Blessed with so many beautiful beach towns, Southern California spoils you with tons of beach options. Among those are the charming towns of Huntington Beach and Newport Beach. And although they’re only minutes apart, the difference between them is quite striking.
Huntington Beach, nicknamed the Surf City, is a vibrant city that always puts you in the center of the action. With its surfer vibe, Huntington feels more low-key, despite being a bustling city.
Huntington Beach’s famous pier and long, wide, pristine beaches may be the factors that get you to come to the city. But with its many other diverse allures, you’ll want to extend your trip here.
Meanwhile, Newport Beach feels like a more upscale city. From its gourmet restaurants to its luxurious shopping areas, it’s the posh neighbor of Huntington Beach. Despite this, Newport Beach is a quieter city.
With distinct man-made islands to explore, undeniable natural beauty, and more, it’s easy to see why so many tourists love this city.
With its enchanting, idyllic beaches, warm weather, and natural beauty, Huntington Beach is a magnet for tourists of all kinds. Most of all, it’s a world-class surfing destination too, which is why it’s called the Surf City. But away from the mesmerizing shores of Huntington Beach, the city has tons more to offer.
What Makes Huntington Beach Unique?
Paradisiacal Beaches at Your Fingertips
Beach lovers, rejoice! Huntington Beach is a sandy paradise, offering 10 miles (16 km) of uninterrupted shoreline. Along this, you’ll find five wide and idyllic beaches where you can soak up the sun with your family, partner, or even your furry friend!
Huntington City Beach is the pristine, long stretch of shore in front of the city. It’s right off the stunning Pacific Coast Highway, making it one of the most accessible beaches in the city!
This beach is a famous fishing spot and a place where you can take in gorgeous sunset views. And with its many food and watersport offers, and with a campground, you can easily spend a weekend here.
Huntington State Beach is the beach that has it all, a spot for swimmers, surfers, and more! This massive park fits tons of amenities and activities for a happy beach day, and you’ll always find a spot to claim here. From sunbathing, skating, biking, and even volleyball and basketball, there are tons to do here.
Bolsa Chica State Beach is one of the best-loved beaches in the city. One reason is due to its strategic location. It sits along the Pacific Coast Highway and just across the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. So you can frolic in inviting waters and go bird-watching or nature walking all in one trip!
Sunset Beach is the place to be for endless recreation. Take advantage of its sandy shore and go kitesurfing, play beach volleyball, or have your kid hang out at the playground. But if you need a break from the sea, the grassy area is just a stone’s throw away for a fun picnic!
These beaches above don’t allow dogs to come on the shore. But at Huntington Dog Beach, your furry friend is free to splash around in the water!
One of Southern California’s Surf Meccas
Nicknamed the “Surf City USA”, Huntington Beach is an exciting paradise for surfers from all around the world. The city can catch any swell that comes. And even when other areas along the coast are flat, Huntington Beach almost always has a wave.
Huntington Beach is famous for having the most consistent breaks in Southern California. And with the right conditions, it offers tons of classic hollow waves that can excite any passionate surfer.
The epicenter of all the action revolves around the iconic Huntington Beach Pier. Waves twist and turn in this spot, with breaks both to the north and south.
But the Huntington Beach Pier isn’t the only surf-worthy spot in town. Bolsa Chica State Beach and Goldenwest, near 22nd Sreet, are also top-notch surfing spots.
Even with all the cosmetic changes in the city’s beaches, the waves stay the same. Huntington Beach has long been a mecca for surfers, and it hosts over 50 surf contests per year. Even legendary surfers, such as Duke Kahanamoku, the father of modern surfing, have enjoyed the waves in the city.
Get to know the legends who have contributed to the city’s surf scene at the Surfing Walk of Fame. The likes of Shawn Stussy, Andy Irons, and more, have their hand and footprints branded here.
Whether you’re going to the city during the summer or winter, it doesn’t matter.
During summer, surfers head to the north side of Huntington Bier where waves are more reliable. Shortboards are popular during the summer as the waves hollow out faster on the north side.
Come wintertime, daredevil surfers have an incredible playground. This is when Huntington Beach offers bigger swells and fewer summer crowds.
If you’re a beginner trying to learn this thrilling sport, there’s no shortage of experts to show you the ropes in the city.
There’s HB Surf School, operated by Bill Sharp, a surf pro. Another option is the family-owned business, Corky Carroll’s Surf School.
Relax in Heavenly Green Pockets
Tired of dipping your toes in the sand? If you want to be away from the beach yet still immerse yourself in nature, Huntington Beach has tons of scenic nature parks. Whether you want a quiet picnic, a lovely stroll, or go hiking, you won’t run out of options in the city.
Right in the heart of the city is the massive Huntington Central Park, the largest in Orange County. The park is so large that it’s divided into the west park and the east park. With a wide range of outdoor activities here, anyone can have a blast here at Central Park.
Fire up the grill at its barbecue spots and then help yourself to a nice meal at the picnic areas. With wired, lush lawns, playing a good game of frisbee or just enjoying the breeze is always an option. Lakes are aplenty here too, so you can go fishing if you like.
