is where you’ll find my family on most weekend mornings, for a few reasons. The parking is right next to the sand, so unloading from the car to the sand requires little effort. But get there no later than 10 a.m. to find a spot. During winter months swells coming from the northwest can supersize the waves, but during summer the water is almost as calm as a lake and safe for little ones. The pier is a great place for a stroll, and you can watch surfers from above. Food options are close by; Original Pizza is our favorite for a quick bite. There’s also a nice boardwalk to put your little one in a stroller for a leisurely afternoon walk. For older children who want to learn how to surf, sign them up with Endless Sun Surf School.
Beach bummer: The seagulls are extremely crazy here and will take any opportunity to ravage your belongings.
Seal Beach Pier: Another great spot because of parking on both sides of the pier and a short trek to where the sand meets the water. But I also really like this beach for the kids because it has a great playground nearby where they can play if they get tired of the sand. The grassy areas here are nice for an afternoon picnic if you want to avoid getting sand all over the place. Waves at this spot are typically pretty mellow, except when winter swells hit; then the south side of the pier can be dangerous. Take a surf lesson on the north side of the pier with M & M Surfing School. For an extra treat, there’s a Cold Stone Creamery on the corner of Main and Pacific Coast Highway.
Beach bummer: This area has a high concentration of stingrays when surf is small and water is warm. Although your chances of getting hit are low, an encounter can turn a beach day into a painful one. This beach also tends to get quite windy around 2 p.m.
You’ll feel a million miles away from the stresses of the world at this stretch of beach, tucked just below the beautiful Montage Laguna Beach. An easy walking path takes you down to the sand, where tide pools can be a great place to observe critters – just remind the little ones not to touch or try to take any home. You might even get lucky and see a whale come close to shore. Nearby is Goff Cove, located near Treasure Island and accessible by stairs from the Montage. If your kids are old enough, bring a mask and snorkel and look through the crystal clear waters. Avoid parking hassles and use the hotel valet service for $40.
Beach bummer: During the peak of summer, there can be beach crowds. Plus there’s limited beach area when the tide is high. Watch out for slippery rocks near the tide pools.
Doheny State Beach: This beach in Dana Point usually has ample parking and plenty of sand space. The waves are typically calm, especially during winter. Summer swells can bring bigger waves, but they are usually soft and rolling, which is why this is a great beginner place to surf. There are a lot of grassy areas if you want to bring a soccer ball to kick around, and plenty of grills if you want to have a beach barbecue. One amenity that is often overlooked is the free Interpretive Center at the entrance, which has an interactive tide pool showcasing local sea creatures, along with aquariums with fish found off Doheny State Beach. There’s also a butterfly garden to explore.
Beach bummer: This beach can get a bit crazy with crowds on a busy summer day, and there are a lot of events held here.
Baby Beach: This small stretch of beach in the Dana Point Harbor is a great place if you want to stay far away from any wave action. The water is flat, and it’s a great place to let kids run around. The walk from the parking lot to the sand is short and easy, though the beaches will be busier if there’s a surf or stand-up paddleboard event. Nearby, the Ocean Institute is a great educational center where you can explore local wildlife, and your children might get a kick out of the tall ships moored here.
Beach bummer: The water quality here isn’t the best because rock jetties block wave action, so the water never gets a