Newport Harbor is a wonderful place to visit if you are looking for a place full of life, people, and a lot of activity. There will always be something to do in this city, especially when you look at all the attractions that it has to offer. Here you’ll find gourmet restaurants, museums, and gardens, as well as boat rentals if you want to sail along the harbor.
We know that making a decision on where to start can be overwhelming with so many incredible options available, so we have done the work for you by compiling our list of the best places to explore in Newport Harbor, no matter what season it may be.
There is plenty of sun in Southern California, which means it is never a bad time to head to Newport Harbor for all the fun things that the harbor has to offer, from shopping to rock climbing at the fun zone.
Listed below are our top four spots for a fun time that you can bring anyone along to. Every one of them is guaranteed to be a blast!
600 East Bay Ave., #R, Newport Beach, CA 92661
This area of the Balboa Fun Zone is one of the best places to bring your entire family as there is never a shortage of things to do here. With bungee jumping, a ferris wheel, and a rock climb wall where you can race your friends to get to the top, everyone is sure to have a great time.
Besides all the fun activities, the Balboa Fun Zone offers some great shopping destinations for you to visit. Choose from a wide selection of clothes, unique trinkets, and stunning jewelry pieces, and you’ll be sure to come home with a bag full of new treasures.
400 Main Street, Newport Beach, CA 92661
A memorable fishing experience is guaranteed when you visit Davey’s Locker, which is one of the best places to find expertly guided whale-watching tours, along with wonderful whale-watching experiences.
For Whale-watching, Davey’s offers three incredible experiences for you to choose from – the first is a standard cruise on one of their bigger boats to go out and look for dolphins and whales with your fellow sailors, the next is their luxury tour on the Catamaran Yacht which provides a much more private experience with fewer people.
Nevertheless, the real gem and what we would recommend is the Ultimate Whale Watching experience, where you will be taken on a 15-person boat that allows you to be close enough to the water to see dolphins and whales up close.
Now onto the deep-sea fishing experiences – there’s again three packages for you to choose from and you can’t go wrong with any! The half-day package is about 6 hours and offers you the opportunity to find over 2 dozen different species of gamefish, the full-day is approximately 12 hours and goes even further out to increase your chances of a big catch!
Last, but not least, are the overnight fishing adventures where they take you to some of the best spots to catch all the fish you can – stating on their website the locations of San Clemente Island, Catalina Island, Santa Barbara Island and offshore banks such as Cortez Banks, Tanner Banks and even into Mexican waters.
3111 Villa Way, Newport Beach, CA 92663
A unique art studio owned and operated by women, Art + Soul is a place where you can let your inner Van Gogh shine through. You have the opportunity to work with a variety of different mediums, which means that you can try something new every time you visit.
The best part is that you have the freedom to drop in on any class on your own schedule or book one of their classes in advance, including private art lessons if you find yourself to be a bit canvas-shy on your first go.
Some of the many mediums they offer ranges from clay to macrame to watercolor to acrylic, at times they even offer the art of Ukrainian egg dyeing, which takes place around the Easter season and is truly not to be missed.
In addition to the group classes or private lessons you can book through their website, you can also host a range of parties, including birthday parties, graduations, baby showers, and all kinds of other events.
Types of fish in Newport Harbor include sand bass, spotted bass, white seabass, halibut, jacksmelt, yellowfin croaker, small sharks and small rays and even giant bat rays. Just outside the mouth of the harbor on the Wedge side mackerel, bonito, and juvenile barracuda can also be found.
- N Street/Channel Rd (peninsula)
- Washington St (Fun Zone area)
- Fernando St (peninsula)
- 15th St (peninsula)
- 19th St (peninsula)
- Rhine Wharf (Lido Park dr/peninsula)
- Coral Ave/S Bay Front (Balboa Island)
- Opal Ave/S Bay Front (Balboa Island)
- Emerald Ave/N Bay Front (Balboa Island)
- Sapphire Ave/N Bay Front (Balboa Island)
- Park Ave/E Bay Front (Little Balboa Island)
Newport Harbor Boat Rentals
A boat rental is one of the top priorities for many visitors to Newport Harbor, as this is one of the most popular activities on their itinerary. Good news is that there is no shortage of places to rent a boat in Newport Harbor.
Here you can find a number of places to get your boat. Whether you want a unique experience like the floating tiki bar from Paradiso Charters Boat Rentals or just want to set out on the open water, you will find the perfect place to get your boat no matter your needs.
2001 W. Coast Hwy, Newport Beach, CA 92663
Duffy’s Electric Boat Rentals are a Newport Beach institution! They have been operating in the area for over fifty years, and you only have to step on one of their rides to know how they have kept it going for so long.
They have the largest fleet of boat rentals in the harbor and are open from 10:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m. every day of the week. Because the boats are electric, they provide a nice quiet ride out on the harbor, and they have options with all-around windows if you want to enjoy the view without the spray. You can also turn your boat into a portable party, with their built-in bluetooth speakers and whatever snacks you wish to bring on board.
You can rent their boats in person, but we recommend booking in advance to make sure you can get the ride you want. You can easily book online through their website, as long as you are 21 or older.