Huntington Central Park fits a ton of other exciting spots for a successful day out. At Central Park West, you’ll find a dog park or a cafe with stunning views of the lake. At Central Park East, you’ll find a library, a fun playground, and tons of natural areas to explore.
Right behind the library of Central Park lies a hidden gem for you to discover. The Secret Garden is a quieter, breathtaking spot within the park. With tall trees, various lush flora, and birds chirping away, it’s a perfect spot to spend a peaceful afternoon.
If you need more excitement on your trip, head to the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. This sprawling reserve features a wide range of habitats, like mudflats, coastal dunes, salt marshes, and more. It’s hailed as one of the best bird-watching spots in the county.
On the trails of the freshwater wetlands alone, you can find over 200 bird species. Both resident and migratory birds grace this sanctuary. And you may even spot some endangered bird species that call this reserve their home.
Endless Fun Right Within the City
Huntington Beach may be a sunny, beach paradise with a world-renowned surfing scene. But it’s not just a city for surfers and beach lovers. There are plenty of other ways to have fun in the city, attracting all types of tourists!
Golf enthusiasts can boast their golf swing at Meadowlark Golf Course. Decorating this par-70 18-hole golf course are lush, tall trees and rolling fairways of Kikuyu and Bermuda.
If you want to make things more challenging, try a challenging game of disc golf! You can enjoy this unique and exciting sport at the Huntington Beach Disc Gold Course. The rules are much like golf, but if you don’t know how to play this, there are lessons available here.
Shopaholics will have a thrilling retail therapy in Huntington Beach too. You’ll find a wealth of fashion boutiques in the downtown area. And Pacific City has everything you’d ever want on your shopping spree.
But the most exciting shopping spot in Huntington Beach is in Old World Village. Strolling here, you’ll find a wealth of shops at your disposal in an old-world setting.
This is also a historic site, making you feel like you’re stepping into a Bavarian village. With cobblestone streets, red-tiled roofs, and beautiful architecture, it’s one of the more unique places in the city.
For history lovers, a trip to the Newland Museum is a must-do in the city. This massive museum is home to period memorabilia that tell the tale of Huntington Beach.
And if you’re an art lover, Huntington Beach has a charming local art scene. Get a taste of the local talent at Huntington Beach Art Center. This is the local’s haven for expressing creativity, but it also features works by regional and national artists.
More than contemporary art, it’s also home to historic ones too. And this art center explores art in all forms, such as paintings, videos, photographs, and more.
Laid-back yet sophisticated, Newport Beach is the epitome of the Southern California lifestyle. This charming seaside city is widely celebrated for its beautiful beaches and thriving surfing scene. But it’s more than just a charming beach town, as the city has tons more allures to keep you coming back for more.
Newport Beach is also an exciting city for outdoor enthusiasts. Its natural spots offer diverse ecosystems, with tons of thriving wildlife to meet. More than that, Huntington Beach also has the allures of a big city, especially its world-class shopping scene.
For many other reasons, this city knows the key to its visitors’ hearts. And if you’re planning a trip to Huntington beach, below are reasons why it’s so popular among tourists.
What Makes Newport Beach Unique?
Pristine, Idyllic Beaches Everywhere
You’re never too far from inviting, turquoise waters and sandy shores in Newport Beach. A sunny slice of paradise, the city’s crowning glory is its well-loved beaches. But they’re more than just for pretty pictures and sunbathing as the city’s beaches also offer endless water fun too.
Sun worshippers, dip your toes in the sandy shore of Corona Del Mare State Beach. With its calm waves, this beach is perfect for swimming or splashing around with the kids. Most of all, it’s quite convenient, with amenities like outdoor showers and picnic tables.
Another famous beach in the city is The Wedge, which is heaven on earth for avid surfers. It’s the best spot in the city to catch some waves, as it has some of the largest ones in Southern California. Due to its physical features, The Wedge offers near-shore swells towering as tall as 30 feet (9 meters).
Flanked by the Pacific waters and woodlands, Crystal Cove is the place to be for a tranquil beach day. It’s one of the quieter spots in the city for fishing, kayaking, and scuba diving.
But the beach that has it all is the famous Newport Beach. From beach volleyball to surfing to sailing, and more, you’ll have a blast on this dazzling beach. More than these, Newport Beach is also a great spot for whale watching.
This beach is one of the best spots to experience the beauty that the Pacific Ocean has to offer. It’s right in the path of whale migration, so you may catch a glimpse of blue, gray, and humpback whales here.
One of the best things about Newport Beach is that you’re not limited to one area alone. Right off its shore are several man-made islands that are begging to get explored. Each with its own charm, you’ll feel like you’re walking into an entirely different city when island-hopping in the city.
Balboa Island is the largest and most famous island in the city. It offers an eclectic mix of allures, from shopping to outdoor adventures, and tons of restaurants to try. This island feels like a charming East Coast harborfront village, a nice change of pace.
A highlight of any trip to Balboa island is the wealth of watersports activities here. Explore the waters with a sailboat or kayak, work on your paddleboarding skills, or simply relax by the water!
Other islands in Newport Beach are mainly residential. But they’re still worth exploring if you want to get a taste of the daily life in the city.
