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An Insider's Guide to Newport Beach

Newport Beach may be one of the most iconic surf-and-sand destinations in all of Southern California, but make no mistake: This Orange County hideaway is more than a one-note beach town. In fact, the coastal stretch from Pelican Hill Resort to Lido Marina Village packs a handful of unique beach communities — each with its own identity and style — into just eight miles. 

Coffee at Herst Coffee Roasters in Lido Marina Village
Coffee at Herst Coffee Roasters in Lido Marina Village

CA-1, also known as the Pacific Coast Highway, is the palm-tree-lined artery connecting all of Newport’s villages and beach towns. Cruise along it and you’ll cross Cali-fied street names like Avocado and Jasmine, and pass exotic car dealerships and laid-back surf shops selling that inimitable California dream. 

Start on the Western edge at Lido Marina Village and you might just feel like a little slice of too-cool L.A. has landed right on the Newport Harbor. A local outpost of Malibu Farms serves fresh branzino tacos and burrata salad to fashionable and health-conscious locals, while shops like Alchemy Works, Jolie, and Clare V. help visitors master the native boho-chic style. You’ll find surfers checking out the boards at Saturdays NYC and tech professionals plugging in at Honor Coffee Roasters, while fishermen haul in the freshest catches to Circle Hook right on the marina. 

Jolie at Lido Marina Village
A treat from Dad’s Original Frozen Bananas

Onward and eastward lies perhaps Newport’s most famous village: Balboa Island, the old-fashioned harbor community where little has changed in the last 50 years — and that’s exactly how everyone around here likes it. Cross the bridge from the mainland and you might have a sense of going back in time: Marine Avenue looks much like it did during the ‘50s, with mom ‘n’ pop shops and the old post office still exactly the same as they were more than a half-century ago. Don’t miss a visit to Dad’s Original Frozen Bananas stand for a chocolate-and-sprinkle-covered treat you can nibble on the go, then walk along the harborfront and canals lined with candy-colored beach houses (many of which are worth millions today) and boats that range from little dinghies to impressive sailing yachts.

Newport Harbor at Balboa Island
Balboa Island

Back on the mainland, less than a mile away, Corona del Mar is a village made for families and lovers of the great outdoors. Hike the Buck Gully Trail or Lookout Point, then visit Sherman Library and Gardens, a magnificent horticultural oasis and botanical garden where you’ll spy countless flora in bloom. At low tide, head to Little Corona Beach, one of the area’s best-kept secrets with tide pools filled with colorful sea fish, hermit crabs, sea anemones, and starfish. There, you’ll also find Arch Rock, a formation known to lure adventurers to its cliffs for a daring jump into the ocean. 

At long last, Newport Beach’s easternmost destination might have you thinking you’ve crossed the Atlantic rather than PCH: The Resort at Pelican Hill appears to be straight out of Tuscany with its rolling hills (500 acres of them, in fact) and grand Roman-style columned architecture. Exclusive Resorts members stay in the resort’s Villas, set within a private community with a clubhouse featuring a pool, fitness center, restaurant, and bar. There’s even more to explore around the hotel, including the 23,000-square-foot spa, restaurants, two 18-hole Tom Fazio–designed golf courses, and the jaw-dropping Coliseum Pool. It makes for the perfect getaway whether you're a couple, group of friends, or looking for an exclusive family resort.

Photos courtesy of Jackie Caradonio.