2901 West Coast Hwy #160, Newport Beach, CA 92663
If you’re looking for variety, Newport Fun Tours is the place for you! They offer a wide assortment of travel options, from pontoons and electric boats to kayaks and paddleboards. You can enjoy all these options alone or with your group, but if you feel nervous about captaining a boat yourself, they also allow you to rent a captain for your boat for an additional fee.
Newport Fun Tours allow you to bring your own food and drinks out on the boats, but if you’re the captain make sure you stay under the legal limit! They also allow pets on board for an additional fee, with service animals allowed at no extra cost.
If you have a big group, they also have a yacht charter that can hold up to 80 people. If you’re looking to have a big party out on the water, this could be the option for you!
670 Lido Park Drive, Newport Beach, CA 92663
If you’ve visited Newport Harbor for any amount of time, chances are you’ve seen a floating tiki bar full of people having a great time. If you want to find yourself on that boat, Paradiso Charters is the place to go! Their Tiki Boat Cruise is one of the most fun and unique experiences in the area and comes with a boat captain, so you don’t need to worry about driving while enjoying the sights, sounds, and sips.
If you’re looking for more standard boat rentals, Paradiso still has you covered! They have a range of pontoon and duffy boats to choose from, with group sizes up to twelve (not including any pets you may wish to bring with you)
For a large group, you can also rent the Paradiso itself: a yacht with three staterooms, a spacious dining area, and a fully stocked bar. It can be rented for a few hours, or as a private charter to Catalina Island instead of using the Catalina Flyer.
Newport Harbor Restaurants
The restaurants in Newport Harbor are arguably some of the best in California, with fresh seafood caught right off the coast, family-owned restaurants going many generations back, and some absolutely magnificent views of the ocean.
In spite of the fact that Nobu is an international chain of restaurants, it would be a crime not to include it on this list. This restaurant is well known for having some of the best sushi you can find anywhere outside of Japan.
Fresh sushi options are available, including a delicious sashimi consisting of yellowtail and jalapeno that is both gorgeous and delicious, in addition to a cooked black cod wrapped in a flaky butter lettuce wrap that is a bite of absolute bliss.
For fans of meat, you’re still in luck as Nobu offers the choice of many delectable preparations of A5 Wagyu beef imported directly from Kyushu, Japan. One of our favorite ways they prepare it is the Ishiyaki method, which is a grilling stone that is left on your table as the meat sears for around 10-15 minutes while the stone remains hot
The deliciousness continues well into dessert with absolutely heavenly options like a honey pistachio semifreddo with a passionfruit curd, coconut crumble, and topped with a light and delectable Malibu rum foam.
As soon as you step foot into Javiers, you are greeted by the beautiful view of the ocean front outside of the building, but that’s not where the beauty ends! The ambience and decorations of the building are a sight to behold as well, including the absolutely cozy fireplace surrounding the outdoor seating.
Javiers is definitely a must see if you are in Newport, for this is some of the most upscale Mexican cuisine you are likely to find. From the absolutely heavenly starter of chips and salsa, to the ceviche that is so delicious that you may not want to share it with the rest of your table, this restaurant has it all for you.
As far as the entrees are concerned, there are a variety of seafood dishes to choose from, including the Enchiladas de Cangrejo – a dungeness crab enchilada with a tomatillo sauce smothered over it.
On the dessert side of the menu, there are delicious offerings like the guava cheesecake layered with whipped cream, a moist and rich tres leche cake topped with almonds and cajeta (which is a thick caramel sauce), and perhaps our favorite – their fried ice cream, rolled in a corn flake and nut crust, topped with honey and put in a buñelo basket, which is a fried dough fritter shaped to be able to fit the fried ice cream perfectly.
A favorite place to eat for many during the Christmas season is The Winery. Its waterfront view is majestic when all of the boats and houses surrounding the restaurant are decorated with holiday lights, which makes it such a wonderful place to visit during the holidays, especially since it’s right on the Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade route.
As for the food, The Winery is known for having an amazing menu that offers delectable appetizers such as crispy almond dusted calamari served with a lime marinated cucumber salad and a delicious tomato and saffron aioli that is fit for a king.
A true highlight from the entrée round at the Winery is the Maple Leaf Farms citrus marinated duck breast with manchego chive gnocchi and a shade of orange balsamic glaze drizzled over the top, which is to die for. Other fantastic options you can look at is The Winery’s Cioppino with an incredible roasted tomato broth, and jumbo Maine scallops & wild white shrimp with a pea and butternut squash risotto topped with a champagne beurre blanc.
There is an incredible wine selection at The Winery (as if the name didn’t already tell you that), with wine from many different regions and vintages to choose from. If you can’t decide on which wine you’d like to go with, the winery offers a flight with your choice of three dessert wines they have listed.
Among the desserts on offer, they have a variety of rotating selections of cheesecake, depending on the time of year and the season. Other menu offerings include a luxurious and creamy Tahitian vanilla bean crème brûlée with berries and a chocolate fleur de sel cookie on the side, and a dark chocolate marquise with a delicious brandied cherry ragout & berry coulis.
