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Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve

Located in beautiful Newport Beach is the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve. This Nature Preserve and Ecological Reserve represents approximately 1,000 acres of open space. The Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve surrounds the Ecological Reserve. Activities here include bird watching, walking and jogging on the trails, biking, hiking, horseback riding. Camping is also available at the Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort. Power boats are not allowed on the Bay.

Upper Newport Bay consists primarily of bluffs surrounding the bay, with grasslands and native coastal sage scrub. At a total of 752 acres, it is considered one of the largest coastal wetlands in Southern California.

Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve

Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve Details 

Address: 2301 University Drive, Newport Beach, CA 92660
Park Hours: Sun – Sat: 7:00 AM – Sunset
Phone Number: 949-923-2290
Website: https://www.ocparks.com/parks-trails/upper-newport-bay-nature-preserve
Dogs: Permitted on leash
Parking: No fees are collected at this time
Map of Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve

Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Closed Monday and major holidays. 

Things To Do At Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve

Trails

A great way to experience the area is on the trails. The easy, just over 5-mile Upper Newport Bay Ecological Loop is perfect to see the entire area. The Back Bay trail is located on the south side of the park and is a wide, asphalt path. Here you get non stop views of the bluffs and bay on the north side. 

There are unpaved dirt trails stretching along the north side of the nature preserve. These trails extend from Santiago Drive and Irvine Avenue to Irvine Avenue and University Drive. These trails have a few hills, but are mostly considered easy to navigate. The best way to access the dirt trails is to park in the main parking lot for the Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center.

The trails at Upper Newport Bay are open to hikers, joggers, bikers, and equestrians. Electric bikes and scooters are not permitted on the trails here. Bikes are allowed only on the paved trails.

Bird Watching

There are three sensitive species that are local to the bluffs: The California Gnatcatcher, San Diego Cactus Wren, and Burrowing Owl.

The Newport Bay is home to many other native birds and a number of rare and endangered species including Brown Pelicans, Black Rail, Peregrine Falcons, and California Least Terns. An annual winter migration sees up to an additional 35,000 birds. Thanks to the locations pristine condition and number of bird species, the Newport Bay is considered on of the best bird watching locations in North America.

The Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center

The Peter & Mary Muth Interpretive Center is a state-of-the-art educational facility dedicated to the preservation of the bay and its coastal wetlands. The 10,000 square foot center is located on one of the gorgeous bluffs on the north side of the bay at the corner of University Drive and Irvine Avenue. Notably, the building itself was built using recycled rebar and many other renewable and sustainable resources.

The center has a gift shop, a theater, and various exhibits and interactive displays that give information about the bay, the ecosystem, and the history of the area. There is a large aquarium and several live reptile and amphibian displays.

Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center

Inside the Interpretive center, there is a large classroom that is used for educational programming and school field trips. When programs are not running, the classroom is open to the public to explore at their leisure. This is a fun spot for little ones where they can see live animals, choose from a selection of books to read, games and toys to explore, and more. Programming here includes:

Peter & Mary Muth Interpretive Center Classroom

Public Youth Programs

  • Wild Tales (Ages 2-4): Includes story time with a naturalist, age appropriate hike, and a craft.

K-5 School Programs

Educational field trips for schools include 3 to 4 activities based on a specific theme and aligns with grade level standards.

  • Kindergarten – “Estuary Explorers”
  • First Grade – “Feathered Friends Forever”
  • Second Grade – “Wild for Wetlands”
  • Third Grade – “The Case of the Disappearing Species”
  • Fourth Grade – “Shell Me More”
  • Fifth Grade – “Wetlands Webs of Life”

Public Programs

  • Naturalist Nights: Educational and informational events hosted by speakers discussing specific nature-related topics.
  • Restoration Days
  • Kayak Tours (ages 8 and up): Saturdays from 10AM – 12PM
  • Free Nature Hikes

Back Bay Science Center

The Back Bay Science Center is located at 600 Shellmaker Road on the edge of Newport Bay. The center is currently closed to the public. It primarily serves as an educational facility for youth programs that teaches children about estuaries, marine ecology, natural resource conservation, and stewardship.

Newport Aquatic Center

Address: 1 White Cliffs Drive, Newport Beach, CA 92660
Phone: 949-646-7725
Friday-Sunday: 7AM – 3:45PM
Monday – Thursday: 7AM – 4:45PM

The Newport Aquatic Center offers kayaks and stand up paddle boards for rental to the public to explore the Newport Bay. The kayaks are dog friendly (must be on-leash and wear a life jacket); SUPs are NOT dog-friendly. Private lessons and guided kayak tours are also available here.

Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort & Marina

Not part of the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve, nut located nearby at the bottom of the Bay, Newport Dunes offers a variety of recreational activities and camping for visitors. They also have a large inflatable obstacle course on the water. Visit this page for a complete overview of Newport Dunes.


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Kaitlin is a former ballerina who now travels around the country in an 18-foot converted school bus. Her and her husband have welcomed 34 sweet children into their home the past eleven years. Although they would not be a forever home for all of them, they adopted their daughter buckets and are legal guardians to their son monkey. Follow their crazy adventures on Instagram @runawaymusbus