If we want to talk about quintessential Californian beach towns, it is almost impossible not to include Newport Beach in the conversation.
This notorious city, located in Orange County, is famous for its million dollar houses, charming islands and posh resorts.
To be honest, Newport Beach is not exactly my ideal version of paradise even though it offered me one of my first tastes of beach culture (long time ago when I lived in Orange County).
Putting preferences and opinions aside, the truth is that there are gazillions of things to do in Newport Beach. The Official Visitor’s Guide resembles a bridal magazine and there is no way to go thru the list of attractions in one day.
This means there are a lot of options available for all tastes and budgets. Also, remember this is a year-round destination thanks to the benign weather.
This post illustrates how to have a great day close to the water.
Seems like in Newport Beach all roads lead to the Balboa Peninsula. This thin strip of land forms the southern boundary of the Newport Bay (which means you are surrounded by water).
At the western part of the peninsula (where it is connected to the ‘mainland’), you will find the Cannery Village (a district with great views of the harbor) and the Newport Pier.
If you are driving (or biking from Huntington Beach), this is your first opportunity to stock on funnel cake, Balboa bars and lemonade. Businesses in here offer all sort of rentals (bikes, boogey boards, surfboards, etc.). If you are up for some exercise, this is a good point to park your car and walk or bike the entire length of the peninsula (just take into consideration the peninsula is three miles long).
Tip: If you are a clam chowder snob, you have to try the one made at The Crab Cooker (right across the Newport Pier area). This restaurant is a local institution and landmark. First, they claim to cook the best clam chowder in the world. Second, their building used to be a bank and apparently the vault is now a big freezer. Their clam chowder is tomato based (don’t expect to see the white thing in here) and it seems like most people go to have a cup of the famous potion.
Yes, you read that right. Newport Beach has a second pier in its famous peninsula. The Balboa Pier is home of the original Ruby’s Dinner, a popular chain which sells milkshakes and burgers. Across the pier, you can find the Balboa FunZone (amusement park feeling) and the Balboa Pavilion (from where fishing, harbor and whale watching excursions depart).
Tip: If you are pressed for time, this is where you want to go.
Don’t get confused. I know everything in these latitudes has the Balboa name on it.
Balboa Island, located in the Newport Bay, is actually comprised of three artificial islands. To get there from the Balboa Peninsula, you have to take a three-car ferry (passengers and bikes go on the sides). The island is connected to the north part of the harbor by a bridge (if you want to take your car) but the ferry is the funnier option.
This island is one of the most expensive real estate markets outside Manhattan, New York. A small house can cost about three million dollars. The good news is that you can admire the beautiful houses with private piers and beaches from the boardwalk surrounding the island. The main street has restaurants, cafes and ice cream shops.
They even have a Gran Canal (separating Balboa Island from Little Balboa Island).
If you are lucky enough, you may be able to see mischievous sea lions ‘vandalizing’ some expensive boats in the harbor. Owners have tried to secure their property but the sea lions have broken fences and whatever is on their way. It is crazy to see them jumping to the boats from the water.
The end of the Balboa Peninsula is sometimes called the West Jetty (because of the long breakwater protecting the mouth of the bay) or The Wedge (because of a famous surf break). In this area, you can find a nice park, piers for fishing, the aforementioned breakwater (another popular fishing spot) and more beaches.
This is a great spot to relax looking at the boats pass and watch the sunset.
Well my friends, if you have not been ‘Balboarized’ at this moment, I don’t know what to say.
For more information, go to visitnewportbeach.com or got o one of the visitor’s kiosks in the Balboa Peninsula.
Have you been to Newport Beach?