With 10 miles of uninterrupted beaches, exciting attractions and world-class surfing, Huntington Beach, defines Southern California beach living. The city features the most consistent waves on the West Coast, an attribute that helped the city receive the nickname, Surf City USA. This city is a place where the casual and chill California beach culture not only exists, but also is a staple of the community. Amid the tourist bustle in the biggest beach city in Orange County, hometown personalities and their stories are everywhere.
Huntington Beach is the west coast surf mecca for more than 8-million annual visitors. It’s also the largest beach city in Orange County, California, with a population of around 200,000 people. Huntington Beach is a very popular tourist attraction and one of the most crowded beaches in California.
This designation should not be taken lightly. For years, the city has disputed the nickname with archival Santa Cruz. Plus, it has monster swells, a surfing walk of fame (a la Hollywood) and an International Surfing Museum to add accolades to its boast.
In 1901, the West Coast Land & Water Co. decided to develop a large seaside area on the Northam Ranch. They held a contest to name the new town. Mr. Walter L. Vail, a Los Angeles cattleman, won with his entry: “Bolsa Beach.” (The second choice was “Superior Beach.”)
However, within weeks, the company’s board of directors had dumped the “Bolsa Beach” name. This may have been to avoid confusion with other localities that included the word “Bolsa” in their names. The new name they selected was Pacific City. This was meant as a riff on the successful Atlantic City in New Jersey. Stanton’s dream was to build a town on the Pacific Coast, which would rival Atlantic City on the East Coast. He had hopes that the West Coast beach town would someday equal its eastern “sister city” as a resort and tourist destination.
Huntington Beach remained a sleepy seaside town until the famous oil boom in the 1920’s.The initial growth of the city began with the oil boom in 1920. This was the largest California oil deposit known at the time. Wells sprang up overnight and in less than a month the town grew from 1,500 to 5,000 people. Huntington Beach was primarily agricultural in its early years with crops such as celery and sugar beets. Holly Sugar was a major employer with a large processing plant in the city, that was later converted to an oil refinery.
The main thoroughfare of Huntington Beach, Beach Boulevard, was originally a cattle route for the main industry of the Rancho. Since its time as a parcel of the enormous Spanish land grant, Huntington Beach has undergone many incarnations. One time it was known as the town of Smeltzer, and then Gospel Swamp for the revival meetings, that were held in the marshland where the community college Golden West College, can currently be found. Later it became known as Fairview, and then Pacific City, as it developed into a tourist destination.
In 1925, Duke Kahanamoku brought the sport of surfing to Huntington Beach and the Southern California shores. The city’s first surf shop, Gordie’s Surf Boards, opened in 1953. Six years later, the first U.S. Surfing Championships were held in Huntington Beach. The following year, the Surfing Championships were covered on television, which rocketed Huntington Beach’s international fame as a surfer’s paradise.
Huntington Beach is home to the world famous municipal pier. It is 100 ft. above sea level, one of the main landmarks of Huntington Beach, and is on the California Register of Historical Resources. At 1,850 feet in length, it is one of the longest public piers on the West Coast.
It is also home to the US Open of Surfing, AVP Pro Beach Volleyball, PSA, NSSA, CSA and other surfing contests, 4th of July beach fireworks and parade, Duck-A-Thon, Surf City Splash Pacific Shoreline Marathon, Surf City 10, and other athletic competitions, Paintball, BMX, Fishing, Sand Soccer and Kite Championships, Surfin’ Sundays Concerts, Pier Plaza events, Farmer’s Market Annual Pier Swim, and a variety of Car Shows.
When it’s too cold to be in the water, it’s always fun to walk around. There are plenty of stores and restaurants in the Downtown District on old Main Street. The best day of the week to visit Huntington Beach is Tuesday. First, fish tacos (and other tasting dishes) are on sale that day. Second, the community inspired event, Surf City Nights is held within the first three blocks from Pacific Coast Highway (PCH).
A carnival atmosphere is created, as a variety of performers provide hours of lively entertainment. It’s a place where children dance in the streets, jump in the bounce houses, or ride a pony. It’s for strolling couples, friends’ reunions, and family gatherings. It’s when every restaurant tempts you with signature dishes, cheerful drinks and Surf City Night specials. It’s the perfect place to find that special gift among the 90+ vendor booths.
All in all Huntington Beach is a great place to explore. If you stay longer than a vacation and plan to live in HB, prepare yourself for the steep rental fees, and if you have a dog make sure to do your research. There is Dog Beach on the PCH for the pups, but when it comes to renting property read up on the breeds permitted.
Also, if you plan to bar hop on Main Street, be sure to bring enough money. Drinks at most bars are priced through the roof! The 2nd Floor, on Main Street is my favorite bar downtown, because of all the amazing artwork, but they charge $13 for a bottle of beer, and if you’re drinking liquor prepare to spend at least $16 for a double shot of Jack. The only affordable, laid back bar I found is Perqs, which is diagonal from the 2nd Floor.
As you wander around you’ll see that the locals tend to flock together. Huntington Beach is full of tight knit family groups. It’s a very social scene, so if you’re an Introvert like me, prepare yourself to hear a whole lot of, “Why are you so quiet?”