They may all have sun, sea and sand, but California’s beach towns also have their own distinct personalities. In Newport Beach, located south of Los Angeles in Orange County, you’ll find a luxurious vibe, highlighted by its artificial islands, pretty streets lined with high-end homes, loads of unique places to eat and shop, and plenty of fancy boats cruising one of the largest recreational harbours in the United States.
Explore Newport Beach’s harbour on a Duffy boat. A number of places will rent these motorized vessels—think golf cart on water—by the hour or day. You don’t need a boating licence to operate one, but you will want to bring a map to help you navigate around the many islands.
Dock at a public landing on Balboa Island and take a walk along Marine Avenue. Check out the boutiques and visit one, or both, of the island’s legendary banana stands. Board Balboa Island Ferry for a quick ride to explore the beach and local amusement park in Balboa Peninsula.
Dine with the locals at one of Newport’s habourfront restaurants. At The Cannery, diners can pull their Duffy up to the restaurant’s 220-foot dock, order their meal and enjoy Ahi Tuna Tartar Tacos and other seafood delights right in their boat. You can also go a little more formal by snagging a spot on the restaurant’s all-weather patio.
Start your day with a gourmet fried egg sandwich served with arugula and havarti at Malibu Farm in Lido Marina Village, a chic collection of eateries and boutiques right on the harbour. After brunch, pop into stores such as Broken English for new and vintage jewelry, Sweaty Betty for workout wear or Clare V. for French-inspired accessories.
Rent a bike and follow your guide from Pedego Electric Bikes on a ride around town. You’ll enjoy stunning views of the Pacific Ocean as you cruise around the marina—you can also admire the gorgeous mansions tucked away on Newport’s hilly streets.
For dinner, head to A Restaurant. When this beloved 1920s-era diner was threatened with closure, a few locals banded together to buy it and turned it into a steak house. There’s more than beef on the menu, and you’ll want to order a side of the decadent mac ’n’ cheese made with raclette and parmesan cheeses.
Drive along the harbour to Upper Newport Bay’s nature preserve and ecological reserve. Once there, rent a paddleboard, jump in a kayak or hit the hiking trails. Keep your eyes peeled for one of the many endangered and threatened bird species that make their home in the bay.
Head about 20 minutes south, and travel back to the 1920s, at Crystal Cove State Park. Vintage beach cottages have been preserved as popular holiday rentals. One cottage is now The Beachcomber at Crystal Cove eatery, where every afternoon they mark happy hour by raising a flag with a martini glass design to the sound of Reveille played on a bugle.
Unwind at The Lot at Fashion Island, an open-air shopping complex in the centre of Newport Beach. The Lot is a café, bar, restaurant and theatre hybrid where you can enjoy a full dinner and watch a new-release movie, all from a comfy leather seat.