Embarking on a trip to sunny Southern California? Grab your sunglasses and head to Orange County, where you’ll find endless things to do in Newport Beach. Located on the Pacific Coast, the California coastal city is known for its beautiful beaches, thriving markets, and outdoor activities.
Newport Beach’s roots as a maritime city are still highly present today. Many of the area’s boutique shops and artisan cafes feature nautical themes. The appeal of Newport Beach is its combination of laidback West Coast living with exciting outdoor activities. In fact, Newport Harbor is the West Coast’s biggest harbor dedicated to recreational and leisure activities.
From the Lido Marina Village for local shopping and farm-fresh food to the Balboa Fun Zone for classic boardwalk arcade games and the must-see iconic California State beaches, the top tourist attractions in Newport Beach offer something for everyone.
Trying to figure out what stops to make during your time in Orange County? Plan your trip with this guide to the best places and things to do in Newport Beach, CA.
Best places to visit in Newport Beach, CA
Newport Beach Pier
Searching for the perfect starting point for your Southern California holiday? Look no further than Newport Beach Pier. One of the top points of interest in Newport Beach, this pier sits on the Balboa Peninsula, putting it almost directly in the middle of the Newport Beach shoreline.
As you approach Newport Pier, you’ll pass through McFadden Square. You can often find local musicians strumming their guitars and singing. Feel free to dance along to the beachy rhythm or carry on towards the pier.
Would you like to explore Newport Beach Pier and the surrounding areas on foot or on wheels? If you prefer, you can rent a bike from one of the local shops. There are also restaurants, bars, and boutiques nearby the Newport Beach Pier.
Once you make your way onto the pier, you’ll be grateful that there are many benches available to relax on while you appreciate the view. You can see the sandy beaches and crashing waves below and even make out the Balboa Pier in the distance. It’s a public fishing pier, so you’ll see locals trying their luck to catch some fish. It’s a picture-perfect California Beach atmosphere!
Crystal Cove State Park
Want to get away from the crowds and connect with nature? What better way to appreciate the warm California sunshine than by exploring Crystal Cove State Park. If you love outdoor activities, you should add this California state park to your Newport Beach itinerary.
Crystal Cove State Park has over 2,400 acres for hiking or biking. Some people even bring their horses to ride along the paths. The scenes of sloping hills and valleys throughout the trails are breathtaking.
After exploring the trails, you’ll be eager to reach the 3.2 miles of beach stretching along the coast. Sunbathe, swim, or try something like fishing or observing the tide pools.
If you can’t get enough of Crystal Cove State Park in one day, stay overnight at one of its 57 campsites with views of the Pacific Ocean.
Newport Landing Whale Watching
Whale watching near Newport Harbor is ideal because of its protected marine park just off the coast. That’s why Newport Landing Whale Watching is one of the top Newport Beach attractions. Grab a pair of binoculars and join one of their cruises offered daily.
The months of May to November bring many blue whales, killer whales, finback whales, and dolphins to the Newport Beach coast as the water temperatures warm up. The grey whale migration route is right off the coastline. From about December to April, you’ll have a great chance at catching these whales as they splash and glide through the water.
Newport Landing Whale Watching offers a variety of cruise styles. Some allow you to watch for whales as they splash and blow water, while others get closer to the whales with faster and smaller boats. Either way, this experience is unforgettable and a cornerstone of a true Newport Beach experience.
Along the southern end of Newport Beach on the Balboa Peninsula awaits Balboa Pier. Built in 1906, this pier has a laidback atmosphere, perfect for a California beach vacation.
On the shore, surfers can be seen balancing their boards on the ocean swells. Beachgoers splash in the waves, make sand castles or even use the designated fire rings for bonfires in the evening. Balboa Pier itself stretches into the Pacific far enough for you to have a lovely view of the surrounding seashore and bluffs.
Once you’ve reached the end of Balboa Pier, grab a table at Ruby’s Diner for a 50’s style dining experience. You can order juicy burgers, French fries, and creamy milkshakes to enjoy while taking in the ocean ambiance.
From the end of the pier, you’ll have a fantastic view of the sunset over the ocean. You may even be lucky enough to spot some dolphins in the water!
While in Newport Beach, you’ve got to check out the Balboa Pavilion. The pavilion sits on the Balboa Peninsula facing Balboa Island. (I know: Newport Beach has a lot of places with Balboa in their name!)
This Victorian-style pavilion, built in 1906, is the city’s most famous landmark. The original purpose of the Balboa Pavilion was to serve as a bathhouse for beach guests, a meeting space, and an entertainment venue.
Today, its history is well-preserved as Newport Beach’s oldest building. It’s now the location where the Catalina Flyer departs for Catalina Island. It also hosts a few other boat rental shops and whale-watching trips. You’ll love exploring the ballroom and massive wraparound deck.
The Balboa Pavilion’s turn-of-the-century architecture is beautiful by day but utterly stunning by night. The building is entirely outlined by white Christmas lights, giving it a festive, playful, and romantic atmosphere. You’ll be so glad you visited this beloved Southern California landmark on your Newport Beach trip!
