Incorporated in 1906, the Pacific coastal city of Newport Beach, California, is situated in Orange County, 10 miles south of downtown Santa Ana and 17 miles south of Anaheim. Bordering the city is Huntington Beach to the west, Costa Mesa and Irvine to the north, and Crystal Cove State Park to the east. Newport Beach is home to several well known communities, including Corona del Mar, Balboa Island, Newport Coast, San Joaquin Hills, and Balboa Peninsula (also known as Balboa).
In 1870, Captain Samuel S. Dunnells successfully steered his 105-ton river steamer, the "Vaquero", through upper Newport Bay, dispelling the prevalent theory at the time that the bay was too treacherous for travel. The harbor was named a "New Port" by the principal landowners in the area, James and Robert McFadden, who created McFadden's Landing and a few years later, McFadden's Wharf. By the early 1900's, Newport Beach had already become a tourist destination with the arrival of the Pacific Electric Railway, which terminated at the Balboa Pavilion. By the mid-20th century, a number of famous celebrities would call Newport Beach their home. One of the most recognizable was John Wayne (known as "the Duke"). Other area celebrities over the years have included Shirley Temple, James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, Errol Flynn, Roy Rogers, Joey Bishop, and George Burns. Today, Newport Beach remains very much a tourist destination, possessing a harbor crowded with boats, streets busy with shoppers, and 6.2 miles of beaches filled with surfers and swimmers.
Things to do in Newport Beach
Visitors to Newport Beach will never be at a loss for things to do, places to go, or sights to see. True to its name, the city offers numerous beaches to suit every beachgoer's taste, among them the Wedge (a body-surfing hot-spot). Other outdoor attractions include:
- The Catalina Flyer: a giant 500 passenger catamaran, which provides daily transportation from the Balboa Peninsula to Santa Catalina Island.
- The Balboa Fun Zone: features a Ferris wheel, a 14-foot trampoline, an old-time carousel built in 1938, laser tag, and bumper cars in addition to restaurants and shops.
- The Back Bay: a wildlife sanctuary.
- The Newport Aquatic Center: offers kayaking, canoeing, and rowing and has been used as a training ground for many Olympians throughout the years.
- The Balboa Island Ferry: transports pedestrians, cars, and bikes across the harbor channel between Balboa Island and the Balboa Peninsula.
- Fashion Island: provides an outdoor shopping experience with over 200 stores and 40 restaurants.
Among the many cultural and historic attractions in Newport Beach are the following:
- Newport Theater Arts Center: Known as the finest community theater in Orange County.
- Sherman Gardens Photo Tour: includes a beautiful public garden as well as the Sherman Library for California history.
- The Orange County Museum of Art: exhibits art from a variety of modern artists.
- Balboa Pavilion: Newport Beach's first landmark, built in 1905.
- McFadden's Wharf: built in 1889.
- Newport Harbor Nautical Museum: the largest nautical museum in Orange County.
- Lido Marine Village: open air center with brick walkways, interesting shops, and gondola rides.
Annual events which take place in Newport Beach include the Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race and Newport Beach International Film Festival (both held in April), the Newport Beach Festival of the Arts (held in May), the SandCastle Contest (a sand-sculpture contest held at Corona del Mar City and State Beach every summer), Flight of the Lasers (a sailboat race held in Newport Harbor every July), Character Boat Parade/Wooden Boat Festival (also held in July), Taste of Newport (a three-day food, wine and music festival held in September), and the Newport Harbor Christmas Boat Parade (held in mid-December).
Orange County is home to several world-class attractions that are located outside the city borders of Newport Beach but still within easy commuting distance. These include Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure Park (Anaheim), Knott's Berry Farm & Knott's Soak City (Buena Park), the International Surfing Museum (Huntington Beach), the Orange County Zoo (Orange), the Wild Rivers Waterpark (Irvine), and the Marconi Automotive Museum (Tustin).
Orange County is also home to several pro sports teams. Baseball fans can watch Major League action when the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim play their home games. Hockey fans can take the short trip to Anaheim to see the NHL's Mighty Ducks. Surfers will recognize nearby Huntington Beach as home to the Surfing Hall of Fame.