Wrapped around a gleaming bay lies the lively city of Newport Beach, a jewel located roughly an hour’s drive south of Los Angeles boasting perfect weather, welcoming beaches, and a culture all its own.
To accurately describe Newport, one really has to break it up into its different areas, as each has its own unique character and allure. From the quirky peninsula to the rolling hills of Newport Coast, this city has a ton of options for every taste.
Newport Harbor is the city’s main draw, and is one of the finest small boat harbors on the West Coast. Charming bayfront homes and quaint restaurants line the bay, as do various clubs and organizations, sprinkled with some bay beaches and parks. Sailing is a popular activity on the bay, as most Newport children spend their early years piloting Sabots around before progressing onto two-person boats, and eventually big boats. Big boat racing is popular both in and out of the harbor, and Thursday summer nights are quite a spectacle, as the larger yachts race the Beer Cans series (hosted by local yacht clubs) up and down the bay.
Power boats are in good supply as well, and visitors can rent skiffs and Duffys at various locations around the harbor to take in the sights. The best way to take a look at those gorgeous bayfront homes is certainly via the water!
Those wishing for a little more adventure can rent sailboats and jet skis, or take a whale-watching trip out into the great Pacific during specific months. Fishing charters are also available, as is a ferry, the Catalina Flyer, to the nearby island of Catalina.
The area surrounding the bay is considered the heart of Newport, and is composed of the peninsula and a stretch of mainland, to which Balboa Island is connected. The island, one of the harbor’s seven, is a must-visit destination to travelers, who are can take a small ferry across to the Peninsula. That finger of land bears another of the city’s jewels; miles of white, sandy beach and refreshing ocean waves. The most popular surf breaks are at Blackie’s and most streets north of the iconic spot. Of course, surfboards can be rented, as can bicycles for those wishing to cruise the bustling boardwalk.
Perhaps the most famous portion of Newport is the very end of the peninsula’s beach, which juts up against the harbor’s jetty. The Wedge is a notoriously rowdy body surfing break that always puts on a good show, often to the peril of those who decide to partake in its pumping swells. Storms often bring heavy surf to the Wedge, which results in a wild and wet show of nature’s power and man’s combined bravery and stupidity. Even on calmer days, the Wedge is definitely a place to check out, as some of the area’s finest body surfers may be out catching a few waves.
Directly opposite the peninsula is a stretch of Pacific Coast Highway known as Mariner’s Mile, so named because it fronts the bay and features a number of boat dealerships and brokers. Some fantastic restaurants, many bayfront, also line this strip of land, as do a few bars and shops. Up above PCH is Newport Heights, a neighborhood of quiet streets and gorgeous houses lying atop a bluff. This area acts as a buffer between the bay and the hustle of 17th Street, a busy street said to play host to practically anything a person could need, from mattresses to office supplies to boutique furniture and apparel. 17th fades imperceptibly into the city of Costa Mesa, Newport’s closest neighbor.
If one were to follow the bay inland (only possible by kayak after a certain point), they would find the magnificence of the Back Bay awaiting. This ecological reserve is fed by the Santa Ana River and features sand spits, natural wildlife and plants, and miles of trails to explore. A new center provides education and community activities centered around the Back Bay and its protection.
To the south lies the narrow streets of Corona del Mar, a neighborhood with a Mediterranean feel and plenty to do. Pacific Coast Highway winds through the main area of CdM, which has some wonderful fine dining and boutique shops, and a spattering of houses with amazing ocean views. The inland side of CdM plays host to the flower streets, which have lovely cottages and provide a great setting in which to walk or jog. Most weekends, a small farmer’s market fills a local parking lot and features vendors selling anything from fresh fruit and veggies to flower bouquets, handmade soaps, breads, and tamales.
The business center of Newport is just up Jamboree, a thoroughfare that begins at Balboa Island and runs inland for miles. A grouping of office and medical building sit clustered up above the bay surrounding Fashion Island, Newport’s premier shopping destination.
Further south is the fairly new community of Newport Coast, which comprises several developments of houses and stretches into Crystal Cove, a state beach and preserve with tons of great walking trails, quiet beaches, and tide pools. An oceanfront shopping center and guard-gated communities means that houses in the area are both spectacular and spectacularly expensive.
To sum up Newport, the city is a place of opposites, where the wealthiest of globetrotters can run shoulders with sandal and shorts clad visitors from the Inland Empire; where the surf meets high powered businesses and where fine dining, shopping, and fun twirl into a whirlwind of life. Newport has heart, but one really has to look beyond the glamor of the area to see it. This city is quiet parks overlooking crashing waves, early morning strolls on the sage-scented Back Bay trails, and a strong sense of community and belonging. There’s adventure galore for those who seek it, and plenty of soul seeking itself can happen for the select few who surrender themselves to the city’s timeless character and natural magnificence.