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Things To Do In Newport Beach This Summer
Last year Jason and I moved to Newport Beach and have spent every spare moment exploring our new home. Specifically, we moved to the Balboa Peninsula, a section of Newport that’s a hotspot for day trippers and tourists. While there are times we get tired of the crowds and noise, most of the time we have fun walking along the beach, riding our bikes along the boardwalk, and discovering new restaurants. And after seven months of enjoying this beach town, we definitely have plenty of tips and tricks to share with visitors. So I hope you’ll find our list of what to do in Newport Beach helpful.
Stroll The Pier
There are two piers on the peninsula; Newport and Balboa, about one and a half miles apart. We live across the street from Newport Pier, so it’s the one we stroll along most often, but either is a great destination. However, if you enjoy watching surfers, then head to the Newport Pier which borders one of Orange County’s best known surf locations, Blackies Beach. Most mornings there are dozens of surfers dressed in black wetsuits sitting on their boards patiently waiting for the perfect wave. Every so often someone catches a wave and rides it to shore.
Both piers are a great spot to watch a sunrise. Get up early, snag a spot on the pier facing south, and wait as the sun slowly paints the sky pink, purple, and orange.
Relax On The Beach
With eight miles of beaches in Newport you have plenty of options to choose from if you’re hoping to relax on the sand for the day. Where you choose depends on a few things. If you select a beach spot close to one of the piers, you’ll be close to restrooms, showers, restaurants, and rental shops. There are also larger parking lots surrounding the piers. These areas are definitely busier, but offer all the conveniences.
If you want something a bit quieter then venture further away from the piers. The Northern end of the peninsula--36th street and higher all the way to the border with Huntington Beach--is a nice option if you want to be around fewer people. If you’re meeting up with someone, use the numeric street name as a marker.
If you’ll be visiting with young children, consider a day at Mother’s Beach. This small beach faces the harbor making the water much calmer than the open ocean water on the other side of the peninsula. There’s plenty of restrooms nearby at the community center, a large, colorful playground, and picnic tables.
For a day on the beach I definitely recommend bringing towels, a large blanket, beach chairs and some type of shade like an umbrella or Easy-Up. Also consider bringing along some games--volleyball, spike ball, paddle ball, etc. And don’t forget the sunscreen. If I’m walking near the beach at the end of a sunny day I see plenty of sunburned people--not a great end to an otherwise fun time.
Rent A Bike
Bikes are practically a way of life in Newport, both for locals and visitors. Locals ride bikes for exercise and transportation while visitors enjoy them for sightseeing. No matter the reason, this is a bicycle friendly town.
There’s no shortage of bike rentals in Newport Beach, but it’s hard to beat the $5 an hour price of Newport Bike & Beach Rental. Located on 22nd Street, about a block off the sand, this place is a bit out of sight, and maybe that’s why they charge less than many other places.
However, if you’d prefer to rent an electric bike head to 20th Street Beach & Bikes. Electric bikes have exploded in popularity in Southern California this past year and they really are a fun way to enjoy the views with very little effort. Jason and I recently tried electric bikes for the first time and now we are planning to buy them!
Hop on your bike and roll along the boardwalk, a three mile stretch between E Street and 36th Street. If you want to go further, at 36th Street turn onto the street and follow the marked path to Huntington Beach. All routes are pretty flat, so the riding should be easy.
Be sure your bike rental includes a basket and a lock. You will definitely want the basket for storage, and if you opt to stop along the way be sure to lock up your bike.
Go Kayaking In Newport Beach
Newport Harbor is the largest recreational harbor on the West Coast, and one of the best ways to explore it is on a kayak. Paddle your way among the thousands of moored boats or float by the oceanfront mansions. The water is mostly flat, so the paddling is pretty easy and relaxing. (Most rental companies in the area will discourage kayakers from heading into open ocean waters.)
