Poor Whitney Lomazow.
She recently moved to Irvine from the Midwest and decided to turn to a dubious source for advice on which Orange County beaches to visit:
The New York Times.
That's like asking Betty White which skateboard to buy.
Here's what Lomazow asked Rusha Haljuci of the NYT's "In Transit: A Guide to Intelligent Travel":
"I just moved to Orange County in California from the Midwest. I have friends coming to visit, and I am interested in exploring beaches and towns close to home. Any hints for Balboa Island or Newport Beach (or thereabouts)?"
To better help our new resident, we'll correct, contradict and add to the actual Times answer, which is in italics.
Newport Beach is famous for its beaches and elegant shopping complexes, like Fashion Island and South Coast Plaza.
Actually, Whitney, South Coast Plaza is in Costa Mesa. Of course, if you managed to make it to Irvine from the Midwest, you probably already know that.
It is also home to a historic landmark, the Balboa Pavilion (balboapavilion.com) on Balboa Peninsula. A marine recreational facility, it serves as the terminal for whale-watching and fishing charters and for ferries to Catalina Island--an unspoiled island of mountains, canyons, coves and beaches.
OK, Balboa Pavilion is fine, although it looks more impressive from a distance--say, from the deck of a passing sailboat--than it does up close. And there is absolutely nothing to do on Catalina but burn cash until it's time to ride the boat home. But wasn't Whitney asking about beaches? Screw the Pavilion, walk toward Balboa Pier, head to the extreme southeast end of the Peninsula and behold the wonder that is the Wedge. Just know what you're doing before you try bodysurfing, Whit. Local chiropractors know why.
You'll also find the Balboa Fun Zone (thebalboafunzone.com) on the boardwalk, with carnival rides, games, shops and restaurants.
Did the Times factcheckers discover Whitney is really into Skee-Ball? Anyway, leave the Pen for godsakes, get back on PCH, head south to between Newport Beach and Laguna Beach and find the most beautiful place in the county, Crystal Cove State Beach. Don't bring much because it's a hike from your car to the sand. It's worth it.
One popular attraction on the Orange Coast is Balboa Island, actually three small islands. Leave your car behind, as the island is better suited for walking, and take the 30-minute ferry from Balboa Peninsula (balboaislandferry.com). Once on Balboa, which resembles a New England fishing village, stroll along its tiny streets, taking in the clapboard cottages, small shops and cafes.
What's funny is when relatives come here from the Midwest, we take them to Balboa Island. In fact, that's the only time we go--except around Christmas to see the lights. Does the ferry really take 30 minutes to cross the harbor? That sounds wrong. Anyway, no man is an island, and Balboa Island has no beach. It has a ring of sand to absorb whatever the hell is in that water. "You've got ring around the harbor!"
Other interesting destinations in Orange County include Huntington Beach, known as Surf City, which draws some of the world's best wave riders, and Seal Beach, a quaint seaside community.
Huntington Beach is fine if you like overly crowded beaches. And Nazis. Personally, I'd keep going north on PCH to Bolsa Chica. It's a good place to learn to surf, which is required of all Orange County residents.
Stroll along [Seal Beach's] tree-lined Main Street, which extends to become a pier, the second-longest wooden pier in California, where you can dine.
And by dine Haljuci means Ruby's.
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And there's Laguna Beach, with coastal bluffs, coves and some of the most beautiful beaches in Southern California; it is also an artists' community, full of art galleries and boutiques.
Oh, gag me. You know, for as many years as I've taken in that magnificent view of the Riviera-like coastline, I don't believe I've ever ventured into the waters at Main Beach. I like to continue past the village to a secluded cove or go farther south to Salt Creek. Or, better yet, go farther south to Trestles.
Just know, Whitney, the beaches mentioned here (and others I'm forgetting) are better than those a hack on deadline plucked off the Greater Disneyland Resort District Visitors and Convention Bureau Inc. website.
Wherever you go, don't forget the sunscreen.