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Ways to While Away the Hours in Newport Beach

Newport Beach, a stunning coastal city renowned for its thunderous waves and iconic pier, beckons millions of visitors each year. This California beach town is more than just its famous Newport Beach Pier; it's a treasure trove of diverse attractions. From the majestic humpback whales to the enchanting performances of Shakespeare, Newport Beach offers an eclectic mix of activities that encourage visitors to immerse themselves fully in the artful vibrancy of this seaside haven. The city's unique blend of natural beauty and cultural richness makes it an ideal destination for travelers seeking a multifaceted coastal experience.

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01 Watch the whales

coin operated telescope at Newport Beach Pier kanonsky/ Getty Images

Embarking on a whale-watching adventure in Newport Beach can be a game of luck and timing. Often, the first glimpse of these majestic creatures isn't their fins or tails but rather their spouts, playfully reaching towards the sky in the golden afternoon sun. With patience and a good pair of binoculars, you're likely to witness the full splendor of these magnificent mammals, from their noses to their flukes, and perhaps even the sleek glint of a shark's fin in the distance. This experience offers a unique opportunity to connect with nature and witness the awe-inspiring marine life that inhabits the Pacific Ocean.

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02 Try a cruise

Newport Beach's culinary scene, as expected from a seaside town, is a delightful journey for the taste buds. Begin with a plate of savory fish tacos and refreshing fruity cocktails by the ocean. Then, embark on a post-dinner cruise, setting sail from the local docks. Alternatively, if you prefer to stay on land a while longer, opt for a cozy restaurant with an outdoor fire pit, offering mesmerizing views of the sea. These cruises and dining experiences provide a perfect blend of Newport Beach's local flavors and scenic beauty.

03 Play on Balboa Island

Balboa Island, with its charming Ferris wheel and bustling boardwalk, brings to mind the classic coastal towns of the East Coast, like those found on the New Jersey shore. Exploring this man-made island is an adventure in itself, filled with fun and nostalgia. A visit isn't complete without stopping at the renowned Balboa Beach Treats for a delightful frozen banana, a nod to simpler, bygone times. Balboa Island also offers quaint shops and galleries, making it a perfect spot for leisurely strolls and souvenir hunting.

04 See sculptures at Civic Center Park

Civic Center Park, sprawling over 500,000 acres, is home to the whimsical Bunnyhenge – a circle of stone rabbit sculptures – and many other artistic creations. This park is a paradise for urban sketchers, offering a constantly evolving array of public art, with most sculptures being replaced every two years. Each visit presents a new opportunity to capture unique art in your sketches. The park's dynamic nature ensures that each visit offers a fresh perspective and new inspiration for artists and visitors alike.

05 Shop at Fashion Island

In Newport Beach, you'll find two types of islands: those that are fashionable and those that are sandy. Here, we focus on the former, particularly Fashion Island (FI). This chic shopping haven boasts high-end stores like Dolce & Gabbana and Nordstrom. Beyond the fashion inside, the real style can be seen in the trendy crowds lounging outside, enjoying treats from the Atomic Creamery and relaxing by the elegant Fashion Island fountain. Fashion Island is not just a shopping destination but a social hub where style and leisure converge.

06 Experience the outdoors at the Environmental Nature Center

The Environmental Nature Center, once a nondescript bus garage and a haven for weeds, has transformed into one of the city's most beautiful natural areas. This outdoor classroom is a place where students and nature enthusiasts observe and learn about the growth and development of the natural world. The highlight here is the year-round camps, where people of all ages can unleash their inner wilderness explorer. The center's transformation is a testament to Newport Beach's commitment to environmental education and conservation.

07 Spend an evening at Shakespeare by the Sea

In Newport Beach, the quintessential California mix of sun, surf, and sea gets an artistic twist with the addition of Shakespeare. The Shakespeare by the Sea program introduces audiences, young and old, to the works of the world's most famous playwright. The best part? Watching the lively characters of Shakespeare's plays, like the comical Falstaff or the heroic Henry V, is completely free. The only investment required is your time, spent enjoying the beautiful cadence of Shakespeare's iambic pentameter. This program not only entertains but also enriches the cultural landscape of Newport Beach.

