On a recent trip to attend a convention in Anaheim, I managed to carve out a 48-hour escape to neighbouring Newport Beach. What was intended as a quick beach stop surprised me with a sophisticated charm that turned out to be so much more than sand and surf. Newport Beach really took my SoCal experience to the next level.
Breakfast at Beachcomber
Nestled in the Crystal Cove Historic District between Newport Beach and Laguna Beach, this blast from the past is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But it’s most famous for fluffy beignets and hearty breakfasts. Come back in the evening for cocktails at the Bootlegger Bar or book a firepit package for S’mores to create your very own beach party.
Crystal Cove was originally part of the Irvine Ranch and owned by the Irvine family who allowed people to build small cottages on their property. Eventually the family decided to offer the occupants the chance to lease their cottages from The Irvine Company with the stipulation that no dimensional changes could be made to the structures. This ensures that the area is very much the same as it was in the 1920s. The entire area is now a California State Park and well worth exploring.
A bite of Southern California
Helene Henderson, chef and founder of Malibu Farm Lido, has brought her Malibu state of mind to several parts of the globe since opening the original Malibu restaurant. I was excited to try this location at the beginning of the pier at Lido Marina Village and it didn’t disappoint.
The perfect brunch spot, the food here is fresh, organic and local. Don’t miss the Newport Nachos, topped with Fresno chilli, pickled jalapeno and queso blanco. They pair perfectly with one of the house-crafted cocktails. You can appease your conscience knowing that despite the alcohol content, ingredients are all-natural. The Jalapeño is highly recommended, made with organic blanco tequila, jalapeño agave, fresh lime juice and kaffir lime sea salt. Afternoon bliss!
Island charm on Balboa Island
Take the short and frequent ferry from Newport Peninsula to Balboa Island to discover a one-of-a-kind spot perfect for an afternoon of laid-back exploring.
Stroll Marine Avenue for chic coastal baubles and nautical décor in the many shops. The island might be small but packs a real punch when it comes to diverse dining options. Make sure you save room for the island’s iconic dessert, the Frozen Banana. Although there are several spin-offs offered at various takeaway stands, the original tasty treat has been offered at Sugar and Spice for almost 75 years. Dipped in chocolate and covered in your choice of coatings ranging from nuts to cookie crumbs, it’s a truly unforgettable way to end a meal!
Dock and dine
Being the largest recreational harbour on the west coast, you definitely want to get on the water during your visit to Newport Beach.
Why not be the captain of your own vessel? A Duffy is a small electric boat that is as easy to drive as a golf cart. Whether it’s a romantic cruise on Newport Bay or a family outing, renting a Duffy is a great way to experience local life. Take a picnic with drinks or cruise the bay and then dine at one of the many restaurants offering a “tie-up and dine” option. Most boats accommodate 8-10 people comfortably and have a canopy top and full window enclosures. Be sure to bring your favourite tunes as the boats come with a full stereo hookup. There are several companies renting Duffy electric boats in the area.
Cruise Newport Beach’s local neighbourhoods on two wheels
By far one of the highlights of my visit to the area was a tour with Pedego Electric Bikes. This turned out to be a great way to experience the neighbourhoods of Newport Beach up close and personal.
You can rent bikes on your own and follow the breathtaking bike routes, or customize a tour lead by a local guide. Lori, our guide, gave us an insider look at Corona del Mar, Balboa Island and Newport Beach. The tour left us feeling as though we were out on a ride with an old friend.
Eclectic neighbourhoods, beautiful architecture and spectacular views made for fantastic photo ops. Pedego Touring on an electric bike allows you to pedal as much as you like. Get in some great exercise, or just coast by, soaking up the scenery.
Where to stay
Combine your quest for fashion finds with your need for luxurious hotel hospitality at Fashion Island Hotel. It’s conveniently located adjacent to Fashion Island, the premium coastal shopping destination.
The hotel features ocean, harbour and city views with 259 guestrooms, full service spa, fitness centre and resort-style pool. Be sure to check the calendar on their website for cool activities, from Fireside Happy Hour to $2 Taco Tuesdays. Even on cooler days, the firepits and outdoor jacuzzi make a great place for your morning coffee or an evening nightcap.
Although Newport Beach is filled with epic dining experiences, you don’t have to travel far for great food. Don’t miss dining at Oak Grille right on property. Executive chef Brittany Valles uses fresh, local ingredients for an enriching dining experience. The daily specials will be sure to wow you.
If you can, make time to pamper yourself at the property’s spa. Here you’ll find an extensive list of treatments including the state-of-the-art HydraFacial. While I was hesitant to try it at first, this non-invasive, non-surgical resurfacing treatment thoroughly cleanses the skin, boosts collagen and elastin, and reduces the signs of aging. I scheduled this for shortly after my arrival so I could feel rehydrated and youthful after a hectic travel day.
It’s also worth elevating your stay to the Island Club to enjoy a room on the 20th floor. You’ll also get access to the Island Club lounge with enhanced continental breakfast, afternoon snacks, evening appetizers and desserts. The best perk is probably a special “Wine Down” from 7 to 9 pm and several other upgraded amenities and services.
More to explore
Have an extra day or two to explore? Spend some time discovering a few of the other distinct neighbourhoods that make up the Newport Beach area.
Check out visitnewportbeach.com for a full calendar of events, festivals and activities to enhance your stay or help you plan the perfect itinerary no matter how long–or short–your visit.
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