Before a railway started bringing beachgoers here in 1905, this stretch of coastline was dismissed as unusable. Today it’s one of the jewels of Orange County.
A magnet for water-sport enthusiasts, the waves here are busy with body boarders and surfers. The most famous spot at the eastern end of Balboa Peninsula is dubbed The Wedge due to its monstrous summer waves. The gentler waters of Newport Harbor are dotted with sailboats, paddleboards and kayaks. You can even rent a gondola for a romantic, guided harbor cruise. The waterway is also home to one of the largest recreational boat harbors on the U.S. West Coast. More than 9,000 boats are permanently docked in the 21-square-mile (54-square-kilometer) area.
One of Newport Beach’s iconic landmarks is the boardwalk, a waterfront path stretching for almost three miles (five kilometers). The path also runs alongside luxurious residences, some owned by celebrities. During the peak summer months, the boardwalk is an especially busy thoroughfare with scores of skateboarders, rollerbladers and cyclists. Keep your wits about you if you are out for a leisurely stroll.
Most of the tourist activity is around the waterfront. To shop where the affluent locals do, head five miles (eight kilometers) inland to Fashion Island. This outdoor shopping area, located in the central business district, covers 1.5 million square feet (139,355 square meters). It has 200 shops including department stores Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom. The lavishly landscaped area includes a 20,000-gallon (75,708-liter) koi pond, 40 restaurants and a movie theater complex.
For a bird’s-eye view of Newport Beach, hop on the old-fashioned Ferris wheel at Balboa Fun Zone. This is one of Southern California’s oldest coastal amusement parks, complete with bumper cars and a carousel. You’ll find it on the Balboa Peninsula of Newport Beach.
Newport Beach is located 10 miles (16km) south of downtown Santa Ana.