Huntington Beach, CA: Surf City & More!
By: Charlene S. Mixa
We’re going to Surf City! Huntington Beach is a “hip” town on the California Coast. Just 45 minutes south of Los Angles, this trendy town offers more than excellent surfing. From its vibrant Main Street with unique shops, casual and fine dining restaurants, local pubs, the infamous Pier, to the white sandy beaches on the Pacific Ocean, Huntington Beach is an excellent getaway. As the song says “cause there’s always somethin’ goin’!
Our trip to visit small towns along the California Coast has Huntington Beach as the first stop. On our arrival along the Pacific Coast Highway, we are pleasantly surprised. With ocean waves crashing on the deep sandy beach on one side of the highway, the city lights create a warm welcome on the other side. We spot the Shorebreak Hotel sign, our home away for the next few nights.
An upscale boutique hotel, the Shorebreak Hotel, is in the new Strand shopping complex. This contemporary hotel features a distinct surfing theme with elegant touches. In the second floor lobby a surfing video fills one wall, while another wall’s artwork is created totally from wetsuits. On the way to our fourth floor room, we notice each door has a shadow box partially filled with sand and a photo of surfers. Opening the door to our Waterfront King Suite, we are impressed. A spacious corner room the luxurious King Bed has individual wall lights, the executive desk’s picture window offers scenic views of the Pacific Ocean, comfortable chairs create a sitting area and another wall has a credenza with a flat panel high-definition television above it. Double doors in a hallway lead to a huge open deck with chaise lounges plus a table and chairs. A hammock adds extra pizzazz! From the deck our views of the beach, ocean, and city are picturesque. In the large bathroom the dressing area with its lighted mirror to the huge shower featuring unique black and white rectangular tiles shows the attention to detail in both design and décor.
After settling in, we’re off to Cucina ALESSÁ Restaurant seeking Italian food. Since the Shorebreak Hotel is centrally located, restaurants, shopping and the pier are all just steps away. Walking along Main Street, we admire the numerous shops and local eateries. The Cucina ALESSÁ Restaurant opened in Huntington Beach a few months ago, but this Sunday night it is bustling with several parties in their upstairs room. Everything is excellent from the savory menu of great Italian dishes, the warm hospitality, the superb service, and the delicious food. Our favorites are the signature appetizer dish of “Super Ravioli” and the scrumptious tiramisu served in a champagne glass. With full tummies we stroll down Main Street and on to the Huntington Beach Pier. It is a clear night with people enjoying the fresh cool ocean air.
The next morning we have a great day of golf and return along US Highway 1 to take in the alluring California Coastline. Riding through the towns we admire each one’s uniqueness from seaside towns to towns high on the bluffs above the ocean. Driving from the south to Huntington Beach we notice the many oil wells pumping along the highway. We also see offshore oil rigs.
Dinner tonight is at Duke’s Huntington Beach Restaurant. Having eaten at the original Duke’s on Waikiki Beach, we are anxious to see how it compares. The restaurant is on the beach side close to the start of the Pier. Named for Duke Kahanamoku, the famous surfer from Hawaii, who was renowned also for his “aloha spirit”. The restaurant is quiet this evening as we enjoy our meals. The heart of palm salad and fresh fish selections are very good. Our service is excellent!
Adding extra layers on this cool December night, we are ready to experience a gondola ride to see the festive Holiday Lights. Niko, our gondolier, assists us into the elegant gondola to begin our ride along the canals of Huntington Harbor. The gondolas are actually imported from Venice, Italy. Niko shares that the gondoliers even travel to Venice to partake in an annual gondolier event. As Niko slowly rows the gondola through the waterways, we marvel at the astounding holiday lights. One home’s theme is “Christmas at Tiffany’s.” The lights are spectacular as is the rich voice of Niko serenading us. The romantic gondola ride with the shimmering holiday lights is enchanting.
We stop by the Zimzala lounge at the Shorebreak Hotel for evening drinks. The ergonomic bar stools are comfy but do look a little weird. Chatting with the friendly bar tender, we learn he is an avid surfer. Bartending is a way to maintain his surfing habit. Many of the other people at the hotel that we talk with are surfers or are learning to surf. Surfing is alive and well in Surf City!
Huntington Beach has a rich history that could easily be lost on the average visitor. It really is more than just surfing. To better acquaint us with the city, Chris Epting a local writer and author of the book, “Images of America Huntington Beach California” is taking us on a tour. Walking the streets of Huntington Beach, Chris shares the history of many of the local sites from the beach, the pier, the town, the homes and the businesses in the area. Passionate about his town, Chris’ book is a photographic journey of this city from yesteryear to today. In its hundred year history Huntington Beach initially was a seaside village with visitors attracted to the ocean. Then in 1920’s the famous oil boom tripled the town’s size. Photos show hundreds of oil derricks along the shore and town. The derricks gave way to newer oil inventions. Then in the 1960’s, Jan and Dean’s song “Surf City” again put Huntington Beach on the map. The town is now a vacation destination for surfers and non-surfers. The miles of deep beaches provide space for all beach activities. We especially enjoy the walkway along the beach for early morning and afternoon walks.
Our final evening, we enjoy a dinner at Spark Woodfire Grill. At the corner of Main Street and Pacific Coast Highway, the restaurant is on the second floor with indoor and outdoor seating. Our outside table is close to a fire pit with a view of the Pier and ocean. My Mac & Lobster special is delicious. We people watch from our perch above the town during dinner. It is a chilly night so fewer people are out. After dinner we wander through the stalls of the numerous vendors on Main Street for “Surf City Nights” held on Tuesday evenings.
We find Huntington Beach is a casual and cool town, preserving the mild and mellow California beach culture. Yet it is also a trendsetter of West Coast food, fashion and lifestyle. Yes, we “have some fun” in Surf City!
Huntington Beach Visitors Bureau, 301 Main Street Huntington Beach, CA 92648, 714- 969-3492