Heading to LA? Want an easy road trip without the need for weeks of planning? Hit the highway south from LA and in just over an hour the sweeping golden sands of the Orange Country are on your doorstep.
With Disney World around an hour away, Newport Beach serves as a great base for all the classic attractions and its stylish, coastal ambience and swathes of golden sands feel a world away from the traffic of central LA.
Some people may sniff at the uber-tanned, loafer-wearing residents of Orange County, but truth be told, it’s hard to find fault with this beautiful corner of California. The malls are positively gleaming – a shopper’s dream – the restaurants well-heeled and the mansions jaw-dropping. And despite the luxury accoutrements, Newport Beach feels far more classic coastal than chi-chi. The cracking bar, seafood, and sailing scene of this sun-drenched town only adds to the attraction.
Newport Beach’s waterfront has been recently developed and it’s a hub of on-water and off-water activity on the weekend. The Lighthouse is the perfect place for fluffy pancakes, delicious eggs benedicts and all your brunch favourites. With a cool, coastal interior and views out across the sound, you can really get a sense of the outdoor lifestyle that makes Newport so appealing.
For dinner with a view, 21 Oceanfront serves up panoramic views, delicious seafood and five-star service, while the 650-bottle wine list at The Winery Restaurant & Wine Bar along the waterfront will please wine-lovers who enjoy beautiful sunset views and wine-country cuisine.
After brunch pick up a paddleboard, take a kayak trip or head out on a boat around Balboa Island. Whether it’s riding along the beach on cabriolet bikes and tandems, paddleboarding along the waterways (where you can check out the amazing waterfront pads) or simply jumping in the surf, Newport Beach is all about getting outdoors.
Take Highway 1 south towards Laguna beach for captivating coastal drives and ensure you nip into Crystal Cove Marine State National park, where a clutch of seafood lunch restaurants line the beach and golden sounds abound. From snorkeling to surfing, hiking and biking, activity hunters will be in their element. There is excellent disable access here too, with beach wheelchairs available.
The Wedge is one of the best bodysurfing beaches in the county and is located at the end of the Balboa Peninsula. It’s great for a picnic and to watch the myriad yachts putter into the harbour.
Families and kids can enjoy the Roxy and Quiksilver surf camps or for those who enjoy more serene beaches cruise along the highway to Crystal Cove State Park where the jagged cliffs and golden sands are pretty spectacular.
Hit the harbour and Newport Beach and it’s a firmly Dawson’s Creek vibe, with laid back surf shops, beach bars, crab restaurants and coffee shops. Yet more surprising is idyllic Balboa Island; reached over a hump bridge from the mainland, this nub of an island town is festooned with American flags and old American charm. Pastel-coloured shutterboard houses line every street and cute homeware shops and ice cream parlours complete the picture-perfect idyll. Head to Crockers hotdog shop on Marine Avenue with the family and then take the chain ferry across the water to the peninsula and beaches.
Newport Beach takes beauty seriously and what these therapists don’t know about anti-ageing, oxygen facials and skin peels ain’t worth knowing. Newport’s The Duke Hotel has a small, intimate spa, the therapists are fantastic – the enzyme facial using Epicuren masks gives skin a zingy refresher, while the mesmeric Swedish massage kneaded away aches and pains. The Fairmont’s pool cabanas are perfect for a post-treatment snooze and the hotel is also really handily located near the highway for road trippers.
The Fairmont is located just minutes away from Fashion Island, Newport Beach’s gigantic, open-air mall. With an opening roof and swish bar, Fig and Olive is a fab semi-fresco restaurant right in Fashion Island – perfect for a lunch stop mid-shop.
See www.visitnewportbeach.com for more.
One week’s car hire in LA with Hertz starts from around £301. For more information or to book visit www.hertz.co.uk.