Dock & Dine In Newport Harbor
If you’re looking to cruise the harbor and dock for dinner, these spots offer dock and dine availability.
- A + O at Balboa Bay Resort – 1221 West Coast Hwy, Newport Beach, CA 92663
- Billy’s At The Beach – 2751 West Coast Hwy, Newport Beach, CA 92663
- Bluewater Grill – 630 Lido Park Dr, Newport Beach, CA 92663
- Buddha’s Favorite – 634 Lido Park Drive, Newport Beach, CA 92663
- The Cannery – 3010 Lafayette Ave., Newport Beach, CA 92663
- Circle Hook Fish Co. – 3432 Via Oporto #104, Newport Beach, CA 92663
- The Dock – 2816 LaFayette Ave., Newport Beach 92663
- Harborside Restaurant – 400 Main Street, Newport Beach, CA 92661
- Lido Bottle Works – 3408 Via Oporto, Suite 103, Newport Beach, CA 92663
- Lighthouse Cafe – 1600 West Balboa Blvd., Newport Beach, CA 92663
- Tavern House – 333 Bayside Drive, Newport Beach, CA 92660
- Shorebird – 2220 Newport Blvd #101, Newport Beach, CA 92663
- Woody’s Wharf – 2318 Newport Blvd., Newport Beach, CA 92663
Newport Harbor Events
The Newport Beach Christmas parade is arguably one of the most iconic highlights of Newport Harbor in terms of both the views and the community as a whole. As everyone comes together to decorate and light up the harbor with some beautiful light displays that you have to see to believe.
The light parade runs for a few nights in a row in December, so you get many chances to see it. It’s important to make reservations early though as every area around Newport Harbor fills up fast when reservations for any experiences on the route open up.
Pacific Wine & Food Classic is heaven on earth for foodies. Every year, the Newport area’s top chefs are invited to the event to cook from a range of different restaurants and cuisines that represent a variety of styles and characteristics of Newport’s culinary culture.
Some of the delicious food offerings of past years include delectable mushroom tostadas topped with red onions, radishes, and microgreens, delicious ponzu scallops served in its shell, a spread of different pokes, and one sweet favorite of everyone: Mini donuts from Miss Mini Donuts.
As well as the wonderful food they have available at the event, there is a wide selection of wine, cocktails, and beers that you can choose from as well. In past years there have been highlights like frozen margarita shots, and delicious frozen rose.
Nautical Clubs in Newport Harbor
American Legion Yacht Club
215 15th Street, Newport Beach, CA 92663
Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club
1601 Bayside Dr, Corona Del Mar, CA 92625
Balboa Basin Yacht Club
829 Harbor Island Dr #38, Newport Beach, CA 92660
Balboa Yacht Club
1801 Bayside Dr, Corona Del Mar, CA 92625
Harbor 20 Sailing Club
201 East Coast Hwy, Newport Beach, CA 92660
Lido Isle Yacht Club
701 Via Lido Soud, Newport Beach, CA 92663
Newport Beach Yacht Club
1099 Bayside Dr, Newport Beach, CA 92660
Newport Harbor Yacht Club
720 W Bay Ave, Newport Beach, CA 92661
Orange County Boat & Yacht Club
204 Main St #615, Newport Beach, CA 92661
Pacific Yachting Club
510 Edgewater Pl, Newport Beach, CA 92661
South Shore Yacht Club
1099 Bayside Dr, Newport Beach, CA 92660
Windward Sailing Club
3300 Via Lido, Newport Beach, CA 92663
History Of Newport Harbor
Newport Harbor is a naturally created harbor that began with heavy flooding in 1825. Over time, sand built up into the peninsula creating the outer perimeter of the harbor. In 1861, silt deposits were started during another flood, later becoming islands in Newport Bay. The City of Newport Beach began improvements to the harbor area in the 1920s and 1930s, creating the west jetty and additional elements.
The first commercial ships made their way into the harbor in 1870, establishing a “new port” between Los Angeles and San Diego. Originally, the landing was at Castaways Bluff near PCH and Dover, but the bay was too shallow there, the sandbars moved around, and the mouth of the bay was especially dangerous, leading to several deaths.
In 1888, the McFadden Brothers, who took over landing operations in 1874, built a new wharf for boats to dock (located where the Newport Beach Pier stands today). Commercial shipping in Newport continued until 1906, and the original wharf was destroyed by a hurricane in 1939.
There are a number of islands in Newport Harbor, most of them man-made. The last remaining natural island is Bay Island. Bay Island can be accessed via bridge at Edgewater Avenue and Island Avenue. Lido Isle and Balboa Island are the largest islands in the Harbor area.
The Newport Harbor area has so many things to see and do that we’ve only been able to cover a fraction of them in this article. Take this guide as a guide to help you find the best places to visit in your area while finding some gems of your own as well.
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Morgan Mulac is a freelance writer who has spent years on the road as a nomad and now has settled back in California with her family. Some of her favorite spots to travel in California are in Orange County and the many beaches along the coast. She’s an avid writer about her journeys and enjoys sharing the beauty California has to offer.