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This is the Orange County, California, you see on TV. Newport Beach is consistently ranked one of the wealthiest enclaves in Southern California, and isn’t afraid to let you know it. Ritzy neighborhoods such as Newport Coast are home to multimillion-dollar villas, and locals like to hang out and shop designer labels at upscale outdoor malls like Fashion Island. Under the glossy surface of this pretty beach town are more down-to-earth pleasures such as gorgeous beaches, quirky island communities, and oceanfront boardwalks with small-town charm.
John Wayne Airport (SNA) in Santa Ana is eight miles from Newport Beach, and you can grab a rental car, taxi, or rideshare to your destination. A car is the easiest way to get around Newport Beach, but you can get by on taxis, rideshares, and Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) buses, too. Bike rentals are another option for exploring the town.
Newport Beach’s coastal beauty and warm weather are its two major selling points. Expect sunny weather between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit May through October, with dips into the 50s November through April. Nights can be cool, especially along the water, so pack a jacket.
Crystal Cove State Park is one of the largest uninterrupted swaths of natural land left in Orange County. There are two key ways to experience this park: hiking the clifftop trails that offer never-ending views, or descending to the beach below. Once on the beach, you’d be smart to take a walk along the water, which is buttressed by the sweeping cliffs and dotted with tidepools. Despite this beach’s popularity, it rarely feels crowded, and hiking a short distance from the main area (where there’s a cute restaurant and bar) will quickly transport you to a place of serene calm.
This quirky community, comprising three artificial islands in Newport Harbor, can be reached by bridge or a quick ferry ride, but feels worlds removed from the glitzy city. Yes, there are some impressive houses along the perimeter, but the vibe on Balboa is decidedly low-key. Charming bungalows line the streets, and mom-and-pop shops peddle arts and crafts and frozen bananas. A fun way to experience Balboa is renting an electric Duffy boat — an easy-to-drive craft with a surrey for shade — and circumnavigating the island. Every December the island hosts a holiday boat parade, and neighbors try to outdo each other with over-the-top decorations.
Locals call this neighborhood that feels like a city within a city CdM. The vibe here is more cottage than McMansion, and many of the streets are named after flowers. Corona del Mar is home to quaint shops and the Sherman Library and Gardens, where you’ll find 2.2 acres of palm trees, begonias, succulents, a koi pond, and carnivorous plants. After wandering the village, make your way down a short staircase to Pirate’s Cove, a small, placid beach that was the backdrop for a kitschy 1960s sitcom classic.