Little Balboa island may be small, but it offers a scenic suburban charm. This island features a stunning mix of mansions and beach cottages.
Bay Island may be the most pedestrian-friendly island as it doesn’t allow auto traffic. It has a wealth of natural attractions and tons of private beaches. But you can only access Bay Island with a golf cart.
Harbor Island is a lovely spot for a scenic stroll. Though you may not find much here, only small marinas and boats. No one lives here because of the tidelands it experiences.
There are many other islands to explore in Newport Bay. This includes Lido Isle, Linda Isle, and Collins Island.
Undeniably Scenic Attractions
Some of the best views in Huntington Beach don’t rely on its breathtaking coastline. Venture off inland and you’ll see a wealth of lush, scenic spots. And no matter where you are in the city, you’re never too far from breathtaking views.
An accessible natural wonder is the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve. Sprawling over 135 acres (55 hectares) of land, this reserve is the largest coastal wetland in Southern California.
You’ll find a breathtaking land painted in green and ochre here, with touches of deep blue from the waters. It’s one of the top spots in Newport Beach for outdoor enthusiasts, as you can go biking, hiking, and horseback riding here.
But what makes the views in this reserve so stunning is the wealth of wildlife here. It’s a paradise for bird-watchers, as it’s a migration path for birds from north to south.
For a more interactive immersion in nature, make your way to the Environment Nature Center. Trek through the incredibly diverse landscapes in the area. More than its marshlands, it also has redwood forests, desert areas, and more.
A Retail Therapy Paradise
Shopaholics flocking to the city for a beach getaway will still have reasons to go on retail therapy. Huntington Beach has an eclectic shopping scene. And whether you’re here to splurge on luxury goods or look for great bargains, you’ll find what you’re looking for.
Fashion Island is every fashionista’s heaven. This is an open-air, luxury shopping mall that boasts panoramic views of the magnificent Pacific Ocean.
This shopping mall is also quite picturesque. It has a Mediterranean vibe, with green spaces, flowers, and fountains across its walkways. So if you’re looking to take pictures with your Chanel or Gucci paper bags, this mall is Instagram-ready!
There are hundreds of different boutiques and stores on Fashion Island. There’s Dolce & Gabbana, Balenciaga, and Prada, to name a few. But it’s also home to four department stores, like Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom.
If luxury shopping isn’t in the cards for you, go on a shopping spree at Lido Marina Village instead. This alfresco area has a charming atmosphere, filled with stylish shops that offer clothes, jewelry, wines, and more!
This is one of the best places in the city to buy some vintage items. More than that, you can bring home some one-of-a-kind finds here too! This is where artisans, curators, and collectors come together to offer their wares.
Is Huntington Beach or Newport Beach Better?
The better destination between the two will depend on what you want out of your trip. Both cities have an eclectic mix of allures, but they offer different flavors.
If you want a more laid-back and casual trip, Huntington Beach is better for you. This city has a more authentic, unpretentious charm, fueled by the surfer culture.
But if you’re looking for a more posh, upscale city, make your way to Newport Beach instead. It’s the place to be if you want the finer things in life. From its restaurants to shopping areas and more, Newport Beach oozes luxury.
But of course, the vibe isn’t the only factor you should consider in your decision. You also have to think about your priorities.
Are the beaches more of your concern? There isn’t much difference here as they share the same coast, with the same sand quality and blue waters. But there’s one thing you should take note of…
Newport Beach has houses along its beachline. Whereas Huntington Beach doesn’t allow any structure on their shoreline. If you don’t want the urban views on your beach trip, Huntington Beach is better for you.
Are you traveling with kids? Family-friendly activities in Huntington Beach are beach-centric. Meanwhile, Newport Beach is better for kids as it has such a diverse mix of attractions for children.
Are you a night owl? There isn’t much nightlife to speak of in Newport Beach. Though it has tons of bars, its night scene is quite tame and refined.
So if you love partying, go to Huntington Beach instead. The city’s nightlife caters to a younger crowd, thus, it’s loud and bustling, and there’s always a party at night.
How Far Is Huntington Beach From Newport Beach?
The straight-line distance between the two cities is around 5 miles (8 km). But if you’re traveling from Huntington Beach to Newport Beach, you should look into the driving distance. This is longer, and the distance you’ll cover depends on your chosen route.
From Huntington Beach, you can take the CA-1 N. This will cover a distance of 6 miles (10 km). It only takes around 12 minutes of travel time though.
Another option is to drive via CA-1 N and Atlanta Avenue. This is a longer route, with a distance of 7 miles (11 km). Your estimated drive time on this route is around 15 minutes.
Huntington Beach to Newport Beach Bike Trail
Biking from Huntington Beach to Newport Beach offers great views of the beaches the whole way. This path runs from Bolsa Chica State Beach in Huntington Beach’s area and ends in Newport Boulevard. You’ll be covering around 11 miles (18 km) on your scenic trip to Newport Beach!
What’s great about this bike trail is that it’s flat and accessible, perfect for beginners too. It’s wide and paved, with tons of spots along the way where you can eat, grab a drink, or use the restroom.