Featuring an array of stunning beaches, nature preserves, a choice of activities and romantic restaurants, Newport Beach is a fun weekend destination. Take in the scenery at Corona del Mar State Beach, go for a walk along the Newport Pier, visit the Orange County Museum of Art and enjoy the beautiful Sherman Library and Gardens. Here are the best things to do in Newport Beach, California.
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The Balboa Peninsula is a neighborhood in Newport Beach named after the famous Spanish explorer, Vasco Nunez de Balboa. Sometimes referred to as “the Peninsula” or as “Balboa,” it is a residential neighborhood with many attractions and events. The three mile stretch of land is bordered on one side by the harbor and on the other side by sandy beaches and the Pacific Ocean.
The Balboa Pavilion dates from 1906: it’s the peninsula’s most well-known landmark, the oldest standing building, and a marine recreational facility. Other attractions include the Balboa Fun Zone, the Balboa Pier and Newport Pier, and the Dory Fishing Fleet. The Balboa Peninsula is of the top Newport Beach CA attractions. There are many bars and restaurants with great nightlife.
2.Corona Del Mar State Beach
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Corona del Mar State Beach is a state park and beach that is operated by the city of Newport Beach. Spanish for the Crown of the Sea, Corona del Mar was established as a state park in 1947 and is sometimes referred to as Big Corona Beach.
Covering 30 acres, it is a half-mile long protected sandy beach and is popular with families and swimmers. There are cliffs above the beach and a rock jetty that is the entrance to Newport Harbor. Other activities include scuba diving, sunbathing, surfing, and beach volleyball. Corona Del Mar State Beach is one of the best things to do in Newport Beach, California. Scenes from several movies and television shows were filmed on this beach.
3.Newport Pier, Newport Beach, California
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The Newport Pier is a 1,032 feet (314.6 meter) long municipal pier located on McFadden Place at the center of the Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach.
Completed in 1888, it was originally called McFadden Wharf named after local landowners, James and Robert McFadden. It was used for shipping but when it was sold in 1902, the new owner began to change the area for recreational and residential purposes. The old pier was destroyed by a hurricane in 1939 and the new and current pier was built in 1940 on the same site. If you are wondering what to do in Newport Beach with kids, this is a great place to visit.
Today, it is a popular place for dining, fishing, and walking. Founded in 1891, the Dory Fishing Fleet is located at the base of the pier.
4. Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, CA
© Orange County Museum of Art
The Orange County Museum of Art focuses on the art of California from the early 20th century to the present and is one of the top Newport Beach attractions. The collection contains more than 3,000 objects including paintings, photography, and sculptures. The museum also features new art media including digital, installation, and video art. The Orange County Museum of Art is one of the best things to do in Newport Beach, California for art lovers.
Exhibitions of contemporary art are regularly mounted at the museum and it hosts many events including lectures and activities for children. The museum is well-known for its education outreach programs including a film series called Cinema Orange, Free Second Sundays, School Tours for children, Studio Sundays, Third Thursdays lectures, and more. Things to do in Orange County
850 San Clemente Drive, Newport Beach, California, Phone: 949-759-1122
5.Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
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Known by locals as “The Back Bay,” Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserves is a large coastal wetland or estuary. Consisting of approximately 1,000 acres, it is one of the largest coastal wetland areas in southern California.
The preserve is a popular place for bird watching because it is an important stopover for some 35,000 birds that are traveling on the Pacific Flyway, the major north-south migration path that extends from Alaska to Patagonia.
In addition to bird watching, other popular activities include biking, hiking, and horseback riding. The park also features the Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center which is a great place to visit with kids.
2301 University Drive, Newport Beach, California, Phone: 949-923-2290
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Newport Beach is a five mile long municipal beach located on Balboa Boulevard at Oceanfront & 21st Street and is owned by the city of Newport Beach. It lies on both sides of the Newport Beach Pier and it extends from the Balboa Pier Beach on the south as far north as West Newport Park.
The beach consists of fine soft sand which makes it a popular place for sunbathers. Water activities include boating, fishing, surfing, and swimming; non-water activities include biking, skating, volleyball, and walking. There is a paved trail called the Newport-Balboa Bike Trail that runs behind the beach for several miles.
