A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit Newport Beach, CA for my full-time job. Between long days spent at the event hotel and pure exhaustion from being around people 24/7, I didn’t get to do as much sightseeing as I would’ve liked to. Keeping in mind my limited free time, here are my recommendations for the top 8 things to do in Newport Beach, CA.
Top 8 Things To Do in Newport Beach
Newport Beach is located in Orange County, between Los Angeles and San Diego. The best airport to fly into is John Wayne Airport (SNA) but if prices are $100-$150 less at the bigger airports, I would recommend LAX as it’s closer. Traffic is pretty terrible during rush hour so expect delays and high ride-sharing fees!
1. Spend a few hours exploring Balboa Island.
Think charming, quaint and very expensive.
- Walk around and look at the beautiful cottages (aka very nice homes)! You can leisurely stroll around the whole island in about an hour.
- Grab a chocolate-dipped frozen banana or Balboa Bar (aka ice cream sandwich dipped in chocolate with toppings of your choosing) at Sugar & Spice.
- Ride the Ferris Wheel at the Fun Zone located in Balboa Village and be sure to take the Balboa Island Ferry to get there. It’s very carnival-esque here…but very upscale carnival per most things in Orange County!
2. Go on a whale watching tour.
While I didn’t get to experience this, my boss did and she saw a blue whale! This activity is best done in the first quarter of the year.
3. Ride the Duffy Boats in the Newport Beach Harbor (or if you’re feeling more active, rent a kayak or stand up paddle board).
This was VERY relaxing and probably my favorite thing I did in Newport Beach. If you have a group of 8-10 people, this is a perfect and relatively inexpensive way to gawk at the waterfront mansions and get out on the Pacific waters. You can bring your own food and drinks and even dock at a few restaurants if you want to grab a bite to eat! The boats are very easy to drive (similar to a golf cart) and you may even get to experience some wildlife while aboard. We spotted a dolphin and a few seals.
4. Shop ’til you drop at Fashion Island or Lido Marina Village.
While I’m not the biggest shopper, I do love to look around new stores that aren’t in the Cleveland area. I heard the biggest Lululemon on the west coast is located at Fashion Island.
5. Walk/hike/bike the Back Bay (aka the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve & Ecological Reserve).
One thing I noticed about the OC is that everything is soooo close together. Real estate is prime here so the buildings are packed tight and I found myself craving s p a c e. When we drove through this nature-filled area with more bikes than cars, I felt myself relax.
6. Watch surfers at the Wedge.
Located at the far end of the Balboa Peninsula, this is the place to people watch…more specifically, surfer watch. Since I’m a bit fearful of the ocean, this completely freaks me out to watch people disappear behind massive waves, but it’s definitely a must-see in Newport Beach.
7. Indulge in a lazy beach day at Crystal Cove State Park or Corona Del Mar State Park.
Corona Del Mar is a bit closer to the city, so if you don’t have a car, opt for this beach. There is a popular restaurant with amazing beach views called Beachcombers Cafe near Crystal Cove so I hope to go there when I return to the OC in October.
8. Eat seafood at the Newport Beach Pier.
You can’t come to the ocean and not eat seafood, right?! This pier offers beautiful sunset views and there are many fun restaurants in walking distance. ((I saw a tiny shark swimming near the pier after I took this picture!))
Other nearby attractions:
While there is a ton to do in Newport Beach, there are many amazing day-trips you should also consider.
- Unleash your inner child at Disneyland! One of the happiest places on earth is only about 1 hour away from Newport Beach (baring traffic).
- Spend a few days in San Diego! I love this city so much! I visited last August for a friend’s wedding and fell in love with this sunny, coastal town. You might want to consider flying in or out of here.
- Ride the ferry to Catalina Island to soak up more of that island life.
- Explore the mega city of Los Angeles! When I visited Newport Beach, I flew into SNA but out of LAX so I could visit my friend. She kindly drove me all around this huge town and I saw so much in less than 24 hours. More to come on that soon!
Things to know before you go to Newport Beach:
- Parking is tough and gas is expensive (read: over $4/gallon). Traffic can be a beast (especially if driving between LA and Orange County), so Uber is your best option if you’re not planning to drive around a lot. You’ll save $$ and a few headaches.
- May Gray and June Gloom – Don’t believe ’em when they say it’s always sunny in southern CA. During these two months, it tends to be very gray.
- The succulents are massive and oh so very beautiful. You WILL be inspired to plant a few when you return home.
- While it is pricier than Cleveland (my hometown), it wasn’t as crazy as I imagined.
Newport Beach is a juxtaposition of beachy, casual vibes and expensive, over-the-top consumerism. I hope you enjoy at least one or two of these suggestions on your visit to the OC!