Thanks to several pretty addictive TV shows, California’s Orange County has recently gained a reputation for being home to lots of surgically enhanced housewives and a bunch of pretty decadent teens. However, the real Orange County is about much more than just enormous mansions and glamorous parties, and a visit to this part of the world is an opportunity to get to know one of the most naturally beautiful areas in the USA.

The sights…

One of the reasons the Orange County makes such a great holiday destination is that it has a year round, warm Mediterranean climate, which makes it perfect for sightseeing and an ideal place for a road trip in an old school American convertible. The OC has theme parks and water parks to offer – Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim, Soak City in Buena Park and Knott’s Berry Farm, also in Buena Park – as well as some fascinating historical spots, including Richard Nixon’s Birthplace and the Ronald Reagan Federal Building and Courthouse in Santa Ana.

The beaches…

Orange County also has some fantastic stretches of California coastline and this makes it an enormously popular surfing spot, so much so that Huntington Beach has been nicknamed ‘Surf City USA.’  Laguna Beach is another area that draws beach bunnies and surfer dudes to its seven miles of golden sand, and is also famous for having a great local artistic community and regularly hosting festivals. For a more sedate experience, head along the coast to OC Dana Point Harbor and Dana Point and you can charter a boat out for a day of relaxing fishing, or some once in a lifetime whale watching.

The Vietnamese food…

It may seem surprising, but the OC is one of the best places in America to get Vietnamese food, as the area’s Little Saigon has the largest Vietnamese population outside of Vietnam. This is a great part of the county to visit for lunch – for a deliciously strong Vietnamese coffee with a speciality Vietnamese baguette sandwich (a mouthwatering throwback to Vietnam’s French colonial past). Alternatively, head to one of the local restaurants for a fragrant, steaming bowl of pho noodle soup.

The wine…

With its perfect grape growing conditions, the OC also has a wide range of wineries, where you can sample a glass of the local Californian Chardonnay, take a tour of the vines, or enjoy a delicious dinner with a million dollar view. Some of the vineyards that offer tours of their vines include Giracci Vineyards and Farms, Hamilton Oaks Vineyard, Laguna Canyon Winery and Orange Coast Winery. If you’re a particularly enthusiastic wine drinker then planning a driving trip around the area’s vineyards (including overnights to sleep off the booze!) can be a great idea.

The natural beauty…

It’s not just the local people in the OC who specialise in looking good, the natural environment here is simply stunning. There are a large number of wild beauty spots here and lots of gorgeous parks where you can wander, hike and walk in some of the most beautiful parts of California. Particularly worth a visit are the Crystal Cove State Park Laguna Beach, which is overflowing with stunning coastline, and the Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, which is the perfect place to get away from it all with a wilderness hike.

Whilst you can plan your visit to the OC to take in all the famous lunching, brunching, partying and shopping spots of shows like The Real Housewives of Orange County and The OC, you’d be missing out on the real heart of this area if that’s all you see. Hike the OC’s beauty spots, drink in its wineries, visit some theme parks and learn how to surf and then you will understand what this gorgeous corner of California is really about.

Amy is a travel writer from National car hire California – offering a wide choice of car rental options to help you and your family explore the best of Orange County at your own pace. Hiring a car when visitng the OC is a great idea as the best sights tend to be quite a way apart.