If you’re following along down PCH heading North, the last city you’ll hit on your way out of Orange County is the smaller town of Seal Beach. Though usually overshadowed by neighboring cities Long Beach and Huntington Beach, Seal Beach has plenty of its own charm to offer locals and visitors. The city was founded in 1915 and began as a small town of only 1.25 square miles. Now it has grown to 18.2 square miles, including a large Naval Weapons Station, and has a population of 24,204.
The place to be in Seal Beach is Main Street, directly across from the Seal Beach Pier and beach, allowing for all sorts of fun options within walking distance. Main Street includes plenty of dining options for any time of day, from breakfast to dessert. There are also diverse shopping options if you are in search of clothing, antiques, gifts, or décor. With playgrounds, parks, and great shops for kids, Main Street is definitely family friendly. Adults will also find plenty of more mature options with bars and high quality restaurants.
Here are some of the can’t-miss locations to hit up in Seal Beach in your next trip up PCH.
Seal Beach Pier
Address: 900 Ocean Ave, Seal Beach, CA 90740
Of course, a key destination in Seal Beach is its pier. It’s a perfect setting for a scenic, relaxing stroll over the rolling waves. It’s ideal for watching the sunset with minimal distractions, as it is much less crowded than the Huntington Beach or Newport Beach piers. Near the end of the pier, you get an unobstructed view of the coast including the neighboring beaches, the Long Beach port, and the silhouette of Catalina Island. The Ruby’s Diner that once sat at the end of the pier burned down in 2016, it doesn’t detract from the experience and in fact keeps it much more peaceful.
Red Car Museum
Address: 800-840 Electric Ave, Seal Beach, CA 90740
At the opposite end of Main Street from the pier, you’ll find a small local landmark, the Red Car Museum. This commemorates a little known piece of California history, marking the place where Pacific Electric Railway, known for its iconic red cars, passed through the town and connected Newport to parts of Los Angeles and Riverside beginning in 1904 until the 1950s. The museum inside the car and the adjoining building are currently closed as they have entered new ownership with the Lions Club and had the artifacts inside removed before the sale. Eventually the artifacts may be returned and the museum reopened in the future, but for now the location still makes for a fun history lesson and photo opportunity.
Seal Beach Jetty
Address: 95 1st St, Seal Beach, CA 90740
In a more secluded part of the shore where the sands of the beach meet the San Gabriel River outlet is the Seal Beach Jetty. If you are looking for an easily accessible and relaxing place to lounge on the sand, this is a perfect place for it. At the corner of 1st St. and Ocean Ave. you can access the small parking lot for the beach which also places you directly next to the entrance of the San Gabriel River Bike Trail and the Wavehuggers Surfing School. And if you happen to be nearby in the summer, this is becoming a new hot spot for watching the fireworks on the 3rd of July, giving you a clear view of the fireworks display launched from the boathouse just on the other side of the river.
California Seashell Company
Address: 125 Main St, Seal Beach, CA 90740
Now to highlight some of the can’t-miss businesses on Main Street, we’ll start with the California Seashell Company, which has any kind of shell you can think of and has now been open for over 30 years. This is a great place for kids, who can pick from the hundreds of options all under $5. This store is packed to the brim with toys, gifts, décor, and jewelry that all follow the beachy ocean theme. During the holidays, this is a go-to shop for fun ornaments, as they stock up with plenty of glittery, humorous ornaments made of all kinds of seashells. And a word of warning, if you bring your kids, they may be begging to go back again and again.
Harbour Surf Shop
Address: 329 Main St. Seal Beach, CA 90740
Surfers and SoCal locals will recognize the iconic Harbour Surfboards Logo, and the origin of it is in Seal Beach. The shop where the brand has its headquarters has been open since 1959 and is a staple of local surf culture. It is now the world’s oldest surfboard manufacturing shop and has expanded to carry a large selection of clothing for men and women along with, of course, fins and boards. They carry several models of boards which have set the global standard, and continue to meet the same high levels of quality and craftsmanship while now tallying over 32,000 boards made.
Address: 201 Main St. Seal Beach, CA 90740
This seafood restaurant on Main Street is just a few blocks from the water and doesn’t want its patrons to forget it, promising fresh fish in a cozy setting. Seafood lovers will have a hard time choosing just one thing off of their sizable menu, with plenty of tempting starters and entrees. The menu includes classics such as clam chowder, fish and chips, king salmon, ribeye steak, lobster ravioli, and much more. They also have wine, cocktails, and craft beers to top it all off. After intermittent closures during 2020 and into 2021, they are now officially reopened and taking guests indoors and out.
Sweet Jill’s Bakery
Address: 123 Main St Seal Beach, CA 90740
After lunch or dinner you may want to treat yourself to something sweet, and there’s no better place than Sweet Jill’s. This is a Long Beach and Seal Beach dessert staple, as they are known in the community for their handmade, classic baked goods that have not changed since they opened in 1987. Their old fashioned cinnamon rolls are not to be missed, but if cinnamon isn’t your speed they have a large display case with dozens of options to choose from, from sugar cookies to scones to carrot cake. The smell of all the sweet pastries radiates into the street, making this place difficult to resist. And if you do plan to visit, keep in mind they are cash only, though there is also an ATM on site.
Jennings & Allen
Address: 132 Main St. Seal Beach, CA 90740
At a brand new location on Main Street just down the block from their last is unique boutique Jennings & Allen. Known by locals for the sweet and charismatic owners Calvin and Steven, the shop hosts a wide selection of artisanal, handmade goods from craftspeople around the world.
The products are closely curated, and so the owners know the stories behind each item and each artisan who makes them and are more than happy to share those stories. They have sections for bath and body, kitchen and food, jewelry, art, and home, though many of the products fall into more than one category and are nearly all art. There are handmade goods you can find here that you can’t find anywhere else and with stories behind each one.
Gum Grove Park
Address: Crescent View & Avalon Drive, Seal Beach, CA 90740
To wrap up a day of shopping or dining, you may want to relax with a walk in nature. On the edge of the Los Cerritos Wetlands is Gum Grove Park, a eucalyptus-lined path that edges one of the largest remaining salt marshes in Southern California. The trail branches off into a shorter and a longer trail with both being suitable for casual strolls, walking a dog, or bringing kids outdoors. And being a lesser known walking path in the area, there is sure to not be too much foot traffic or noise to detract from a leisurely outing along the wetlands.
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Leilani Reyes is a freelance writer, artist, and all-around creative living in Long Beach, CA. After earning a bachelor’s degree from Loyola Marymount University, now she is in search of her next great life adventure.