Jason and I rent kayaks through the city of Newport Beach at Marina Park because it’s very close to our home. The cost is $20 an hour for either single or tandem. If you live nearby-- or plan to kayak multiple times while visiting--consider purchasing their discounted punch cards. Another option is Harbor Kayak which charges $15 an hour.
Ride The Balboa Trolley
Each summer Newport Beach launches the Balboa Trolley, a free and easy way to explore the most popular parts of the city. It's a great way to park your car once, but move about the area to explore new beaches, restaurants, parks, and even the Balboa Fun Zone. There are twenty-two stops along the trolley's route with most being on the peninsula.
Jason and I recently rode the trolley and loved it. We hopped on near our home and got off at Balboa Pier. Then we crossed the street to the Fun Zone and grabbed a bite to eat. It is estimated that a trolley will be at each stop every 15 minutes; however, service may be delayed during periods of heavy traffic. Feel free to bring all your beach gear on board.
Pro-tip: Stop one for the trolley is at Avon Street Parking Lot. This is the only place where you can get free parking. Download the Park Mobile app and set up your profile (vehicle make, model and license plate). When you board the trolley, enter the code "TROLLEY22" to receive free parking.
Watch The Sunset On A Duffy Boat
A Duffy is a small electric boat that typically seats eight or twelve passengers. No experience is needed and learning to operate the boat will take about five minutes. These boats are a great way to explore the harbor with your loved one. Pack a picnic dinner and a bottle of champagne and head out on the water to watch the sun set. Jason and I did this for Valentine’s Day this past year and it was quite romantic.
The cost of Duffy boat rentals varies. Stated prices range from $170-$230 for two hours through businesses like Voyagers Rentals. But there are good deals to be had through discount sites like Groupon. I recommend Googling, “discounts on Newport Beach Duffy boat rentals”, prior to your trip. The availability of specials will be more prevalent outside of the summer season.
A Duffy boat is also a fun way to celebrate a special occasion with a small group of people. We’ve celebrated birthdays this way or hosted out of town guests wanting a quintessential Newport Beach experience.
Explore Balboa Island
Jason and I have rediscovered Balboa Island since moving to Newport Beach. This tiny man-made island located in the middle of Newport Harbor is home to the charming Marine Ave. lined with boutique shops, good restaurants, and even a museum.
My favorite part of the island is taking the ferry to get there. From Balboa Peninsula the ferry whisks cars, bikes, and pedestrians across the harbor to the island in about ten minutes. On weekends the line for cars to load onto the ferry can be very long, so we prefer to ride our bikes. Once on the island we ride our bikes through the alleyway to Marine Ave.
Watch The Waves At The Wedge
Drive or bike to the very tip of Balboa Peninsula and you’ll be rewarded with some of the craziest waves in Southern California. The Wedge was created in 1916 when the Army Corps of Engineers built a jetty to provide a safer entrance to Newport Harbor. The result is a section of water famous for waves that can reach 30 feet. The best bodysurfers, bodyboarders, and skimboarders are attracted to this unique area so grab a seat on the sand and enjoy the free entertainment. Better yet, pack a picnic and make it dinner and a show.
What To Know Before Visiting Newport Beach
Beach destinations are always fun, but a little preparation can make your visit even more enjoyable.
First, parking is limited. If you’re coming on a weekend, get here early to snag a spot. The city provides both free and paid parking spaces, so just be sure you’re clear which one you’ve chosen. If visiting on a weekday, observe the signs detailing street cleaning days. This city takes parking enforcement very seriously and tickets are $60 each. There are also private lots, but they can be very expensive.
Newport Beach can be an expensive destination. If you’re visiting for the day, and on a budget, pack your own food. Even if you’re road tripping, pack a cooler of beverages and snacks to keep the food costs reasonable. Fortunately there are plenty of free and low cost activities to keep you busy. For budget accommodations head inland. Anything with an ocean view will be pricey.
Pack some warm clothing like a light jacket and sweatpants. Mornings and evenings can be cool and damp, even in the summer. While inland temperatures soar, coastal weather is typically much cooler, sometimes twenty to thirty degrees cooler.