RedWeek Travel Guide: California’s Newport Coast

published on July 27, 2021 by

Known as the “Pacific Riviera,” Orange County’s sunny Newport Coast is one of California’s most upscale enclaves. How so? Well, you are as likely to see an Astor Martin dealership at the shopping centers as you are a Starbucks, for one, and a recent survey concluded that it was the most expensive place to buy a home in America. However, don’t think you have to be one of the jet set to enjoy the Newport Coast. RedWeek’s low, by-owner resort prices make it a perfect southern California vacation option for the budget traveler. Register with us now!

The Best Things to Do on the Newport Coast

Why do so many people want to be on the Newport Coast? The pristine outdoors, for one, which beckons to lovers of eco-adventure, world-class golf, and compelling surfside landscapes. 

Crystal Cove State Park  

One of the natural gems of Orange County, Crystal Cove State Park offers outdoor adventurers 3.2 miles of pristine coastline to explore, along with 2,400 acres of backcountry trails. Located just off Pacific Coast Highway between Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach, the Park is famed for its tidepools, where teeming marine life is on full display during low tide. (When is low tide? Check out the NOAA’s tidal chart for the area.) You’ll also want to visit Crystal Cove’s Historic District, a charming slice of California heritage, with 46 rustic coastal cottages built in the 1930s & ‘40s. 

Upper Newport Bay Beach

Outdoor lovers gravitate towards Upper Newport Bay Nature Reserve, one of Southern California’s largest coastal wetlands. The Reserve’s 752 acres are beloved by birders. Here, you might spot such rare species as the Peregrine Falcon (the fastest animal on earth!) and California Least Tern. Winter migration season is your best bet: up to 35,000 birds call Newport Bay home during this time of year. To dig in deeper to this unique ecosystem, visit the 10,000-square-foot Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center, which features interactive exhibits and displays, not to mention spectacular views of the coastline. 

Balboa Island

Take a scenic ferry ride out to Balboa Island. A unique manmade treasure, this quaint community has been a classic tourist attraction for more than 75 years. Balboa Island is packed with chic coastal shops and seafood-centric dining, as well as the Balboa Fun Zone, featuring an iconic Ferris wheel, throwback arcade games, and a cool nautical museum. And for dessert, indulge in a Balboa Island original: the Frozen Banana, which was invented by Sugar ‘n’ Spice back in the 1940s. (Yes, Arrested Development fans, much of the hit show was filmed out here.)

Pelican Hill Golf Course

Golf lovers have plenty of options when it comes to courses in California. But Pelican Hill Golf Course on the Newport Coast ranks up there with the very best of them. Named the No. 1 Golf Resort in the World by Condé Nast Traveler, Pelican Hill’s Pacific Ocean-adjacent location is certainly beautiful. But it’s the 36-hole championship course designed by renowned architect Tom Fazio that steals the show, with diverse terrain, challenging shots, and holes that perfectly complement the natural landscape. 

Whale Watching

Take to the water to get up-close-and-personal with finback whales, gray whales and giant blue whales, the largest animals in recorded history. The Newport Coast is a whale watching hotspot year-round, but December through April offer the most bang for your buck. During those months, you’ll be able to witness the annual gray whale migration, when hundreds of these majestic mammals cruise right past the Laguna Beach coastline. Meanwhile, the annual Giant Blue Whale Migration brings hundreds of blue whales each spring and summer. There are several local outfitters who can take you on the whale watching excursion of your lifetime — Newport Landing Whale Watching comes highly recommended, with several trips daily. 

Shopping on the Newport Coast

Make time for a little retail therapy during your Newport Coast vacation, including both ultra-luxe options and wallet-friendly deals. 

Crystal Cove Shopping Center

The views are dazzling; the shopping is even better. The luxury-driven Crystal Cove Shopping Center complements your shopping spree at such spots as Levik’s Jewelers by the Cove and Aston Martin with plenty of Pacific Ocean panoramas. Good to know: Crystal Cove is also home to Trader Joe’s, in case you need to pick up some supplies for your timeshare resort kitchen. 

Fashion Island

The big names are here: Kate Spade, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s, Jonathan Adler, and many more. Fashion Island, located right in the heart of Newport Beach, is an idyllic spot for an al fresco shopping spree, with swaying palm trees, views of the coastline — and plenty of high-end retail options, of course. You’ll also have more than 30 restaurants to choose from, including True Food Kitchen (healthy, chef-driven, seasonal food and drink), Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar and Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine. 

Corona Del Mar

The stylishly retro Corona Del Mar neighborhood is worth a visit for its wide array of upscale consignment boutiques. They’re a closely guarded Newport Coast secret, allowing shoppers in the know to snag lightly used brand name clothing and accessories for seriously reduced prices. Deal hunters – do not skip Corona Del Mar! 

Where to Eat on the Newport Coast

Here, the views are as good as the eats, with something for all tastes. 

Lighthouse Bayview Café

You can’t visit the Newport Coast without enjoying a little waterfront dining. Lighthouse Bayview Café, located in Marina Park on the Balboa Peninsula, gives you a privileged spot to soak in the sights of Newport Harbor. The food and drink is terrific all day long, but the Café is well-loved for its Mimosa Brunch (8am-4pm daily), offering such tasty treats as cinnamon sugar beignets, lemon blueberry ricotta pancakes, and avocado toast. 

Lighthouse Bayview Café Menu

Helmsman Ale House

Ask any craft beer aficionado for Newport Coast recommendations and they’ll send you straight to Helmsman Ale House. The only craft brewery in Newport Beach, its roster of handcrafted beers includes hazy IPAs, saisons, sour offerings, and much more. Can’t decide what to order? Get a sampler flight. Not a beer fan? They’ve got great craft cocktails, too. The Helmsman is also a full-service restaurant, featuring a menu filled with perfectly prepared comfort food. Don’t miss out on the indulgent Helmsman Mac, made with three cheeses, BBQ fried chicken, bacon, jalapeño, breadcrumbs, and crispy onions. 

Helmsman Ale House Menu

The Peninsula Lounge

Naturally, seafood is big on the Newport Coast, with fresh catches coming in from local fishing boats daily. The Peninsula Lounge is one of the destination’s best spots to take advantage of this sea-to-table bounty. Located right on the bay, the only thing that matches the oysters, agave shrimp, diver scallops and more is the golden California sunset that’ll accompany your meal. 

Peninsula Lounge Menu

Arc Butcher & Baker

Head over to Newport Beach’s historic Cannery District for some simple sophistication at Arc Butcher & Baker. The focus here is on local ingredients and classic recipes, ranging from tomato and burrata salads to short rib pizzas to chili relleños. The restaurant also features an extensive wine and craft beer list, emphasizing California offerings. With easy takeout options, Arc is also a great place to grab provisions for a Newport Coast picnic. 

Arc Butcher & Baker Menu

Where To Stay

Marriott’s Newport Coast Villas

Perched atop a cliff overlooking the Pacific and Laguna Beach, Marriott’s Newport Coast Villas feature spacious, two-bedroom, two-bathroom villas, each with a private furnished balcony — the perfect spot to watch those glorious California sunsets. Hone your golf game at the on-site putting green and cool off in one of three outdoor pools. Grab a bite to eat and/or a cocktail at the La Vista Pool Bar & Grill, boasting a relaxing outdoor patio. And of course, the beach is always just moments away. 

Start planning your Newport Coast timeshare resort vacation now.

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