One of the primary reasons I started this blog many years ago was to document all the exciting adventures I had with one of my best friends during a trip to visit her in Orange County, California. That trip was my first long-haul solo flight (a whole feat in itself) and was one I was so excited for that I almost teared up looking out of the window at the lights of Los Angeles below me as we came into land. Now, years later, I ventured back to one of my favourite places in the world (politics aside), donned my best Marissa Cooper attitude (let’s be honest, at best I’m a Seth Cohen), soaked up the sun and lived The OC Life.
More than a decade after the show finished airing, I still can happily binge a few episodes of The OC and vicariously get that essential Vitamin D so spending a week at Newport Beach was too good to be true. I spent the majority of my time on Newport Peninsula, a thin strip of land where you can walk one side, with its views of the vast Pacific Ocean to the other, the harbour filled with expensive yachts and adorable duffy boats within the space of about two-minutes. Home to some seriously impressive mansions, with a smattering of slightly (only slightly) more affordable homes the peninsula is a dream to explore.
Towards the tip of the peninsula is Balboa Pier, a quiet pier with a classic retro Ruby’s Diner at the end of it. Views of the sunset from here are absolutely phenomenal and being toward the end of the peninsula you stand a good chance of seeing some exciting wildlife from here as well. I indulged in an Oreo milkshake from Ruby’s and took my time to absorb my luxury location. Down toward this end of the island there are also some brilliant bars and restaurants connecting the peace and quiet of Balboa Pier with the fun and excitement of the Balboa Fun Zone.
Newport Pier offers all the views of early morning and lunchtime surfers, with some delicious coffee shops, frozen treats like the classic Arrested Development Frozen Banana or the iconic Balboa Bar (it’s definitely just a choc-ice on a stick but my goodness it’s delicious). There’s also the legendary Seaside Donuts Bakery which is almost always the top item when you search anything to do with food in Newport. It is exceptionally good value, absoutely delicious and even writing about their donuts now is making my mouth water. Go on, treat yourself to one whilst you’re there. Satiate your thirst with a coffee from Newport Coffee Company and really feel like the hybrid of Summer Roberts and Rory Gilmore you’ve always wanted to be. That’s definitely what I did.
You would be forgiven for assuming everything around Newport Beach is reserved for the wealthy and influential of California but I found a surprisingly large number of affordable outlets. Of course, if you go to Fashion Island you can easily spend all your dollars like they’re going out of style but smaller, independent outlets around Newport offer lots of fun treats, cute souveniers (I kinda regret not buying a sweater with The OC logo on it) and some great bars. If you’re on a budget (aren’t we all?) then look out for Happy Hour and Taco Tuesday deals when you can definitely stuff your face on a budget!
For additional adventures you can go Whale Watching with options from a variety of companies, mostly based around the Balboa Fun Zone and there are also plenty of Harbour Tours available too. The whole peninsula is very pedestrian friendly, which I don’t often find in Southern California, but you’d be find to park up the car somewhere and explore everywhere by foot. You can easily walk from Newport Pier to Balboa Pier, in other words from one end to the other, in around 30-minutes.