08 Camp at Crystal Cove State Park

Crystal Cove State Park is a coastal wonderland, featuring over three miles of rugged beaches, walkable sands, and charming cottages dating back to the 1930s and 1940s. These historic homes, with their distinctive aquamarine paint and ocean-facing porches, offer a unique alternative to beach camping. However, plan ahead, as reservations for a night in these sought-after cottages are quickly snapped up. The park's blend of natural beauty and historical charm makes it a must-visit for anyone wanting to experience the essence of California's coastal past.

09 Surf the Wedge

The Wedge, a renowned surfing spot in Newport Beach, is a haven for thrill-seekers and wave enthusiasts. On a good day, the waves here can reach staggering heights of up to 30 feet. Experienced surfers relish the challenge of riding these massive waves, while beginners and photographers can enjoy the spectacle from a safe distance. Whether participating or observing, the experience at the Wedge is unforgettable. The Wedge's reputation as a premier surfing destination attracts surfers and spectators from around the world, adding to the vibrant energy of Newport Beach.

10 Fight pirates at the Pirate House

While pirate encounters are unlikely on Newport Beach's many cruises, a stroll near the Sherman Library and Gardens might surprise you. Here, you'll find life-sized ceramic pirates scaling the walls of a private house, creating a whimsical scene straight out of a storybook. This unique spot is a delight for those who cherish the adventurous tales of the high seas. The Pirate House adds a touch of whimsy and fantasy to the neighborhood, making it a quirky and memorable landmark for visitors.

11 Visit Sherman Library and Gardens

The Sherman Library and Gardens are a testament to the beauty and tranquility of nature. The gardens burst with diverse plant life, from spiny cacti to fragrant flowers, complemented by serene fountains. If the outdoor beauty isn't captivating enough, the library's collection of over 15,000 books is sure to engage any avid reader. This peaceful oasis offers a perfect blend of horticultural beauty and literary richness, providing a serene escape from the bustling beachside activities.

12 Build sandcastles at Little Corona Beach

Little Corona Beach, with its picturesque blue waters and cliff-side homes resembling castles, feels like a scene from a fairy tale. The friendly squirrels and the thick, malleable sand make it an ideal spot for creative sandcastle building, offering a perfect blend of natural beauty and artistic opportunity. This beach is a favorite among families and artists alike, who find joy in the simple pleasure of building sandcastles against the backdrop of stunning coastal cliffs.

13 See art at the Coastline Art Gallery

The Coastline Art Gallery, located on the campus of Coastline College, showcases a diverse range of artwork, from innovative pieces made of everyday objects to classic watercolors. This gallery, celebrated as one of the top campus-based galleries in the region, is a hub of creativity and community engagement, hosting art workshops and events that bring as much vitality to the area as the nearby ocean. The gallery's ever-changing exhibits and interactive events make it a dynamic destination for art lovers and curious visitors.

14 Indulge at Pelican Hill Spa

The Pelican Hill experience rivals some of the finest European resorts. With its sprawling 400-acre golf course, exquisite dining options, and comprehensive spa services, it offers a luxurious escape that rejuvenates the mind and body. For those missing the beach, the resort's impressive 136-foot circular pool provides a refreshing alternative. Pelican Hill Spa is a sanctuary of relaxation and indulgence, where guests can enjoy world-class amenities and breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean.

15 Plein air paint on the Newport Pier

For a unique experience at the Newport Pier, engage in plein air painting. This artistic endeavor allows you to capture the essence of the pier – the rhythmic waves, the joy of children playing, and the tranquility of seabirds – through your own creative lens. Armed with a pochade box and portable easel, you'll find new perspectives and inspirations in the ever-changing seascape. This activity offers a peaceful and creative way to connect with the scenic beauty of Newport Beach, making it a favorite among artists and nature enthusiasts.

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