Newport Beach Travel Guide

USA  #9 in Best California Beaches

Best Things To Do in Newport Beach

Newport Beach exudes class and elegance. This beachfront city is popular among yachters, sailors, anglers, surfers and anyone looking for a relaxed

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Newport Beach exudes class and elegance. This beachfront city is popular among yachters, sailors, anglers, surfers and anyone looking for a relaxed trip filled with sunshine. No trip to Newport Beach is complete without a whale watching trip – it's one of the best places for whale watching in the country. If you'd rather stay on land, head to Newport Harbor to admire the many beautiful boats that dock in the area. And, of course, the city offers access to many renowned beaches like Corona del Mar State Park, which is great for families, and The Wedge, which is popular among surfers for its massive waves. Newport Beach offers attractions for nature lovers, such as Crystal Cove State Park, which is a scenic place to hike. There are also shops, museums and restaurants galore. This city balances casual seaside living with sophisticated charm for an environment that's sure to please everyone you're traveling with.

How we rank Things to Do

Updated September 24, 2020

  • #1
    Things to do in Newport Beach
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    #1 in Newport Beach
    Beaches, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Corona Del Mar State Beach is one of the most popular shorelines in the city – and for good reason. Its calm surf makes it ideal for swimmers, and the half-mile-long stretch of sand means it's easy to find a spot to sunbathe. The beach is hugged by towering cliffs and provides a picture-perfect backdrop for a romantic date night or a family photo.

    Near the parking lots, you'll find many volleyball nets for public use. The beach offers public restrooms, outdoor showers and an array of picnic tables. There are also fire pits for public use during normal beach hours (from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m.) available on a first-come, first-served basis; you'll have to bring your own wood and fire starters, though.

  • #2
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    #2 in Newport Beach
    Beaches
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
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    Whether you're an avid surfer, or you simply want to relax on the beach and watch the daring wave runners and body surfers, The Wedge is the perfect place to spend your afternoon. It was created in the early 1900s when a jetty was built to protect the harbor, resulting in a beach area with large waves. Now, The Wedge has some of the largest waves in Southern California, measuring up to 30 feet. The drastic conditions attract some of the most skilled surfers in the country. Obviously, it's not a place for beginner swimmers or young children because of the strong riptides and currents, but if you stick to the safety of the sand, it's a great beach to enjoy.

    The beach is lined with massive homes for your admiration, and past visitors enjoyed watching the boats pulling in and out of the harbor. The Wedge also provides ideal views of the sunset and nearby Catalina Island.

  • #3
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    #3 in Newport Beach
    Tours
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
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    Tours
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
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    Newport Beach is one of the country's best whale watching destinations. All year round, whales migrate through this area of the ocean. In winter and early spring, you'll catch a glimpse of gray whales migrating south to give birth to their calves; they'll turn around and head north around April or May, so if you're on the water during this time you may spot some calves as well. In summer and fall, blue whales are often found swimming in the waters surrounding Newport. Some visitors have also seen humpback whales and minke whales in these Southern California waters. The occasional dolphin may visit your boat as well, especially if you book your whale watching excursion in July when the warm waters attract these friendly creatures. Simply put, the waters off Newport Beach are always alive with animals, so you're unlikely to return from a whale watching trip disappointed.

    There are many companies offering whale watching trips. Prices may vary by company, but you can expect to pay between $25 and $40. For example, traveler favorite Davey's Locker charges about $42 for an adult ticket and around $36 for tickets for children and seniors; you can opt for a VIP ticket, which allows you to sit with the captain, for around $57. All whale watching boats typically include a large observatory deck, as well as indoor amenities like restrooms and snack bars. Some companies, like the well-reviewed Newport Landing Whale Watching, offer limited capacity whale watching excursions, which are more expensive, but give you a more intimate experience on a smaller boat with a maximum of 15 passengers.

  • #4
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    #4 in Newport Beach
    Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    A small, man-made island connected to the Newport Beach mainland by bridge, Balboa Island is bursting with fun activities. Marine Avenue is the island's main hub for shopping and dining. Here, you'll find independently owned boutiques, shops and restaurants. This street is home to restaurants that serve up the island's two signature treats: the Balboa Bar, which is an ice cream bar rolled in candy, and the Frozen Banana, which is loaded with toppings. For the best of the best, sample these desserts at either Dad's Donut and Bakery Shop or Sugar 'N' Spice. If you're looking to get out on the water, there are plenty of places to rent paddleboards, kayaks, sailboats and an array of water sports equipment. Bicycle rental establishments are also popular, as cycling is a great way to get around the small (only 0.2 square miles) island.

    While you can drive to Balboa Island, many visitors suggest taking the ferry to avoid traffic and spend time on the water. Boarding the ferry on foot only costs $1.25 one-way for adults, and most ferries hold about 40 people. The ferries each hold about four vehicles, and it costs $2.25 one-way to board with a car. There is a sidewalk all around the island that makes walking from place to place a breeze, so you may want to consider leaving the car on the mainland. The ferry operates consistently between 6:30 a.m. and midnight every day, and a one-way ride takes about 10 minutes. It leaves from the port near Balboa Fun Zone and arrives at a public dock on the west side of Balboa Island. For more information on this destination, check out the tourism website.

