oastal Californians will insist that the best way to experience their piece of paradise is to plunge into its waters. But plunging isn’t for everyone. I prefer a calmer pace: a quieter adventure with fewer humans and G-rated surf. For those who are lured by the siren sounds of the sea but not necessarily inclined toward aggressive ocean sports, a kayak or paddleboard excursion around the Back Bay of Newport Beach is just the ticket.
“People are naturally drawn to the water,” says Mark Dick, owner of Expert Active, a local adventure company that offers customized individual and small-group outdoor experiences, “especially visitors from the Midwest or other parts of the country that don’t have access to the ocean.” A drive down the coast on any given day proves his point. Orange County beaches are well-used and well-loved.
Newport’s Back Bay hits the highlights of Orange County’s coastal offerings. The largest estuary in Southern California, it teems with wildlife. A good set of eyes (or pair of binoculars) may spot over 200 species of birds, a number of them endangered. It is estimated that up to 30,000 birds call the Back Bay home. Then there are the fish, among them halibut, croaker and bass. Bat rays and stingrays are also common. Those heading out of the Back Bay to the ocean by passing underneath the Coast Highway Bridge may be escorted by playful dolphins and sea lions.