Relax At This Gorgeous And Uncrowded California Beach Surrounded By Great Restaurants

Great weather combined with wonderful beaches can often equal jostling for space on the sand with large crowds, especially in a state as warm and populous as California. While it may be famous for its beach towns, an analysis of Tripadvisor reviews (via USA Today) revealed that four of the 10 most crowded beaches in the United States reside in the Golden State. While some of its most popular stretches of coastline have received complaints of overcrowding, have no fear: There are still some California beach towns you've never heard of to visit instead. One such place that has managed to fly under the tourist radar is Seal Beach, situated just off the Pacific Coast Highway between the busy sun-seeking destinations of Long Beach and Huntington Beach.

As its name might suggest, Seal Beach was once known for the friendly marine animals that would bask on the shores of this relaxed Orange County community. The cuddly pinnipeds aren't as common as they once were, but there is still plenty to enjoy during a trip here. Located just a 15-minute drive from Long Beach and half an hour from downtown Los Angeles, the wide, sandy beaches and Pacific swells make Seal Beach a choice destination for sunbathers, strollers, and surfers alike. The city also has several great restaurants and bars, which makes it a great pick for foodies, too.

Seal Beach today

Formerly known as Bay City, this coastal community got a new name and a fresh direction when it became an incorporated city in 1915. Re-branded as Seal Beach, developers pitched it as a seaside resort across the nation, leading to a brief heyday as a hotspot for amusements, dancing, drinking, and dining. Much of the action centered on the pier and pavilion, which was renovated and extended a few years earlier. Hollywood actors and directors were in town, but there was also a seamier side to Seal Beach back then, gaining it the notorious nickname "Sin City."

There are still echoes of that period at the wooden pier, the second longest on the California Coast. The pier is far more chilled nowadays, offering scenic views and a playground for children. It sits around midway along the beach, which is the star attraction for many visitors. Without having to fight for a place on its clean sands, it's a great place for a family picnic. The breezy conditions also make Seal Beach a good place for windsurfing and kitesurfing.

History buffs might enjoy checking out the Red Car Museum, dedicated to the region's old rail lines that once shuttled visitors along the coast. Seal Beach is also a good destination for nature lovers with its namesake National Wildlife Refuge and the nearby Los Cerritos Wetlands. Cyclists can also access the San Gabriel River Bike Trail, a popular route that runs 38 miles inland toward the San Gabriel Mountains.

Places to eat in Seal Beach

A trip to the coast wouldn't be the same without some tasty things to eat, and Seal Beach has plenty of dining options once you've built an appetite with all that sea air. Early birds can load up for the day at Nick's Deli, a simple but popular spot on Main Street famed for its breakfast burritos. Freshly made sandwiches are also on the menu, and late risers don't have to miss out — breakfast is served all day.

For more good eats, head to Lalc Restaurant (formerly The Backyard), a smart modern space where the focus is on using the best organic produce for comfort food staples, ranging from po' boys and burgers to luscious steaks and baby back ribs. Opposite the pier, you can get more New American cuisine at The Hangout, a friendly casual spot serving food all day washed down with craft beers. Look out for happy hour and late-night burgers. 

You'll find more stylish modern plates at The Abbey. Their chefs specialize in rustling up fish tacos, zingy salads, and wood-fired pizzas, with a decent selection of wines and craft brews on tap. If you're yearning for a drop of the Black Stuff, head to O'Malley's on Main, an Irish bar that serves Guinness, pub grub, and traditional dishes from the Emerald Isle such as corned beef and cabbage. There are plenty of good reasons to visit Seal Beach before everyone else finds out!