Combine gorgeous ocean views and a variety of outdoor activities with fine dining and luxury shopping, and you'll have the upscale town of Newport Beach, California. Located about an hour south of Los Angeles and 90 minutes north of San Diego, this Orange County destination will provide more than enough activity for a fabulous weekend getaway.
Deciding what to do in one weekend will be tough in Newport Beach because the options are considerable. However, you can’t go wrong by getting outdoors. The residents of this town love to spend time in the fresh air, both on land and in the water. So do like the locals do and spend most of your time swimming, boating, biking, hiking, or golfing.
Hit The Beach
Start with some time on the beach to work on your tan. Among the most popular beaches are Corona del Mar State Beach, Crystal Cove State Park, and Newport Municipal Beach. To see some extra-large waves and expert surfers, head to the Wedge, also known as West Jetty View Beach.
It would be a shame to visit Newport Beach and not explore it by boat. Fortunately, there are many ways to do so. Companies offering day or evening cruises around the harbor include Hornblower Cruises and Cruise Newport Beach. The guides on these cruises will provide a history of the area and point out the homes of the rich and famous lining the harbor. If you’re in Newport Beach during the holidays, schedule a cruise during the Christmas Boat Parade -- it’s a 100-year-old Newport Beach tradition!
Folks all over Orange County love to rent Duffy electric boats and cruise around Newport Harbor. These small boats seat 10 to 12 people and can be easily maneuvered through the various parts of the harbor. Pack a picnic dinner and wine, set sail at sunset, and enjoy a romantic evening on the water.
Another way to get out on the water is paddleboarding. Experienced paddleboarders can rent their equipment and set off wherever they choose, but lessons are also available for first-timers. Check out Pirate Coast Paddle in Newport Back Bay, where the calm water makes a great learning environment.
Enjoy The Great Outdoors
When not boating, many of the residents of Newport Beach enjoy golfing, so the city boasts some excellent courses. Not all are public, but the Tom Fazio-designed Pelican Hill Golf Club is open to visitors and features two courses with ocean views.
After spending time in the water, explore Newport Beach on land by renting a bike and riding along the beach. The 4.5-mile Newport Balboa Bike Trail is flat and scenic, a nice, easygoing option. For a longer ride -- about 12 miles -- pedal from the Huntington Beach Pier to the Newport Pier. These same paths are also great for walking or running.
For a few challenging hikes, head to Crystal Cove State Park at the southern tip of Newport Beach. The trails begin at sea level but then head up into the surrounding canyons. Hikers wanting a challenge should choose the Moro Ridge Trail, with its 1,800-foot elevation gain. You’ll be rewarded with a great workout and views of the Pacific Ocean.
Explore Balboa Island And The Balboa Fun Zone
Two must-visit attractions in Newport Beach are Balboa Island and the Balboa Fun Zone. The first is a tiny island with cute beach houses. Today these homes are very pricey, but the main street of the island offers one-of-a-kind shops, charming cafés, and family-friendly restaurants that everyone can enjoy. Spend some time at the Balboa Island Museum to learn more about this gem in the middle of Newport Beach -- admission is free.
Next, take the car ferry from the island to the Balboa Fun Zone, where carnival rides and games stretch for two blocks along the water. A highlight of the Fun Zone is the Ferris wheel, which provides great views of the entire harbor and peninsula. If you get hungry, sample the famous Balboa bar: vanilla ice cream on a stick, dipped in chocolate and rolled in the toppings of your choice.
Eating In Newport Beach
Newport Beach restaurants offer great food and fantastic views, and as a result, the dining here is memorable. The top venues can be pricey, but there are places for all budgets. If you’re visiting on a weekend, or during the summer, it’s a good idea to make reservations.
Here are some of the best places to grab a bite in Newport Beach.
Malibu Farm Lido
Looking for a decadent breakfast or brunch to start your day? Then head to the nearby Malibu Farm Lido. This farm-to-table restaurant opened its first location in Malibu, California, but it has been quickly adding locations throughout the U.S. The restaurant’s stylish indoor and outdoor spaces blend seamlessly. In fact, if you like any of the decor, you may be able to purchase it in the adjacent home goods store. All the breakfast items are tasty, but the Swedish pancakes with vanilla cream and berries are a standout.
The Beachcomber At Crystal Cove
There are few restaurants in Orange County that are literally located on the sand, but The Beachcomber is one of them. Located in the Crystal Cove Historic District, this restaurant is very popular with locals and visitors alike for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (if you’re coming for dinner, be sure to make reservations). All the food here is good, but the location and view steal the show. The best place to sit is on the large outdoor deck. When it’s chilly outside, The Beachcomber provides heaters and blankets.
Crystal Cove Shake Shack
On a cliff along the Pacific Coast Highway, just above The Beachcomber, is the Crystal Cove Shake Shack (not to be confused with the burger chain). This small, bright yellow building has been serving food to hungry travelers since the 1920s. This is the perfect place to stop for lunch during a weekend in Newport Beach. Serving typical diner food, the Shake Shack is famous for its date shakes. The parking lot is small and fills up quickly, so cars often queue waiting for something to open up.
Located on the water in Cannery Village, Bluewater Grill serves popular seafood dishes like crab cakes, steamed clams, and cioppino. Clam chowder lovers have a choice of white or red chowder -- or even better, a mixed bowl. This place may not be fancy, but it’s a local favorite for lunch and dinner. If the weather is nice, sit outside and watch the boats dock nearby.
Lido Bottle Works
A newcomer to Newport’s restaurant scene is Lido Bottle Works, and it’s quickly become a favorite. This small restaurant offering both inside and outside dining is located in Lido Marina Village. The menu features California cuisine with sustainable ingredients. This is an especially great choice for beer lovers, since Lido Bottle Works features at least a dozen beers on draft and about 50 options in cans and bottles!
Resort At Pelican Hill
For an unforgettable romantic dinner, make reservations at Pelican Grill or Andrea, both located in the five-star Resort at Pelican Hill. Weather permitting, request a table on the patio around sunset to take advantage of the Pacific Ocean views.
Pelican Grill describes itself as a modern American grill. Entrées include steak, fish, and other seafood. Andrea offers upscale Italian cuisine including made-from-scratch pastas. If time permits, stroll the grounds of this lovely property.
Shopping In Newport Beach
Newport Beach is well known for its luxury shopping. In fact, it’s packed with designer boutiques of all sizes. Whether you are looking for shoes, handbags, clothing, skincare products, or home decor, this is your city.
The first stop for fashionistas should be Fashion Island. This lushly landscaped shopping center features hundreds of designer boutiques, including Tahari, Lilly Pulitzer, Lululemon, and St. John. Fashion Island is also home to several top department stores like Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom, and Neiman Marcus. Be prepared for dogs joining their humans here, since Newport Beach is a dog-loving town.
When you get tired of shopping, pop in for a movie at The Lot, which offers small theaters with waiter service and reclining seats. Or, on the weekends, take advantage of the live music at Fashion Island.
Lido Marina Village
For a smaller-scale shopping experience, head to the recently renovated Lido Marina Village, where you can stroll through dozens of clothing, home goods, skincare, and gift boutiques. A highlight here is the small independent bookstore Lido Village Books, which sells both books and international magazines. The store’s staff is well read and happy to make recommendations.
Lido Marina Village boasts large and attractive outdoor areas great for relaxing with friends. Set along the marina, it’s also an ideal place to walk along the waterfront and admire the impressive yachts.
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