Next read: Weekend Getaways in California
7. Balboa Island
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Balboa Island is a manmade island that is located between the Balboa Peninsula and the mainland of Newport Beach. The island started as a mudflat surrounded by swamps.
Dredging of the bay began in the early 1900s and the sand and silt that was brought up from the floor of the bay was deposited at a place that would eventually become Balboa Island. If you are wondering what to see in Newport Beach, Balboa Island is a great place to visit. The island is connected to the mainland by a bridge on the northeast and the Balboa Island Ferry runs between the island and the Balboa Peninsula which lies to the south.
Although the island is mostly residential, visitors enjoy walking along Marine Avenue and Agate Avenue, the main commercial streets.
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The Balboa Village is a historic amusement area on the Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach. The village is made up of a bayside boardwalk called Bayfront Boardwalk and a second boardwalk called the Ocean Boardwalk on the other side of the peninsula.
The boardwalks are popular places to stroll and to take in the sights: they are lined with activities, restaurants, and shops. Nearby are the yachts of Newport Harbor and the Balboa Pier.
Shops include art galleries, boutiques, and specialty shops, while restaurants range from Italian to Japanese. There are ocean activities as well as amusement park rides.
600 East Bay Avenue, Newport Beach, California, Phone: 949-675-8915
9. Environmental Nature Center, Newport Beach, CA
© Environmental Nature Center
The Environmental Nature Center is a group of 15 California native plant environments. Founded in 1972, the 3.5 acre center features walking trails, wildlife habitats, and plant ecosystems such as desert, fresh water march, oak woodland, redwood forest, and many more.
Nicknamed “The ENC,” the center is known for its strong focus on eduction. Some of the features and programs of the center include a butterfly habitat, summer nature camps, school programs, and a Nature Museum that gives children the opportunity to explore and touch things that come from nature. The center can be rented for meetings, parties, and weddings.
1601 East 16th Street, Newport Beach, California, Phone: 949-645-8489
10.Balboa Fun Zone
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The Balboa Fun Zone is a family destination located on East Bay Avenue on the Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach. Built in 1936 by Al Anderson, the attraction began with a small beach and a Ferris Wheel. The area was rebuilt in 1986 but went into decline until a new owner began reviving the Fun Zone in 1994.
Today the area includes Balboa Village with its beach, boardwalks, hotel, restaurants and shops. Amusement rides include an 18 foot tall bungee ride called Ocean Motion, the Ferris Wheel, Fish Pipe, Burt the Bull Shark, and many others. Other attractions include the historic 1905 Balboa Pavilion, arcades, harbor cruises, and more.
600 East Bay Avenue, Newport Beach, California, Phone: 949-673-0408
11.Peter & Mary Muth Interpretive Center
© Peter & Mary Muth Interpretive Center
Located on University Drive in Newport Beach, the Peter & Mary Muth Interpretive Center serves as a visitor center to the Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve and Nature Preserve.
Opened in 2000, the large 10,000 square foot education facility focuses on estuary history and interactive displays. Visitors are introduced to the estuary at the center so they have a better understanding of what they are seeing as they take guided walking tours or water tours.
Built into a bluff on the north side of the bay, the center features a butterfly garden, children’s activity rooms, a movie theater, and much more. There are live amphibian and reptile displays in the classrooms.
2301 University Drive, Newport Beach, California, Phone: 949-923-2290
12.Sherman Library and Gardens, Newport Beach, CA
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The Sherman Library and Gardens are public botanical gardens located in Corona Del Mar. Covering an area of 2.2 acres, the garden was established in 1955 when Arnold D. Haskell bought a plant nursery property. Mr. Haskell named the library and garden after his mentor, M.H. Sherman.
The garden features conservatories, fountains, patios, seasonal flower beds, and more. One of the conservatories houses tropical plants including gingers, heliconias, and orchids.
Some of the gardens include the Cactus and Succulent Garden, the Fern Grotto, the Herb Garden, the Japanese Garden, and the Rose Garden. The library contains materials related to the history of the Pacific Southwest.
2647 East Coast Highway, Corona Del Mar, CA 92625, 949-673-2261
13.Fashion Island, Newport Beach, California
© Fashion Island
Fashion Island is an open-air shopping destination with views of the Pacific Ocean. Opened in 1967, the luxury shopping center features more than 150 department stores and boutique shops as well as a large variety of eateries.