  • #5
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    #5 in Newport Beach
    Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Life in Newport Beach centers around its expansive harbor, which nearly encircles Balboa Island. As you stroll along its banks, you'll be in awe of the many colorful sailboats and charter boats docked there. You'll pass many yacht clubs along the way as well. The naturally created harbor is a hub of rental activity, so if you're thinking of renting a boat for the day, it's the place to go. Sightseeing boats and excursions like sunset tours also leave from this area.

    Throughout the year, the harbor plays host to many marine events, including the Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race, which occurs annually in late April and draws hundreds of spectators from all over Southern California and beyond.

  • #6
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    #6 in Newport Beach
    Amusement Parks, Free, Recreation
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Amusement Parks, Free, Recreation
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    The Balboa Fun Zone lives up to its name. The small park is full of fun activities for children, and with views of the Pacific, adults are sure to enjoy their time as well. This boat yard-turned-amusement park has been in operation since the mid-1900s. Over time, more and more activities have been added, and nowadays there are enough features to keep you busy for hours.

    The main attraction is the Ferris wheel that overlooks the sea and provides panoramic views of the rest of the Balboa Peninsula and beyond. It costs $5 to ride, and children younger than 16 years old must be accompanied by an adult. The Ferris wheel is independently owned, so its operating hours differ from the rest of the park; it's open daily from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m.

  • #7
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    #7 in Newport Beach
    Parks and Gardens
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    This attraction offers much more than a dusty selection of books. The Sherman Library and Gardens was founded in 1966 by businessman Arnold D. Haskell, who wanted to promote education and cultural learning. The botanical garden showcases more than 100 species of plants. Not to mention, there is a rose garden, a succulent garden and a tea garden within the complex. The tea garden is home to a creperie serving a variety of crepes in an outdoor dining setting on the weekends. The main restaurant, Café Jardin, allows visitors to dine on French favorites while admiring the flowers. The entirety of the garden was constructed with ecological conservation in mind, and it helps preserve biodiversity in the region.

    Past visitors raved about the unique variety of flowers and succulents on display in the gardens, and said the colorful tile fountains scattered about bring a calming vibe to the area. Koi ponds and tiny hidden waterfalls also make for a peaceful day in the midst of the hustle and bustle of Newport Beach.

  • #8
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    #8 in Newport Beach
    Neighborhood/Area, Shopping
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Neighborhood/Area, Shopping
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    If you're in the western harbor area, consider a visit to Lido Marina Village. This upscale shopping and dining area is popular among visitors for its chic charm and sea views. Shopping options include everything from boutiques to vintage shops to accessory and jewelry stores. There are chains like Warby Parker alongside smaller niche stores like Charlie & Me, a pet supply store. There are also salons and fitness boutiques. Travelers rave about the cleanliness of this small but well-designed area, even going as far as to say there's a photo-op around every corner.

    Come hungry to Lido Marina Village, because there are plenty of fine dining options at your fingertips. Malibu Farm serves farm-to-table dishes, which travelers commend for being fresh; they also enjoy the restaurant's hip aesthetic. Zinqué and Lido Bottle Works offer tapas and extensive wine options. The famously upscale Nobu sushi chain has a location in Lido Marina Village as well.

  • #9 in Newport Beach
    Free, Shopping
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Free, Shopping
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Fashion Island is a shopper's paradise, featuring more than 100 brand name stores and independent boutiques. There are seemingly endless options, including large chain stores like Anthropologie, Bloomingdale's, Lily Pulitzer, Macy's, Neiman Marcus and so many more.

    In addition to being an alfresco shopping hub, Fashion Island also shelters a variety of casual and upscale dining options, a Whole Foods Market, a movie theater and a SoulCycle. Recent visitors described the complex as a stylish hub of activity with ample green spaces and areas to sit and relax. Parents said their children enjoy playing with the little games scattered around the area while they shopped. Many also appreciated that the area is dog-friendly, as are some restaurants in the complex.

  • #10
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    #10 in Newport Beach
    Golf
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Golf
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    This highly acclaimed golf course just south of Newport Beach is famous for its stunning vistas. It was designed by award-winning golf course architect Tom Fazio. The design, which consists of two 18-hole courses called Ocean North and Ocean South, accentuates the natural landscape of the Southern California coast and overlooks the water. Some standout features of the Ocean South course include a 13th hole with two greens, as well as three holes directly on the coastline.

    If you want to improve your game, you'll have the option to pay for lessons from a PGA professional at the on-site Golf Academy. You'll shell out $175 to $200 for an individual, 50-minute lesson. After you're done playing, relax at the Pelican Grill, which serves upscale California cuisine. If you don't want to golf but want to check out the greens and the views, this restaurant is the place to be. You can also visit the retail shop for golf gear or to simply purchase a souvenir.

  • View all Photos
    Free, Parks and Gardens, Hiking
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Free, Parks and Gardens, Hiking
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

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    Neighborhood/Area
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    Half Day to Full Day
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    Neighborhood/Area
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    Half Day to Full Day
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  • View all Photos
    Beaches
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches
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    Half Day to Full Day
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  • View all Photos
    Tours, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Tours, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

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