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Things to do in Newport Beach

Coastal city Newport Beach draws plenty of visitors year round from all over the state for its scenic coastlines and classic beach town atmosphere. There are many options for fun outdoor activities spent on the water, or locations for shopping and dining for those looking to spend more time on land.

OC Bucket List: Newport Beach

The city surrounds Newport Harbor, which was once a hub for the local maritime industries, and now has become a hub of water sports and boating. The harbor itself is semi-artificial, with all the nearby islands including Balboa Island and Lido Isle also artificial.

Over the years the city of Newport has become known for its highly sought after waterfront properties, large beaches, and wide array of watersports locations that make the area a perfect escape from the nearby cities. There are so many activities to choose from that it’s difficult to settle on just one, so here is a list of some of the can’t miss ones to learn more about for your next visit to the city of Newport Beach.

Newport Aquatic Center

If you’ve ever wanted to try kayaking or stand up paddleboarding in a scenic location, the Newport Aquatic Center is the place to go. Whether new or experienced, the center provides private lessons, guided tours, camps, group events, and daily rentals for boards and kayaks to take out into the surrounding bay. The launch location is from North Star Beach, a calm sandy inlet for kids to play or to launch with your own equipment. This location makes for easy access to the lower Newport Bay heading towards Balboa Island or Lido Isle, where you can admire the local wildlife and the picturesque canals. Rentals start at $15/hr and are available on weekdays and weekends. Address: 1 White Cliffs Dr. Newport Beach, CA 92660


Crystal Cove State Park

The large Crystal Cove State Conservation Area encompasses a long stretch of coastline, featuring 3.2 miles of beach and 2400 acres of natural land for hiking. There are several access points along Pacific Coast Highway, all of which will take you down to the beaches known for their views of the cliffs, swim and surf spots, and rockier tide pool areas to explore. Just off the water is the Crystal Cove Historic District, which includes 46 vintage coastal cottages preserved to maintain the style of early 20th century Southern California architecture, some of which are available to rent. There are plenty of options for active family activities at this beach and state park, all of which you can do while appreciating this untouched, pristine coastline. Address: Crystal Cove Trail, Newport Beach, CA 92657


Balboa Island

Accessible by car or by ferry, Balboa Island is home to many gorgeous coastal cottages and buildings that complete the island’s quaint beach town feeling. You can take a break from a day at the beach by taking a walk down Marine Ave, which is lined with unique shops and restaurants. To learn more about the history of the island, stop by the Balboa Island Museum, also on Marine Ave, which contains photos and artifacts that showcase the island’s past, along with a gift shop. A trip down the strip with shopping and lunch, finished with a stop at one of the island’s many beaches, makes for a perfect weekend outing for folks of all ages. Address: Balboa Island, Newport Beach, CA 92662; Museum: 210 Marine Ave, Newport Beach, CA 92662

Balboa Island Drone

Newport Beach Pier and Newport Beach

The city’s most popular beach is, of course, the one for which the city is named. Newport Beach Pier and the surrounding beach is a great destination for dining, shopping, bike riding, walking, and of course, swimming or surfing. Just off the pier there is a cluster of businesses that include restaurants of all kinds, such as a small beach snack shack, Rockin’ Baja Lobster, Blackie’s By the Sea, Handel’s Ice Cream, Banzai Bowls, and much more. For fresh fish pulled right out of the ocean, visit the Dory Fishing Fleet at the base of the pier while their fish market is open in the mornings. The pier itself is a popular all-day spot for local fisherman, and for anyone looking for an unobstructed view up and down the coastline. To get away from the hustle and bustle of the pier and restaurants, there is plenty of space to stretch out and relax along the Newport Municipal Beach to either side of the pier. Address: 70 Newport Pier, Newport Beach, CA 92663


Balboa Pier and Balboa Beach

Just down the road (or the bike path) from Newport Pier is Balboa pier, which offers similarly great views and an unobstructed sand beach. This pier is slightly less trafficked than Newport Pier, and features a restaurant at the end of the walkway, Ruby’s Diner. The diner has the classic Ruby’s retro décor and look, which draws in visitors looking for a burger and a milkshake with a view. This pier is a major spot for local fisherman and tourists looking for a photo op. There is also a park just to the side of the pier with a soccer field and plenty of grass to let kids run around or have a family picnic. Address: 1 Balboa Pier, Newport Beach, CA 92661

