I fell in love with paddling long ago at summer camp on Catalina Island. Since then, I’ve transitioned from canoe to kayak, but the joy of the experience has never diminished. There is something completely magical about being close to the sparkling water, gliding quietly along, feeling the warmth of the sun and the soft breeze, hearing seabirds overhead and the lazy bark of a sea lion sunning nearby. Add beautiful scenery—viewed at a human pace—and you have the recipe for a memorable and delightful Orange County experience.
County is blessed with 42 miles of coastline and there are a number of fun places along the coast to paddle. From largest to smallest: Newport Harbor, Huntington Harbour and Dana Point Harbor all offer calm water conditions that are protected from swells. In Laguna Beach, you’ll be adding the challenge of waves and swell, but the scenery’s spectacular and you can get close to reefs, tide pools, secluded coves and sea life. Most places that rent kayaks also rent paddleboards—a sport that has been rapidly gaining in popularity here, given the county’s great conditions for paddling. Whatever location you choose, remember that the wind almost always kicks up around 1:00, so you won’t have to work as hard if you paddle in the morning.
hands-down favorite is Newport Harbor. It’s the largest and most scenic small-boat harbor on the West Coast. There are a number of places from which you can rent and launch kayaks, and the harbor is big enough so you can explore completely different areas on separate occasions. It’s a fun way to vicariously enjoy the spectacular homes and yachts that line the harbor. Or you can head the other way, into the quieter Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve, and enjoy regular sightings of resident blue herons and white egrets. If you’re here during winter months, you can see thousands of migrating birds that use these waters as a way station or as their winter home.
see people of every age out on kayaks and SUPs (stand-up paddleboards)—and even spot people with their dog on board! Double kayaks are perfect for friends, couples or for parents introducing children to the fun of being out on the water. The great thing is: It’s reasonable and you don’t need more than an hour or two to capture a little of Orange County’s coastal magic for yourself.
A Few Places in
OC to Rent Kayaks (from north to south):
Single, double, triple and quad kayaks; paddleboards
Newport Harbor Newport Aquatic Center, One White Cliffs Drive, Newport Beach; (949) 646-7725
www.newportaquaticcenter.com; Monday-Sunday 7 a.m. to sunset; single and double kayaks; location is easiest if you plan to explore Upper Newport Bay; naturalist-led tours offered every Saturday morning--to register, call (949) 923-2269 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Paddle Power, 1500 W. Balboa Blvd., Newport Beach; (949) 675-1215
www.paddlepowerh2o.com; June-Aug M-F 10-5:30; S-S 9-5:30; hours vary by season; single and double kayaks, paddleboards; lessons available