California is full of seaside towns that perfectly capture its many vibes, from laid-back surfer to luxe and decadent paradises. There's no saying what one might stumble upon when navigating the coast of this awesome state - after all, it is home to both Glass Beach as well as storybook towns such as Carmel-by-the-Sea. No matter what, a traveler is bound to find something that's perfectly lovely and beautiful.

Seal Beach might sound a bit misleading due to the fact that it's named after a marine animal that does call California's coast its home, but it's so much more than that. This sleepy beachside town is home to a range of things to do, least of all, spending the day on its gorgeous shoreline.


Updated by Lianna Tedesco On January 4th, 2022: California remains a state that's home to some of the most charming, beachside small towns in the country. Seal Beach continues to be one of them, and each year it seems that this small, yet vibrant, hub grows to include more and more activities for potential travelers. For those still looking to get away from the crowds and get into a small town with much to offer, (continue to) look no further than Seal Beach, California.

A Little About Seal Beach And What It Is

This little slice of beachside heaven stands out when compared to the rest of the California coastline. The tranquility that one will find in this town, and on its beach, is quite unlike most Southern California beaches, and, for most, it's a welcome change. Despite its smaller size and seemingly quiet atmosphere, there's still plenty to do here - if you're not going to shy away from a little bit of exploration.

Seal Beach was once known by the name of Anaheim Landing and wasn't always the cute beach town it is today; its original purpose was as a boat landing. That wasn't its only purpose, though - away from the shoreline, the town was also home to an amusement park that existed long before Disneyland was ever created. After that, the town became known as Bay City before becoming part of Seal Beach, as a whole, in 1915.

Related: These Are California's Best Beaches, According To Your Favorite Beach Activity

Getting To This Cozy Little Beach

It's not challenging to reach Seal Beach but it does take some helpful directions to guide travelers. Luckily, it's located near three airports, one of them is Los Angeles International Airport. This is how long it'll take to reach the beach from each airport:

  • From Long Beach Airport: Located six miles from town, roughly a 20-minute drive.
  • From John Wayne Airport: Located 20 miles from town, roughly a 25-minute drive.
  • From LAX: Located 38 miles from town, roughly an hour-long drive depending on traffic.

Parking Near Seal Beach

While parking isn't necessarily difficult at this beach, there are time restrictions on some of the free street parking spots. It's important to pay attention to the signs around the area because they vary from one hour to two. Paid parking can be found at the end of 1st Street and near the beach pier. The meters are fairly modern and allow beachgoers to add more time to their spot via the app that can be downloaded in correspondence with the parking meters.

What To Do In Seal Beach

There won't be tons of nightlife or night after night of live entertainment in Seal Beach, but what travelers can expect is a quiet, tranquil, and relaxing vacation, free of crowds and tourists (mostly). The town itself is quite laid-back and is not flashy by any means, which is different from the Southern California towns and cities that surround it - but you'll soon learn that this is a great thing. It's also what makes Seal Beach so unique and fun to explore.

Exploring the Town

The only thing better than stumbling into a small town is realizing that the same town is home to an Old Town, which means tons of vintage and retro charm - and a bit of history. This part of town is small enough that visitors can get around it in a few hours and still have time to stop back into their favorite stores or sit down for a bite to eat.

The best place to start is Main Street, which is a hub for boutique shops and eateries. Each store offers its own unique experience and this is where you're bound to find something one of a kind. This is also a great place to start for those who are interested in antiquing or thrifting since there are plenty of antique stores to poke around in.

  • Alamitos Antiques: A well-organized store full of unique vintage finds. Many large collections of antique jewelry and one-of-a-kind vintage items. Open Tuesday - Saturday from 11 AM - 5 PM
  • Antique Gallery: Located right on Main Street and specializes in fun, unique vintage items. Temporarily closed at the time of writing

Additionally, Seal Beach is home to a number of flower shops that feel more akin to botanical gardens than actual stores. Visitors who have lots of time to pass can check out the Red Car Museum, as well as any number of art galleries that exist in Seal Beach.

Head Down To The Pier

Surprisingly, the pier in Seal Beach is the second-largest in the state, according to Tanama Tales - which is quite surprising considering the town's small size!

The views from the Seal Beach pier are absolutely stunning and on a clear day, visitors can see all the way to Long Beach. On either side of the pier is the beach, which extends for a full mile and a half in either direction. This is a great place to catch the sunrise, sunset, or simply just chat with the locals while enjoying the sunshine on the Pacific Coast.

Next: You Can't Take Glass From Glass Beach, And Other Things To Know About This California Coast