Saturday, June 11, 2022

SoCal Beaches: Newport

I can't possibly blog about living in Southern California without talking about the beaches.  What I've found is that each beach has it's own personality and, like my previous post about sports, there's something for everyone here.

Newport Beach
Newport was the first beach Coach & I went to even before we officially made the decision to move to California.  We had finished meeting with the CEO and COO on Friday so we had some time Saturday morning before our flight left that night.  We had breakfast at the hotel and I suggested getting in the car and driving until we hit the water.  Well, that took us right to Newport Beach.  
If I had to describe Newport in one word it would be:  Yachty.  
Newport Harbor is the largest recreational boat harbor on the U.S. west coast, and a popular destination for all boating activities, including sailing, fishing, rowing, kayaking, and paddleboarding.

Boating activities are organized by five private yacht clubs, along with Orange Coast College, UC Irvine, and the Sea Scouts, all of which have sailing, rowing, and water activity bases on the harbor. 

Competitive sailing, rowing, and paddling events are common. The annual Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race is the largest sailboat race in the world and the annual Christmas Boat Parade started in 1908. The New York Times has called the festival, "One of the top ten holiday happenings in the nation"

The Newport Aquatic Center allows open public participation in competitive rowing, canoeing, kayaking, and outrigger canoe racing. The Orange Coast College School of Sailing and Seamanship offers recreational and professional sailing and mariners' courses and certifications, including United States Coast Guard licensing.  Weekly races take place during the summer including the Beer Can Races.

Because Newport Harbor is a semi-artificial harbor that was formed by dredging Newport Bay estuary during the early 1900s. Several artificial islands were built, which are now covered with private homes: Newport Island, Balboa Island, Little Balboa Island, Collins IslandBay IslandHarbor IslandLido Isle and Linda Isle.

The Lido Peninsula

Newport Harbor once supported maritime industries such as boatbuilding, shipbuilding, and commercial fishing, but today it is used mostly for recreation. Its shores are occupied mostly by private homes and private docks. With approximately 9,000 boats, 

Commercial maritime operations today include the Catalina Flyer ferry to Catalina Island, harbor tours, sport fishing and whale watching day trips and charters, and a few small commercial fishing boats.

The State of California sold acre-plots of land for $1 a piece in the Newport area. Anglo-American inhabitation in the area grew substantially following the events of 1870 when a 105-ton steamer named The Vaquero, captained by Captain Samuel S. Dunnells (against warnings posted by surveyors) safely steered through the lower and upper bay of Newport where it unloaded its cargo. James Irvine, after hearing the astonishing news, quickly traveled from his home in San Francisco to the San Joaquin Ranch. Meeting in Irvine's ranch house near current day UC Irvine with his brother, Robert Irvine, and friend James McFadden, they all agreed that the newly found port should be named simply, "Newport" thus where Newport Beach gets its name. James McFadden built a long McFadden Wharf in 1888.
In 1905, city development increased when Pacific Electric Railway established a southern terminus in Newport connecting the beach with downtown Los Angeles. In 1906 (with a population of 206 citizens), the scattered settlements were incorporated as the City of Newport Beach.

Settlements filled in on the Peninsula, West Newport, Newport Island, Balboa Island and Lido Isle. In 1923, Corona del Mar was annexed and in 2002, Newport Coast, East Santa Ana Heights and San Joaquin Hills, were annexed. In 2008, after a long battle with the city of Costa Mesa, Newport Beach annexed West Santa Ana Heights.
The city is bordered on the west by Huntington Beach at the Santa Ana River; on the north by Costa Mesa, John Wayne Airport, the City of Irvine and UC Irvine; and on the east by Crystal Cove State Park.
In 1927, a home was built at the mouth of the entrance of Newport Harbor that came to be known as the China House of China Cove. The home was built using the traditional Chinese architecture. It was a landmark in the Newport Beach Harbor until it was demolished in the 1980s. Some of the original roof can be seen on a home located in the China Cove.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 53 square miles:  23.8 square miles of it is land and 29.2 square miles of it  is (55.07%) is water.  Areas of Newport Beach include Corona del Mar, Balboa Island, Balboa Peninsula (also known as Balboa), Lido Peninsula, Newport Coast, San Joaquin Hills, Santa Ana Heights, and West Newport.

Geographical Info
Newport Bay is divided by the Pacific Coast Highway bridge, which is too low for most sailboats and very large boats to pass under. North of the bridge is referred to as Upper Newport Bay, or the Back Bay. South of the bridge is commonly called Lower Newport Bay, or Newport Harbor. However the Back Bay also has harbor facilities, especially the marina and launch ramp at Newport Dunes Marina.

