Paradise is how many describe the coastal city of Newport Beach. This small city situated in Orange County, California, is the perfect mix of sophistication and laid-back beach culture.
People come to Newport Beach mostly for the sunny weather, the sandy beaches, and the beautiful views that include spectacular sunsets in the evenings.
There are many other attractions in the city, including oceanfront dining establishments, modern shopping areas, several top golf courses, and, of course, the Balboa Peninsula district, which includes two piers and the iconic boardwalk which runs about three miles.
Popular activities around the city include sunset cruises, wine tastings, fishing, and numerous water sports. A network of hiking trails is located in the upper Newport Bay area.
If you’re lucky and happen to be near the seashore late at night, you may even catch a glimpse of the bioluminescence glow that appears in the right conditions.
Many festivals occur throughout the year, including the Newport Beach Jazz Festival, Newport Beach Film Festival, and the Newport Beach Food and Wine Festival.
Below are 15 of the best things to do in and around Newport Beach, California.
1. Take a Stroll on Newport Pier
A great way to start your adventure in Newport Beach is with a visit to the iconic Newport Pier.
Originally constructed for shipping purposes, Newport Pier was later transformed into a recreational area and has drawn locals and visitors alike for more than 100 years.
This 314-meter-long pier is situated in the middle of the Balboa Peninsula and is known for being a top spot to watch the beautiful sunsets. It’s a nice place to take a relaxing stroll alongside the ocean. You can fish from the pier, and there are dining establishments nearby.
2. Spend the Day at Crystal Cove State Park
There are many beaches in the area around Newport Beach, but if you’re looking for one less crowded and surrounded by nature, Crystal Cove State Park is a great place to spend an entire day.
With 3.2 miles of sandy beach and 2,400 acres of wilderness, Crystal Cove is one of the county’s largest protected nature areas. During your explorations of the park, you’ll see high cliffs, canyons, and tide pools, and you’ll be able to take a refreshing dip in the clear waters.
A camping area is located in the park if you wish to stay overnight.
3. Admire Fine Art at the Orange County Museum of Art
Said to be one of the top attractions in nearby Santa Ana, the Orange County Museum of Art attracts visitors from all walks of life.
You don’t need to be an art lover or connoisseur to appreciate the beautiful works of art on display. Among the approximately 3,000 items are paintings, photos, and sculptures showcasing local art from the early 1900s to today.
The museum also hosts a variety of events throughout the year.
4. Enjoy a Delicious Meal at Newport Landing Restaurant
While seafood is the main draw at Newport Landing Restaurant, there are many other items on the menu to satisfy non-seafood lovers.
For more than 30 years, this upscale eatery with a casual atmosphere has been serving locally-sourced food items and the freshest seafood on the market.
On the menu, you’ll find a variety of starters, soups, salads, and seafood specialities, including grilled Atlantic salmon and blackened Pacific swordfish. Some of the entrees available include fish and chips and shrimp linguini. An oyster bar is also on-site.
The extensive bar menu includes California wines, local craft beers, and a variety of cocktails. The on-site bar also features the longest happy hour in Newport Beach.
Newport Landing’s location on the waterfront means you’ll have great views of Newport Harbour, Balboa Island, and the distant Saddleback Mountains.
5. Go Whale Watching
Due to its ideal location in an area with several whale migration paths, Newport Beach is one of the best places in the region to enjoy whale watching.
The best way to see these enormous, majestic creatures is with a whale tour. You will get up close to a variety of whales and other marine animals. Newport Landing Whale Watching Company offers these tours.
Whale watching is something the whole family can enjoy. During one of these two-and-a-half-hour tours, you’ll possibly see grey whales, killer whales, humpback whales, blue whales, and finback whales. You may also see dolphins, seals, sharks, and a variety of seabirds.
6. Spend an Afternoon Shopping at Fashion Island
If you want to go shopping but don’t want to waste a beautiful, sunny day inside an air-conditioned mall, head to Fashion Island, an open-air mall with Pacific Ocean views.
This luxury shopping destination is home to over 150 stores, including several large department stores and many smaller boutique stores. Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom, Macy’s, Anthropologie, and Trina Turk are just some of the shops you will find here.