Lido Marina Village
Lido Marina Village encapsulates the spirit of Newport Beach with its relaxed and artistic atmosphere. Artisanal eateries, stylish boutiques, and waterfront views are some of what you can expect to find as you stroll through Lido Marina Village.
No matter your style, Lido Marina Village has a shop for you. These include California-inspired apparel, beachwear basics, and vintage-style clothing. You can also bring some Newport Beach-style pieces home from their home décor shops.
After shopping and taking in the views at Lido Marina Village, you’re bound to have worked up an appetite. For locally caught seafood, head to Circle Hook and grab a seat outside to watch the boats bob about in the marina.
Passing by Rye Goods, you can smell homemade fresh bread mingling with the sea air. Stop by to see what they’re baking fresh daily. For a seaside nosh and a frosty craft beer, pop into Lido Bottle Works. Or, visit Zinqué for their selection of wines and cheese boards.
The best part of dining at the Lido Marina Village? The restaurants all offer ample alfresco seating along the waterfront. Sunshine, shopping, and snacks: the trifecta that earns Lido Marina Village a spot as one of the best places to visit in Newport Beach.
Balboa Fun Zone
Are you looking for a classic coastal amusement park experience in Newport Beach? Located on the Balboa Peninsula, the Balboa Fun Zone is an iconic funfair with over 80 years of history. It’s one of the top places to go in Newport for families looking to add a little fun to their itinerary.
When you arrive at Balboa Fun Zone, you’ll be met with a nostalgic atmosphere buzzing with excitement. Laughter floats in the air around you as adults, children, and teenagers take a ride on the Balboa Fun Zone Ferris Wheel. The stunning view from the top looks out onto the Newport Beach ocean.
Next, get your quarters ready as you enter the arcade area. The ringing bells and music will put you in the mood to try your hand at these classic games.
Carnival food like corn dogs, fried dough, and ice cream are found in the food stalls and restaurants around the boardwalk. Grab an ice cream cone or a hand-dipped chocolate-covered banana as you take in the sights and sounds of the Balboa Fun Zone.
Balboa Island Ferry
Are you ready to venture across the water from Newport Harbor to Balboa Island or vice versa? The Balboa Island Ferry will be your best bet for transportation. With its convenient route, easy access, and scenic view of the coast, it’s a win-win situation and one of the top choices for what to do in Newport Beach.
You can load your vehicle aboard the ferry and enjoy the view for a few minutes until you arrive across the waterway. Since the ferries run constantly throughout the day, this makes for a seamless and stress-free way to get to Balboa Island or back to Newport Beach.
You’ll want to have your camera ready as you cruise along because your view from the water gives you a unique perspective of the coastline. You can snap pictures of the Balboa Fun Zone or the photogenic homes and shops on the horizon.
Calling all shoppers and diners looking for main street bliss! Marine Avenue on Balboa Island is non-negotiable when visiting Newport Beach. If your idea of a good time is browsing eclectic shops, sipping craft coffee, or enjoying fresh food at the many restaurants, you’ll be able to spend all day at Marine Avenue.
Marine Avenue stretches from one side of the island to the other, from the North Bay to the South Bay. It boasts an impressive collection of boutique shops and eateries. As you make your way along the road, you’ll pass beachy stationary shops, bohemian and contemporary clothing stores, surf shops, and more.
You could try Trattoria for its fresh seafood and pasta creations with Italian inspiration for lunch or dinner. Then if you have a sweet tooth for dessert, several joints offer the Balboa Island specialty, frozen bananas! This is the perfect chance to grab one to enjoy the rest of your walk down Marine Avenue.
West Jetty View Park
Coastal California sightseeing at its finest can be found at the West Jetty View Park. Being at the very tip of Newport Beach on the Balboa Peninsula, West Jetty View Park is an excellent location for soaking in Southern California’s nautical side.
As many benches are scattered throughout West Jetty View Park with beautiful views of the water, you can sit back and watch the yachts float in and out of the channel. It’s very calm and relaxing to boat-watch as you listen to the seagulls and waves around you.
If you want more excitement, West Jetty View park is also a walking distance from The Wedge. This is a hot spot for surfers as it creates incredible swells. Take a stroll that way and learn more about Newport Beach surfing culture.
Newport Beach Municipal Beach
When vacationing in Newport Beach, it’s only fitting to visit the aptly titled Newport Beach Municipal Beach. Covering about five miles of shore up and down the Balboa Peninsula, this beach has a fantastic reputation for being beautiful, clean, and fun.
The wide lanes running up and down the shoreline of Municipal Beach are ideal for biking or roller-skating. Rent a bike or skates, and experience the coast on wheels!
You can get to the Newport Pier and the Balboa Pier by following the Newport Municipal Beach shoreline. Its central location makes it convenient to fit these attractions into one day without the hassle of coordinating lots of transportation.
