A post by guest blogger and traveling buddy, Bethany.
We've seen the TV shows but we had to check it out for ourselves! An easy Saturday morning drive about 3 hours, brought us to Huntington Beach and a few miles south, to the Balboa peninsula of Newport Beach. And then we looked for parking… and looked, and drove in circles until we finally found the one metered space left in the whole town and parked it! This was a reoccurring theme and our one big complaint - parking was hard to find!
We rented a boat from Balboa Boat Rentals, a small, easy to drive electric boat with a shade canopy and removable plastic sides, and even a table for snacks! Apparently this is the vehicle of choice, as we saw many docked at private docks as well as at the rental locations. Included with the boat is a guide to the most famous houses around the harbor, and information about the area. The boating area is a bay sheltered by the Balboa Peninsula, but watch out for the Balboa Island Ferry, other small boats and large yachts sharing this small waterway!
Just a few steps from the boat rental dock Balboa Fun Zone was calling to us with its Ferris wheel, Carousel and old-time-y arcade with some addictive Skee-ball. Unfortunately, bumper-cars are gone now, but it’s still a fun place to be a kid until you run out of quarters! Also think about checking out the Maritime museum right next door.
Taking the ferry across to Balboa island cost us $5 with the car, and saved us a 15 minute drive back off the peninsula and around the mainland. You can also walk or take a bike for $1 per adult. The ferry docks on Balboa Island with a cute village for walking and shopping, if you can find a place to park... If you are hungry grab a Balboa Bar – an ice cream bar dipped in chocolate and your choice of toppings, a local specialty, along with chocolate dipped bananas.
North of the Island is the Back Bay Area with marshland full of wildlife, quiet and perfect for kayaking. We tried to stop by the Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive center but it was closed by 4pm, so if you are a nature lover, plan to go there earlier in the day.
For dinner we were looking for fresh seafood, preferably served with a harbor view. The Rusty Pelican was the perfect choice, with all fresh caught fish and yachts parked right outside. If you reserve a boat slip you can actually dock your boat and go eat. For something a little more casual our second choice was the Crab Cooker.
To end our night in Newport Beach we walked along the beach ocean-side looking into all the beach houses open to catch the sea breezes. Bring a jacket even in July, and dip your toes in the cold Pacific!
An all around favorite activity was tidepooling at Little Corona State Beach. Check the tides before you go, and bring some good water shoes for climbing on rocks. Some of the creatures spotted were hermit crabs, sea urchins, sea anemones, mussels, and a few little fish. The rocky coast was beautiful with the waves crashing – definitely a must do activity!
For more outdoor activities you can hike or bike through the hills of Crystal Cove State Park, with views of the water from most spots. Or cross the Pacific Coast Highway and take an easy walk on the bluffs, and wander into the historic area of Crystal Cove to see the 1930’s beach resort.
We headed south into downtown Laguna Beach for some lunch at The Sundried Tomato Café (as seen on Real Housewives of the OC) where we sat outside in the courtyard enjoying the sunshine and some good food before heading home.
If you are a fan of the TV show the OC pick up a Newport Beach local guide and do a tour of famous spots seen in the show. For the surfing crowd there is the International Surfing Museum at Huntington Beach. If your taste runs more towards the Arts, all summer long Laguna Beach hosts an Arts Festival, check out their website for a calendar of what is going on while you are there, and don’t forget to check Blue Star Families – the Laguna Art museum is free for military families this summer!