A number of eateries are on site, including an artisan burger house, a Japanese sushi bar, an Italian restaurant, and several pizza shops. A grocery store and movie theatre are also available, and many events are held at the centre throughout the year.
7. Newport Beach Brewing Co.
For about 25 years, Newport Beach Brewing Co. has been brewing and serving quality, award-winning craft beer made using just three simple ingredients – water, hops, and barley.
The brewery’s creations are available on tap at the on-site restaurant and bar, which also serves pizza, salads, sandwiches, and various pasta dishes. The brewery also hosts game nights and other events throughout the year.
8. Escape the City in Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve – or “The Back Bay,” as it’s known locally – is a 1,000-acre estuary and the largest wetland region in southern California.
The preserve is a significant stopover point for more than 35,000 migrating birds, making it a popular destination for bird-watchers.
Biking, hiking, and horseback riding are some of the other outdoor activities you can participate in. An interpretive Center where you can learn about the history of the estuary and a butterfly garden are also on site.
9. Catch Some Thrills at Balboa Fun Zone
Balboa Fun Zone is perfect for an exciting family outing in Newport Beach. Situated on the Balboa Peninsula, the park offers a wide variety of things to see and do.
The on-site Balboa Village features a beach area, scenic boardwalk, and a number of restaurants and shops.
On-site amusements include the Ocean Motion bungee ride and the iconic waterfront Ferris wheel. Harbour cruises are available, and a historic pavilion and several arcades are also on site.
10. Try Paddleboarding with Pirate Coast Paddle Company
Whether you’ve never paddle boarded before or are a seasoned lover of this fun and exciting water sport, Pirate Coast Paddle Company has just the adventure for you.
If you are new to paddleboarding, hour-long lessons are available, where you’ll learn the basics about the sport and how to stay safe.
You also have the option to rent a paddleboard on-site and embark on your own adventure, or you can sign up for one of the excursions led by knowledgeable and experienced guides.
11. Do Brunch at The Beachcomber Cafe
The Beachcomber Cafe is a popular eatery in the Crystal Cove area of Newport Beach. Enjoy breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner right on the beach surrounded by spectacular ocean views.
The varied menu features a variety of appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches, tacos, and more. There are delicious desserts available, and the drink menu features a wide variety of wines, beers and cocktails.
Visitors also have the option to rent a fire pit and beach equipment, including beach chairs.
12. Learn About Native Plants at the Environmental Nature Center
Since 1972, the Environmental Nature Center has provided people of all ages with a visual and interactive learning experience. The 3.5-acre site features 15 different plant environments consisting of plants native to the state.
On-site, you’ll find several nature trails passing through various habitats and ecosystems, including desert, marshlands, oak woodlands, and redwood forest. A butterfly habitat and Nature Museum are also on site.
13. Catch Some Waves at The Wedge
Situated at the far east end of the Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach, The Wedge is widely known for its spectacular wave action, caused by the unique geological features in the area.
The ocean swells can reach a height of up to 30 feet, making it the perfect location to catch some stunning ocean shots.
The Wedge is popular with surfers, bodyboarders, and other thrill-seekers looking to test their skills. It is said to be one of the top spots in Southern California for these activities.
14. Get Pampered at The Spa at Pelican Hill
Treat yourself to a day of relaxation at The Spa at Pelican Hill, where you’ll find an array of facilities and services.
On-site, you’ll find 22 treatment rooms, a gym, saltwater soaking tubs, steam rooms, saunas, and several relaxing lounges. You can also use many services, including spa cuisine and various wellness classes.
For ultimate pampering, many treatments are available, including massages, facials, peels, reflexology, scalp treatments, and foot massages. Packages are available.
15. Indulge with French Cuisine at Moulin Bistro
The owner of Moulin Bistro in Newport Beach is originally from France, so he knows French culture and cuisine well. In fact, he started the establishment in memory of the bistros in Paris he frequented in his youth, so he could share those experiences with Newport Beach residents and visitors from all over.
Upon entering Moulin, the first things you’ll notice are the smell of fresh bread and the sound of the French language.
If you’re already familiar with French cuisine, some of the traditional dishes will take you back to your last visit to France or your own French upbringing.
On the menu are a wide variety of sandwiches, pastries, crepes, soups, salads, and popular favourites. French wines and champagne are also served.