The north end of the Newport Harbor channels surrounding Lido Isle has a number of small business centers and was at one time used as a home by the fishing fleets. On the North East side of the channel, the Lido Marina Village now acts as the local port to many "Newport Party Boats" that can be rented for events, as well as small merchants and local restaurants. It also hosts the area boat show each year and an organic "Farmers Market" on Sundays, in addition to being the port for the local Gondola Company. In 2014, the center was closed for a renovation. The Lido Village was reopened in 2017 after a complete renovation.

Upper Newport Bay is an estuary that was formed by a prehistoric flow of the Santa Ana River. Today, it is fed by a small stream from San Diego Creek. Much of Upper Newport Bay is a protected natural area known as the Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve, established in 1975.
The Wedge is a spot located at the extreme southeast end of the Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach, California known for its large waves that makes it a popular spot for surfing and bodysurfing. The Wedge is located at the intersection of the beach and the man-made jetty that forms the breakwater on the western side of Newport harbor entrance. When a south or south/southwest swell is running in the right size and direction, the Wedge can produce waves up to 30 feet high.

To Do
Beachgoers have flocked to Newport Beach since the Pacific Electric Railway started bringing them in 1905. Attractions include the city beaches from the Santa Ana River to the tip of the Balboa Peninsula, Corona del Mar State Beach, and the beaches at Crystal Cove State Park. Newport Beach is known for good surfing, especially between Newport Pier and the Santa Ana River. At the tip of the Balboa Peninsula, The Wedge offers world-class bodyboarding and bodysurfing. Newport Pier and Balboa Pier draw fishermen and sightseers. A boardwalk runs almost 3 from 36th Street in West Newport, past Newport Pier and Balboa Pier, to between E and F Streets on the Balboa Peninsula for both pedestrians and bikers.

On the Balboa Peninsula, the historic Balboa Pavilion and Balboa Island Ferry are the city's most famous landmarks. Adjacent to the Pavilion, the 500 passenger Catalina Flyer provides daily transportation to and from Avalon, located on Santa Catalina Island. The Balboa Fun Zone is also home to the Newport Harbor Nautical Museum.  Balboa Island village draws many visitors. A waterfront path around the island attracts walkers and joggers, and provides easy access from the ferry to the shops and restaurants.

The boardwalk is a natural draw for bicyclists. Beach cruiser bikes can be rented at several places on the Balboa Peninsula. Bicyclists are also drawn to Back Bay Drive and the bike paths around Upper Newport Bay; the hilly roads winding through Newport Coast and the San Joaquin Hills; and the mountain biking trails in the San Joaquin Hills and Crystal Cove State Park. Pacific Coast Highway provides access to these areas and is a major bicycle route through the region, despite being shared with heavy motor vehicle traffic.  Many neighborhoods in Newport Beach are amenable to bicycling. Locals are inclined to use bicycles for short trips, especially to get through summer beach traffic and avoid motor vehicle parking shortages.

Upper Newport Bay, or the Back Bay, is ringed by Back Bay Drive and a network of trails and paths that attract bicyclists, rollerbladers, joggers, and walkers. Bird watchers and nature lovers are drawn to the Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve and Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center; and Crystal Cove State Park features tide pools at its beach, with backcountry hiking and mountain biking trails. Camping is available at Crystal Cove State Park, and at the Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort and Marina. Whale watching is also popular in the area, with both scheduled and charter boats leaving directly from Newport Harbor. Whales and dolphins can often be seen from the Balboa and Newport Piers, as well as the shoreline during migration season.

Fishing is also extremely popular in Newport Bay, off the coast of Newport, and along the Newport Bay Jetty. Within the bay, there are multiple locations to purchase bait for dockside or spear fishing convenience. There are about 80 fishable species located in Newport Bay. A few of the most commonly fished species are include the Gray Smoothhound Shark, Leopard Shark, Round Stingray, Shovelnose Guitarfish, Pacific Staghorn Sculpin, Silvery Mullet, Top-smelt, California Halibut, Spotted Sand Bass, Yellowfin Croaker, Bat Ray, Thornback Ray, Diamond Turbot, Shiner Surfperch, Corbina, Opaleye, Pile Surfperch, and Red Shiner. Commercial fishing is also prominent in offshore Newport Beach and Newport Bay. Lobsters are commonly fished in the reefs. The bright orange Garibaldi fish found offshore, however, is a protected species.

