If you're looking to get away from Orange County's hustle and bustle but stay by the ocean, Monterey Bay is the perfect place! Not only is this a great destination but there are many other stops along the way which can also be destinations, quick stops, or overnight stops with camping or lodging. Places like Madonna Inn, Big Sur, San Luis Obispo, Hearst Castle, San Simeon elephant seals, and much more are all along the way depending on which route you take. Once in Monterey, a very well known activity is whale watching as they have amazing viewing of killer whale's year round but mostly in spring, they are also known for having a abundant array of other marine life like humpbacks and blue whales, along with many dolphin species including northern right whale dolphin. You will find a wide variety of affordable lodging as well.
The best choice for whale watching is Monterey Bay Whale Watch