The amazing thing about the West Coast is that it is still mostly wild, open, and astoundingly beautiful country, where you can drive for miles and miles and have the scenery all to yourself.
Back on the coast, if you want to get a sense of what wealthy Orange Countians do to enjoy themselves, spend some time along the clean white strands of Newport Beach. Located at the southern edge of Los Angeles’s suburban sprawl, Newport started life in 1906 as an amusement park and beach resort at the southern end of the L.A. streetcar lines. Since then thousands of Angelenos have spent summer weekends at the Balboa Pavilion, at the southern tip of the slender Balboa peninsula, where the Fun Zone preserves a few remnants of the pre-video game amusements—a Ferris wheel, a merry-go-round, and those odd Pokerino games in which you win prizes by rolling rubber balls into a series of numbered holes. If you have some spare time, Newport is also a good base for taking the unforgettable cruise across the water to Catalina Island, a semi-tropical paradise 26 miles off the coast.
Midway along the peninsula, near 23rd Street, Newport Pier is flanked by another holdout from the old days: the dory fleet. For more than a century, small boats have set off from the beach here (often around midnight, landing back around 7am) to catch rock cod and more exotic fish, which are sold fresh off the boats at an outdoor market right on the sands.
A mile southeast of Balboa Pavilion, next to the breakwater at the very eastern end of Balboa peninsula, The Wedge is one of the world’s most popular and challenging bodysurfing spots, with well-formed waves often twice as high as anywhere else on the coast.
To return to Hwy-1 from Balboa Peninsula, you can either backtrack around the harbor or ride the Balboa Island Ferry, which shuttles you and your car from the pavilion across the harbor past an amazing array of sailboats, power cruisers, and waterfront homes.