Are you craving a luxury shopping or dining experience? Newport Beach’s Fashion Island will surely satisfy you with its extensive directory of stores and restaurants. Fashion Island is a culinary and shopping wonderland.
Fashion Island is an open-air shopping plaza with high-end chain stores among the likes of Yves Saint Laurent and Chanel. You’ll also find department stores such as Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdales.
Treat yourself to an afternoon or evening of extravagance while in Newport Beach. You might even be tempted to indulge in one of Fashion Island’s personal-shopper packages. It’s your vacation to enjoy, after all!
When you’re ready to eat, you won’t be disappointed by the excellent selection of restaurants. They offer every type of cuisine, from burgers to sushi or Italian.
Fashion Island also has a few trendy Asian boba tea shops. Grab some bubble tea and enjoy your stroll through this elegant paradise.
Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve
If you want to get in touch with Orange County’s wildlife, then a visit to the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve is in order. With 135 acres of bluffs and land surrounding the Upper Newport Bay, the preserve features a variety of outdoor activities and beautiful sights.
If you love the idea of keeping active in the warm Southern California sunshine, then you’ll be glad to hear that you can access biking, hiking, and walking trails at the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve. Take these to the scenic overlook of the bay and appreciate the landscape of the area.
The Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve is heaven for nature-lovers. During your hike, be on the lookout for interesting birds because this preserve is famous for its bird-watching. There are six rare or endangered species living on these grounds.
If you’re an equestrian fan, one of the most exciting opportunities must be horseback riding through Newport Bay Nature Preserve.
Corona Del Mar State Beach
It’s safe to bet you came to Newport Beach searching for coastal scenery and the best beaches. Although this city is home to many impressive shorelines, your hunt for the perfect beach may come to an end once you discover Corona Del Mar State Beach.
At Corona Del Mar State Beach, you can take a dip in the warm Pacific waters or bask in the sun for a while. Being across from the Balboa Peninsula and The Wedge, this beach has incredible views to enjoy while you soak in the rays. The nearby jetty creates some nice swells in the water for you to try your hand at boogie boarding or surfing.
Take a leisurely walk along the beach, and soon you’ll find Inspiration Point. This is the iconic lookout over the Pacific Ocean. You’ll want to rest here to appreciate this park’s blooming flowers, lush foliage, and tropical palm trees skirting the view of the water. Maybe you’ll even see some dolphins splashing in the distance.
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Continue on your walk past the luxurious seaside homes along the coast to your left and the sparking ocean to your right. Soon enough, you’ll reach Little Corona Beach. If you time it right and arrive at low tide, you’ll be able to inspect the many tide pools for crabs and other aquatic creatures.
Sherman Library & Gardens
After enjoying Corona Del Mar, you may be ready for a retreat from the hubbub of the beaches and boardwalks. Head to Sherman Library & Gardens for a peaceful sanctuary within Newport Beach.
As a nationally renowned botanical garden, the exquisite grounds of Sherman Library & Gardens are home to various plants, flowers, and trees. You’ll discover interesting art installations and statues among the plants as you explore the pathways. For example, using flowers and plants to recreate rooms and furniture out of the plant life.
Sherman Library & Gardens offers classes about insects, gardening, and crafts. They have rotating workshops for painting and improving your green thumb, among other things.
The Sherman Research Library on-site is dedicated to archiving the history of the Pacific Southwest and has over 15,000 books to browse about this topic.
Balboa Island Museum
While visiting Balboa Island, you may find yourself wondering about the history of Newport Beach’s man-made island. Take a spin by the Balboa Island Museum to learn more not only about Balboa Island but also about Newport Beach and Orange County as a whole. Its location on Balboa Island’s main street, Marine Avenue, makes it a convenient stop to add to your plans.
The Balboa Island Museum was originally built in 1927. Upon entering, you’ll find exhibits dedicated to local fishing and boating culture, landmarks such as the Wedge, and historic homes in the area.
The museum also features presentations created for children to better understand the local history. While exploring the museum, you’ll learn a ton about how Balboa Island and the surrounding area came to be and the changes they’ve seen over the years.
Are you in need of the rest and relaxation only a tropical island can bring? Look no further than Catalina Island. About 22 miles from the California mainland coast, this paradise is a must-see location nearby Newport Beach. Hop aboard the Catalina Flyer, sit back, and relax for about an hour until you arrive at the island.
As you get closer to Catalina Island, you’ll be met by views of palm tree-lined white-sand beaches and sparkling turquoise waters. Mount Orizaba towers in the distance, dotted with beach houses, shops, and hiking trails.
Take your time gallivanting through Avalon, the downtown area of the island. You’ll find fresh seafood restaurants, boutiques for shopping, and the famous Green Pleasure Pier with lovely sights of the harbor.
If you’d like to learn a bit about the wildlife and plants on the island, take a 30-minute walk up to the Wrigley Memorial & Botanic Garden. By night, visit the Catalina Island Casino for entertainment and gambling.