Some of the well-known department stores include Bloomingdales, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and others. The dining options range from artisan burger houses, to Japanese sushi, pizza shops and other Italian restaurants like Cucina Enoteca, and many small quick-serve eateries.
There is also a Whole Foods grocery store at the center and a movie theater. The center hosts events throughout the year.
401 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach, California, Phone: 855-658-8527
14. The Spa at Pelican Hill
© The Spa at Pelican Hill
The Spa at Pelican Hill at the Resort at Pelican Hill features 22 treatments rooms, a boutique, fitness center, and relaxation lounges.
Some of the options include day packages, personal training, spa cuisine, and wellness classes. The spa’s Acqua Colonnades have saltwater soaking tubs, herbal steam rooms, and saunas. Treatments include advanced aesthetics, body therapy, massage therapy, and more.
The spa offers skin care treatments such as facials and peels, and massage therapies include deep tissue, reflexology, and terra stone, as well as scalp massages and foot massages. The spa also offers a wide variety of packages.
22701 South Pelican Hill Road, Newport Beach, California, Phone: 855-315-8214
15. Gondola Adventures, Newport Beach, California
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Gondola Adventures offers a romantic cruise along the Newport Harbor in an original Venetian gondola. Your excursion can even feature a singing gondolier, if you wish.
Watch the sunset, have a glass of champagne and a picnic lunch or dinner, exchange a few kisses, and enjoy the pure romance of this unique cruise. If you are looking for date night ideas in Newport Beach, this is a great romantic activity. There are specially decorated wedding gondolas that are beautifully carved and ornate if you want to pop the question or tie the knot in a unique setting.
There are gondolas with a canopy for privacy, shade, or protection from rain. And there are also gondolas with a motor to get you a bit farther along the harbor.
200 N Bayside Dr, Newport Beach, CA 92660, Phone: 949-646-2067
16.Pirate Coast Paddle Company
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Standing on a paddleboard feels almost like walking on water, and it is surprisingly stable and easy – you can go as fast or as slow as you wish. Pirate Coast Paddle Company offers to teach you to do it safely, or you can rent one of their high quality paddleboards if you are already experienced and hooked on this fun sport.
Their lessons are about one hour long and cover the basics and are suitable for all ages and fitness levels. They also organize five-day kids camps, helping kids to become completely comfortable with paddleboards and learn a bit about marine life, safety, and navigation.
You can also book one of their adventures, from paddling out on open water, doing paddle yoga, or partaking in a range of other fun activities. All their guides are highly experienced athletes, outdoorsmen, and coaches who make everyone feel safe and comfortable.
1131 Back Bay Dr., Newport Beach, California, Phone: 949-278-0011
17.Newport Landing Whale Watching
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Whales are majestic, awe-inspiring creatures that are impossible to describe until you see them close up. Newport Beach is ideally located for year-round whale watching trips. Newport Landing Whale Watching Company offers daily trips that are almost sure to put you in close proximity to the largest mammals on Earth, a fun activity for the whole family.
From December to April during the Grey Whale migration period, hundreds of Grey Whales swim along the Laguna Beach coastline, which is just minutes from Newport Harbor. As the current brings warmer water from May to November, it also brings enormous blue whales, killer whales, finback whales, large pods of dolphins, seals, sharks, and many other marine animals attracted by warm waters and the plentitude of food.
Standard tours take about two and half hours, but it is possible to charter a private tour and spend as much time as you wish. It is an unforgettable experience. (949-675-0551)
18.Newport Beach Brewing Co.
© Newport Beach Brewing Co.
Newport Beach Brewing Company was created in 1995 and is located in the historic Cannery Village in the old Delaney’s Seafood Market building on the Balboa Peninsula. Their award-winning beers are brewed using the Bavarian Purity Law of 1516, known as “Reinheitsgebot.”
According to this law, beer may contain only three ingredients: hops, barley, and water. Check out what is on tap in their popular Restaurant and Bar and taste the difference. Their great pub grub consists of everyone’s favorite pizzas, sandwiches, pastas, and excellent salads.
The place is hopping on game nights thanks to their 101 huge HD TVs located all around the room.
2920 Newport Blvd., Newport Beach, California, Phone: 949-675-8449
19.The Wedge, Newport Beach, California
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The Wedge is an area known for its shore-breaking waves located at the east end of the Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach. When the ocean swell is coming from the south or southwest, waves can be as high as 30 feet (9.1 meters).