Balboa Pier and Balboa Beach

Corona Del Mar State Beach Park

Just east of the channel where the Newport Beach Harbor lets out into the Pacific is the Corona Del Mar State Beach Park, another great option for those looking to hit the beach. Whereas Newport and Balboa Beach are both very flat, Corona Del Mar is where you begin to get more cliff views and hilltop homes overlooking the sand. Just beside the parking lot is Lookout Point where you can see across the channel and out towards the ocean, making this a perfect spot for watching the sun set. There’s also another observation spot, Inspiration Point, on the other end of the beach towards where the sands are rockier. As an added plus, a large parking lot right off the sand makes beach trips with the family easy to manage. Address: 3000 Breakers Dr, Newport Beach, CA 92661


Little Corona Del Mar Beach and Tidepools

Further east from Corona Del Mar Beach is the smaller, aptly named Little Corona Del Mar Beach. If you’re looking to explore tidepools or do some scuba diving, this is a great option. When the tide is right, you’ll be able to explore plenty of interesting rock formations teeming with native wildlife. There is also still enough beach area without rocks to make for a safe swimming area. Address: 3712 Ocean Blvd, Corona Del Mar, CA 92625


Fashion Island Mall

This major OC shopping center includes many shops for high-end clothing brands, more popular wardrobe mainstays, and a variety of dining options. Here you can find Chanel, Balenciaga, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Tom Ford, and many more well-known brands, as well as more budget friendly options like Levi’s, Loft, Claire’s, Lucky Brand, and more. Among the restaurants are some So-Cal faves including Lemonade, Sushi Roku, True Foods Kitchen, and Hopdoddy Burger Bar. You can even have dinner and a movie at The Lot. This high profile mall is great for anyone looking to indulge in some brand-name fashion or for a meal in a chic setting. Address: 401 Newport Center Dr, Newport Beach, CA 92660


Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve

This ecological preserve is over 1000 acres in size and is perfect for a calm walk through wildlife with views of Newport Bay. These wetlands include many native bird and plant species and if you visit during winter migration season, you might be able to see up to 35,000 birds settling in this area. You can explore the trails that circle the grounds on foot, bike, or horse, and dogs are also welcome. After an outing into the wetlands you can stop by The Muth Interpretive Center, a large educational facility that includes various exhibits and resources to help you learn more about the importance of the surrounding environment. Address: 2301 University Drive Newport Beach, CA 92660


Sherman Library and Gardens

This botanical garden includes 100 species of palms, 130 kinds of begonias, a succulent garden, a koi pond, a tea garden, and more gorgeous greenery for guests to explore. Among the gardens is the Sherman Library, which contains a wealth of historical research material focusing on the Pacific Southwest and large collections of photographs, books, and art. Anyone over the age of 18 can register as a researcher at the library to make use of its archives. And if you aren’t there for the research, there is also a restaurant, garden shop, and Tea Garden Creperie on the grounds to visit while enjoying the gardens. Admission is only $5, and docent-led tours or self-led tours are also available for a more educational experience. Address: 2647 East Coast Highway, Corona del Mar, CA 92625


Sculpture Exhibition in Civic Center Park

The Newport Beach City Arts Commission created a unique public park behind the city’s Civic Center, containing a series of large, outdoor sculptures for city residents and visitors to enjoy. It was designed as a “museum without walls,” with the sculptures placed alongside a walking path that allows art to be viewed in a natural setting. The exhibition is free to access, and has sculptures that are rotated on a bi-annual basis. The park itself is full of trees and greenery, and makes for a great stroll with the added fun of viewing some unique art up close. Address: 100 Civic Center Drive, Newport Beach, CA 92660


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Leilani Reyes is a freelance writer, artist, and all-around creative living in Long Beach, CA. After earning a bachelor’s degree from Loyola Marymount University, now she is in search of her next great life adventure.