We’d never even heard of Huntington Beach when we last headed to California, but having now happened upon ‘Surf City USA' with its 16 uninterrupted kilometres of beach, its surf museum, its iconic America food and its family-friendly accommodation, we'd make time to explore it in more detail when we next visit.
We were lured to Huntington Beach by the surfing. Several firms here run lessons, including McKinnon, whose staff teach using custom-built longboards for greater stability in the water. SUP paddle-boarding lessons are also available. Quite lively Pacific waves in June made this an invigorating experience, while the instructors were charm and encouragement personified – although I personally continue to be utterly inept at the sport. I certainly wasn't as good as Huntington's famed surfing dogs – this is a city that hosts the annual Surf Dog event (September).
'We had the best burgers and fries of our lives in Huntington Beach – the kind that ruin
all others for you unto eternity. Then there were the super-fresh tacos on the beachfront –
perfect for refuelling after surfing.'
If you're bitten by the surfing bug or just want to find out more about this exhilarating sport, then head, like we did, to Huntington Beach's small but interesting International Surfing Museum. It's in the heart of historic Downtown, where you'll also find lots of quirky restaurants, bars and shops, plus a weekly farmers' market. At certain times of year, you can take boat-trips to see migrating blue whales.
Sunset over Huntington Beach, California
One of the focal points of the city is the iconic Huntington Beach Pier – one of the longest on the US west coast – where you can fish, buy a kite to sail on the beach and treat yourself to some properly dirty classic American nosh. Indeed, we had the best burgers and fries of our lives in Huntington Beach – the kind that ruin all others for you unto eternity. Another place we rated was Pacific Kitchen Bolsa Chica, for super-fresh tacos on the beachfront – perfect for refuelling after surfing.
Other activities you might do with in Surf City include beach volleyball, biking, skateboarding, kayaking and Duffy boat rides, while there's a busy program of events across the year - several surfing competitions, for course, but also the biggest 4th of July parade west of the Mississippi, volleyball tournaments and a beach air show.
And there's a great place to stay with kids just steps away from the Pier – the Kimpton Shorebreak Huntington Beach Resort, a stylish boutique-style, surfer-cool hotel ideal for those who, like me, travel a lot with teens, by virtue of funky touches including a rock-climbing wall, outdoor fire pits, a games room and bike hire. The cocktails in the bar are something else - don't miss the Trickster with Verde Momento mezcal, Nosotros Reposado tequila, ancho chili liqueur, ginger, lemon, honey and sparkling saké – and the cuisine is equally inventive. Rooms here include double doubles and suites with two queens or a sofabed. The Kimpton Shorebreak is also pet-friendly – ideal for those who bring their own pooch to surf at Huntington Beach. And why wouldn't you?!
Read more about family holidays in California.
Kimpton Shorebreak, Huntington Beach