It is a popular spot for bodyboarding, bodysurfing, skim boarding, and surfing. It is also a popular place for visitors to see and photograph the waves and watch the action.
The waves at the Wedge are created by the improvements that were made to the rock jetty on the west side of the entrance to the Newport Harbor in the 1930s.
20.Balboa Island Ferry
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Balboa Island Ferry is a ferry service that runs between Balboa Island and the Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach. The distance is only 1,000 feet whereas traveling between the island and the peninsula by vehicle increases the distance to six miles.
This is why many visitors choose the ferry which is also more scenic and fun. Joseph Beek, a college student, began running a ferry service between Balboa Island and the Balboa Peninsula as early as 1919. Three of Beek’s sons still run the ferry service now called the Balboa Island Ferry: the business has been in the same family for nearly 100 years.
410 South Bay Front, Newport Beach, California, Phone: 949-673-1070
21.Little Corona Beach
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Located at the corner of Ocean Boulevard and Poppy Avenue in Newport Beach, Little Corona Beach sits at the bottom of a cliff and is a fun place to visit with kids on a family vacation. At the top of the cliff, there are stunning views of the ocean, Big Corona Beach, Inspiration Point Park, the Newport Harbor, and Catalina Island.
The path down to the beach is an easy path that does not involve steps: this means that divers and picnickers can wheel equipment down to the beach. The beach is small and protected: this makes it popular with families with children. There are rocky reefs on either side of the beach that make it a popular place for divers.
22.Newport Beach Vineyards and Winery
© Newport Beach Vineyards and Winery
Founded in 1998, Newport Beach Vineyards and Winery is situated in the Upper Newport Bay area and consist of more than 1,200 vines which cover a third of the property.
The vineyards produce five tons of red wine grapes during the annual September harvest. The winery produces several kinds of wine using traditional Bordeaux red wine grapes: these wines include Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Meritage, and Petit Verdot.
The winery conducts tours and tastings for groups of at least eight people: tastings last for about two hours. Tastings include a single varietal tasting and an estate and Meritage tasting.
2128 Mesa Drive, Newport Beach, California, Phone: 949-630-8662
25 Best Things to Do in Newport Beach, California
- Balboa Peninsula, Photo: Courtesy of lunamarina - Fotolia.com
- Corona Del Mar State Beach, Photo: Courtesy of rouda 100 - Fotolia.com
- Newport Pier, Newport Beach, California, Photo: Courtesy of kgrif - Fotolia.com
- Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, CA, Photo: Orange County Museum of Art
- Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve, Photo: Courtesy of steffstarr - Fotolia.com
- Newport Beach, Photo: Courtesy of matchamochi - Fotolia.com
- Balboa Island, Photo: Courtesy of Gabriele Maltinti - Fotolia.com
- Balboa Village, Photo: Courtesy of Byron Moore - Fotolia.com
- Environmental Nature Center, Newport Beach, CA, Photo: Environmental Nature Center
- Balboa Fun Zone, Photo: Courtesy of thestroms - Fotolia.com
- Peter & Mary Muth Interpretive Center, Photo: Peter & Mary Muth Interpretive Center
- Sherman Library and Gardens, Newport Beach, CA, Photo: Courtesy of lily - Fotolia.com
- Fashion Island, Newport Beach, California, Photo: Fashion Island
- The Spa at Pelican Hill, Photo: The Spa at Pelican Hill
- Gondola Adventures, Newport Beach, California, Photo: Courtesy of jonbilous - Fotolia.com
- Pirate Coast Paddle Company, Photo: Courtesy of serguastock - Fotolia.com
- Newport Landing Whale Watching, Photo: Courtesy of gudkovandrey - Fotolia.com
- Newport Beach Brewing Co., Photo: Newport Beach Brewing Co.
- The Wedge, Newport Beach, California, Photo: Courtesy of Joshua Rainey - Fotolia.com
- Balboa Island Ferry, Photo: Courtesy of shabbiraz - Fotolia.com
- Little Corona Beach, Photo: Courtesy of Kit Leong - Fotolia.com
- Newport Beach Vineyards and Winery, Photo: Newport Beach Vineyards and Winery
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of DavidArts - Fotolia.com