When I take people off Pacific Coast Highway and into Newport Beach's Balboa Peninsula and Balboa Island, they're always surprised and delighted. This little pocket of old-fashioned charm has managed to persist just blocks from the busy city nearby. This is a place where the kids still run around in summer like they did in the 50s and everyone seems laid-back and calm. In fact, they're so relaxed that it's infectious, and a couple of days here can do wonders for a bedraggled spirit.
You can plan your Newport Beach weekend getaway in a jiffy using the resources below.
Will You Like Newport Beach?
- Take a look at our Newport Beach and Balboa Island pictures.
- Newport Beach is home to one of Orange County's prime shopping destinations, but it's also a great place for water play. The Wedge at end of the Balboa Peninsula is a popular place for bodysurfing, while traditional surfers cluster near the pier. Everyone seems to enjoy the harbor tour and a stroll around tiny Balboa Island.
Best Time to Go to Newport Beach
Newport Beach is great almost any time of year, but like most of the California coast is susceptible to "June gloom," when, like a cranky child, the sun may refuse to come out for days on end.
Newport Beach is 44 miles from downtown Los Angeles, 428 from San Francisco, 430 miles from Sacramento, 90 miles from San Diego and 277 miles from Las Vegas.
Where to Stay
5 Great Things to Do in Newport Beach
Take a Harbor Cruise: The Fun Zone Boat Company and Pavilion Paddy offer leisurely cruises around the bay, where you'll learn about the area's unique history. You can also take a sunset dinner cruise on Friday or Saturday, champagne brunch cruise or tour the harbor on your own in an electric Duffy boat.
Go on a Romantic Gondola Ride: Some locals don't even know about Newport Beach's canals, but they make a perfect place for a sunset ride.
Shop at Fashion Island: I normally don't recommend shopping as a vacation activity since you can do it at home, but this place has a reputation all over the area as shopping nirvana.
- Richard Nixon Presidential Library: It's about a half hour drive to Yorba Linda, Nixon's birthplace, but it's worth it for interesting insights into the career of one of our most infamous presidents.
The Crab Cooker, on Balboa Peninsula is a long-time local favorite, with no frills and no reservations. On Balboa Island, try Basilic (Swiss-French) or Barolo by the Bay (Italian).
Local treats include the Balboa Bar (ice cream bar on a stick, coated with chocolate and dipped in crunchies to order) and frozen bananas. Stop in the local market for Rusty's Island Chips, kettle-style potato chips that are sliced, cooked and packaged by hand.
My favorite thing to do in Newport Beach is a simple pleasure. Park your car either on the peninsula or Balboa Island and go for a walk. Stroll along the waterfront. Walk onto the little ferry that crosses the harbor, have dinner in a local restaurant. You'll wish you could afford to live here instead of just visiting.
- If you want to see the Christmas boat parade (something we highly recommend), make hotel reservations early, and don't forget to also reserve a table in a restaurant along the route if you want to watch from there.
- We know other parts of Newport Beach are better-known, but stick to the peninsula and island for a more relaxing, can't-believe-this-is-Orange-County kind of experience.
Annual Events You Should Know About
The Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade is a long-standing tradition that's well worth your time. You'll be surprised how creative Californians can get with their holiday celebrations.
There's no special event here at Halloween, but homeowners along the waterfront between the peninsula and Balboa Island go all out to decorate, making an evening stroll like walking through a lighted carnival.