On dark nights, intense occurrences of bioluminescence can be observed when waves splash into the shore, or when marine animals leave glowing traces in their wake.  Try as we might, we've yet to witness this phenomena.  

The Pelican Hill area has two golf courses that rank among the Golf Digest America's 100 Greatest Public Golf Courses.

Pop Culture

  • Do a quick search on the web for Gilligan’s Island’s opening credits, and you’ll see that the three-hour tour actually started in Newport Beach, where the harbor entrance and the Wedge was used as a backdrop. 
  • The music video for Childish Gambino's "3005" was filmed on the Ferris Wheel at the Balboa Fun Zone.
  • The TV show The O.C. was based on the fictional lives of people living in Newport Beach.
  • MTV replaced its hit teen-reality series Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County with a new show, Newport Harbor: The Real Orange County, on August 15, 2007. Only the cast and location changed in the new series, based on the lives of high school students living in Newport Beach.
  • The TV series Arrested Development is set in Orange County and often features scenes at Newport Beach.
  • Several scenes from the Disney Channel movie The Thirteenth Year were filmed at the Balboa Pavilion in 1999.
  • The pop rock band Cute Is What We Aim For has a song titled "Newport Living."
  • The TV series The Real Housewives of Orange County featured scenes of Newport Harbor.
  • One guest on You Bet Your Life in 1954 was mayor of Newport Beach and specifically noted that Balboa was a congregating point for southern Californian young people over Easter break, with 35,000 visiting the town of 18,000.
  • The exterior of the Newport Beach Central Library appeared as the reunion venue in the 1997 film Romy and Michele's High School Reunion.
  • The Devil Inside video by the Australian band INXS was filmed around the Balboa Fun Zone.
  • The 1917 film Cleopatra by J. Gordon Edwards was filmed in Newport Beach.
  • The clothing brand Hollister Co. has featured many brands including clothing that says Newport Beach.
  • The movie All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) was filmed at Fashion Island in Newport Beach before its construction.
  • The movie The Boatniks (1970) was filmed in Newport Harbor.
  • The TV series Speechless is set in Newport Beach, Orange County
  • The Reckless Moment, 1949 film noir starring James Mason and Joan Bennett, filmed and set in Newport
  • In the early to mid-1950s The Wedge was known locally as "102 Beach," where teens held frequent evening beach parties at which Brew 102, a popular (and inexpensive) Southern California beer from the Maier Brewing Co. was liberally consumed.

  • Legendary surf music guitarist Dick Dale memorialized the Wedge in an eponymous on the 1963 album, Checkered Flag. Pop punk band All Time Low also mentions the Wedge in their song "Let It Roll" from their 2007 album, "So Wrong, It's Right".
  • John Wayne attended USC in the 1920s, where he played on the Trojans football team. While still playing football, Wayne went to the Wedge for a bodysurfing session and injured at the famously fast and heavy spot. Because he could no longer play football, he lost his athletic scholarship. And without funds, he had to drop out of USC. After leaving school, Wayne went to work at the studios, beginning with a summer gig in a prop department.

People from Newport
A quick list of people from Newport include:
  • Cathy Rigby; American Gymnast
  • Gwen Stefani; Singer 
  • Shirley Temple; Actress
  • Emma Stone; Actress
  • John Wayne; Actor
  • Chuck Jones; Cartoon artist, animator of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck
  • Buddy Ebsen
  • Lauren Bacall; Actress
  • Humphrey Bogart; Actor
  • George Burns; Actor
  • Nicholas Cage; Actor
  • JoAnn Dean Killingsworth; Actress & dancer, first person to play Snow White at Disneyland
  • Mark McGrath; Singer
  • Dean Koontz; Author
  • Heather Locklear; Actress
  • Kelly McGillis; Actress
  • Ekaterina Gordeeva; Figure skater
  • Ted McGinley; Actor
  • Henry Samueli; Co-founder of Broadcom Corporation and owner of NHL's Anaheim Ducks
  • Sasha Cohen; Figure Skater
  • Kobe Bryant; NBA Player
  • Dwight Howard; NBA Player 
  • Dennis Rodman; Retired NBA Player
  • Amanda Beard; Olympic medalist swimmer
  • Karl Malone; Retired NBA Player
  • Fred Couples; Golfer
  • Matt Barkley; NFL quarterback, first freshman to start at that position for USC
  • McKayla Maroney; Retired Olympic gymnast

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