I wanted to start my destination blog posts off with somewhere that is very near and dear to my heart: Newport Beach, California. As I’ve mentioned before, I went to college in Orange County for two and a half years so this area has become a second home to me forever. Specifically, I worked in Newport Beach for over a year down the Balboa Peninsula, right along the beach so I know this area like the back of my hand and have many recommendations to give! Orange County has a stigma around it being “ritzy” and having bougie people, which isn’t totally wrong, but it is by far one of the most underrated parts of Southern California. When people think of Southern California, they imagine Los Angeles, Hollywood, or San Diego… but they are skipping over the true gem of Orange County. If we’re comparing beaches, Orange County has the best beaches by far verses big name cities like LA, San Diego, or even Santa Barbara. Newport Beach is beautiful, clean, safe, and there are many things to do for people of all ages, year-round, and has some delicious restaurants! Within this blog post, I am going to cover things to do both during the day and night, along with discussing the best restaurant recommendations.
- Go to the beach (duh): One of my favorite things to do was go to the beach all year long. Doesn’t matter if it’s cold and windy, the beach is beautiful and wide open. Just pack some blankets, wear your sweatpants, sweatshirts, beanies, and go put your toes in the sand! Aside from enjoying the sun, catching a tan, and swimming in the ocean; I often went to the beach just to decompress, think, and listen to the waves crash. If you’re uninterested in actually getting in the water or partaking in any beach activities, take some food to-go, bring a book or portable speaker and watch the beautiful sunsets. Also, there is a high chance that you will see dolphins here and/or whales if it’s specific time of year. So where do I recommend going to the beach? Well the locals may hate me for saying this, but if you’re looking to dodge the crowds, there’s a neighborhood along Pacific Coast Highway, that has beaches way less crowded (except Summer weekends or 4th of July, EVERYWHERE is packed). If you’re using maps to locate this beach, it is located across from Sunset Ridge Park, and has another park within it called West Newport Park. However, if you want close access to food and beach activities, if you go along the Balboa Peninsula, that’s the place to be.
- Beach Volleyball: Bring a ball and have a fun game with friends, families, or strangers. It doesn’t cost much, considering there are already nets available for you on the beach!
- Paddleboard, Surf, Boogie Board, Kayak: There are many companies that you can rent these resources from like Paddle Board Newport Beach, Pirate Coast Paddle Company, and Lido Paddle Sports.
- Rent Bikes: There are a couple companies along the Balboa Peninsula that give you the option to rent bikes so you can ride on the bike path along the beach, our throughout the beautiful houses located on the Peninsula. Example: Seaside Bike Rentals and 20th Street Beach and Bikes. Or if you don’t want to rent a bike, bring your roller skates, scooters, skateboards, and enjoy the ride!
- Balboa Fun Zone: This is a cute little arcade area along the water within the Balboa Peninsula. There are arcade games, carnival foods, a couple carnival rides, a ferris wheel, and more! Great for families or a date!
- Ferry to Balboa Island: Located within the Balboa Fun Zone, you can take a mini ferry across the water to Balboa Island that has more restaurants, shopping, beaches and homes. Not only can you sit on the mini ferry to locate Balboa Island, you can drive your car on the boat as well too (for a cheap fee)!
- Boat to Catalina Island: The Catalina Flyer boat is docked in the Balboa Peninsula that takes you all the way to Catalina Island. It is a beautiful island with fun activities to do and things to see! You can go for a day or take a trip there as they have many hotels.
- Rent a Duffy Boat: This is a fun thing to do with friends for a celebration or just nice weekend activity! It’s affordable if you split the money among your group. Bring food and drinks on the boat, and have fun!
- Shop along the beach: Like any place, there is the classic touristy shops along the water and beach. Personally, I love a good souvenir!
- Fashion Island: This is a high-end, outdoor mall with an incredible view. There are plenty of stores from affordable to expensive, along with delicious restaurants that have an ocean view.
- Dine: I get into restaurant recommendations down below!
- Beach Bonfire: Located by the Balboa Pier, there are plenty of bonfire pits available for you to have a nice cozy bonfire (for free)! This was one of my favorite things to do while living in Orange County so I 10/10 recommend doing this to anyone. Just buy some wood, bring some blankets, food, and enjoy your evening. The beach does close at 10 and those cops will chase you out (been there done that). Also, they may ticket you if they see you drinking alcohol (fair warning).
- Bars: If you are 21+ there are many fun bars to enjoy in Newport Beach. Obviously during Covid-19, times are different, but when things progressively go back to normal, I recommend enjoying a night out with your friends here. Baja Sharkeez, Woody’s Wharf, Malarky’s Irish Pub, and Stag Bar + Kitchen to just name a few!
- Balboa Fun Zone
- Ferry to Balboa Island
- Boat to Catalina Island
- Rent a Duffy Boat
- Shop along the beach
- Fashion Island
- Dine: I get into restaurant recommendations down below!
- Galley Café: There are two places in Newport Beach with similar names “Galley Café” and “My Galley Café”, I am talking about “Galley Café”. This restaurant is a super cute hole-in-the-wall, diner restaurant located within a Newport Beach neighborhood along a private marina.
- Cappy’s Café: This restaurant is right along Pacific Coast Highway with a huge menu for all of your breakfast needs!
- Seaside Donuts and Bakery: Located right by the Newport Beach Pier, this spot is perfect for some breakfast pastries or a late night snack after being out at the bars. The ham and cheese croissant is a MUST here!! After a night out, my friends and I would stroll in here, get the croissants, take our heels off and sit on the beach.
- Side Street Café: This restaurant is located in Costa Mesa, but a short drive from Newport Beach. It is a cute and quaint little restaurant with delicious meals.
- Banzai Bowls: If you’re into Acai Bowls, you will love Banzai Bowls. They offer a wide selection for a decent price! Definitely the perfect lunch for a beach day.
- Mama D’s Italian Kitchen: If you know me at all, you would know that Italian food is my favorite food and Mama D’s is my favorite restaurant! This is a family run business with all of your favorite Italian dishes. I don’t even have one meal to recommend because everything here is a 10/10. But aside from the delicious food, they have the best service. This is the type of restaurant that you will always see a line out of the door, but they come out and provider their guests with (yummy) bread, pasta samples, cookies, drinks, and blankets! Talk about hospitality…
- Great Mex Grill: This is a great little spot located throughout Orange County, but this specific location is right next to the beach, down the Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach, California. When I worked down there, this was my go-to spot for lunch during my breaks. It’s super yummy and affordable. I recommend the carne asada fries!
- Cruisers Pizza Bar & Grill: Another restaurant located down the Balboa Peninsula, close to the water. Honestly, everything on the menu is great! This is a great location for some classic American food. Click this link to check it out!
- Cabo Cantina: Located right next to the beach in the Balboa Peninsula, this is a fun sport for some drinks and tacos! If you want somewhere steps away from the beach, a fun atmosphere with food and drinks, then this is a good spot to hit up!