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What’s In a Name?

Balboa Island Dewey

(Photo by Jason Dewey)

Take a look at these coastal cities and towns that all share their name with our favorite Southern California city, Newport Beach.

By Ashley Ryan

Ask anyone who lives in Newport Beach—there are few places like it. But the same can’t be said for the name Newport. From Oregon to the United Kingdom, our city’s moniker is a popular one, dotting maps all over the country and beyond.

According to local author Jeff Delaney, the city of Newport Beach got its name shortly after the Civil War had ended. “S.S. Dunnels, a true man of the sea, ran a small, flat-bottomed, side-wheeled steamer named The Vaquero up and down the California coast,” Delaney explains in the foreword to his book, “Newport Beach.” “On numerous occasions, he was tempted to investigate a quiet body of water that lay between a long, narrow sandbar and cliffs to the north. …”

One day, upon further exploration of the aforementioned bay, Dunnels discovered an area with a placid body of water that went on for a mile. Despite the treacherous entrance, Delaney says the explorer was able to make his way to a deep inlet near the present-day intersection of Dover Drive and Pacific Coast Highway.

Dunnels returned to San Diego to announce the discovery of this “new port”—a story that spread like wildfire until a landing was officially established at the inlet he had found. Delaney says a wharf was built that allowed The Vaquero to make repeated trips up the coast, where Dunnels purchased things like grain and livestock from Rancho San Joaquin, owned at the time by James Irvine.

A lot has changed since Dunnels discovered his new port. With a population of more than 86,000 and an official size of 50 square miles including land and water, Newport Beach is a thriving city that is known for its luxury fashion, incredible coastal dining experiences and endless summer bliss.

While not all of the world’s Newports are so fashion-forward or luxury-oriented, they are, however, influenced by their closeness to the sea.

Oregon Coast Aquarium

Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport, Ore. (Photo by Sparkloft)

Newport, Ore.

Travel up the western coast to Oregon and you’ll find the smallest Newport on our list. Ringing in at only 10.59 square miles, this picturesque coastal town lies between the Oregon coastal mountain range and the Pacific Ocean. The city was incorporated in 1882, according to Jaime Eder of Travel Oregon, though it was an ancestral home to various Native American tribes long before that.

“Yaquina Bay oysters were what brought the first settlers to the area over 150 years ago,” Eder says. “… The early 1900s also brought electricity, refrigeration and improved shipping to Newport, enabling the seafood industry to thrive and expand.”

Known today as the Dungeness Crab Capital of the World, Newport is certainly known for its selection of fresh seafood, including oysters and fish in addition to crab. The city’s Historic Bayfront expertly blends the commercial fishing industry with tourism, offering glimpses of modern-day canneries and processing plants amid colorful ocean-inspired murals, funky retail shops, barking sea lions, docked ships and the famous Yaquina Bay Bridge.

Eder also says visitors tend to flock to Newport’s two lighthouses. The Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, which was completed in 1871, is believed to be the town’s oldest structure and remains the only wooden lighthouse in Oregon with built-in living spaces. Built three years later, the Yaquina Head Lighthouse is the tallest in the state at 93 feet.

Another popular draw for tourists is the Oregon Coast Aquarium, which Eder says is home to more than 500 species of animals, including sea otters, sea jellies and, formerly, the movie star orca Keiko, who was featured in “Free Willy.”

Breakers Dining Room

The Breakers Mansion in Newport, R.I. (Photo courtesy Corbett Preservation Society of Newport County)

Newport, R.I.

At 11.39 square miles, Newport, R.I., is another city that’s much smaller than Newport Beach, Calif., and it’s home to only 25,000 people, though that number does tend to expand in the warmer months.

“Founded in 1639, Newport, Rhode Island, is considered to be the shining gem in the coastal crown of New England,” says Andrea McHugh of Discover Newport, adding that the town has served as a critical colonial era port city and a thriving artists’ colony throughout its history.

When it comes to industry, Naval Station Newport is the largest employer in the county. The base is home to 50 different Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Army Reserve commands, serving as a site for training as well as testing undersea warfare and development systems. Aside from training, Newport offers educational opportunities as well, with the Naval War College and the Naval Justice School located nearby.

Due to Newport’s proximity to the sea, it’s no wonder that the Navy and other trades like boat building, ship restoration and marine mechanics are popular here. But the influence of the neighboring Atlantic Ocean doesn’t end at education. A love for the ocean is also incorporated into local tourism. The city’s Ten Mile Drive takes visitors along the yacht-filled shorelines, providing spectacular views of the waterfront scenery and some of the famous Newport mansions that lie along Bellevue Avenue. More than a dozen of these manors have been protected and preserved for visitors to enjoy, with tours available that showcase their interiors.

Other notable landmarks include the Cliff Walk, a 3.5-mile path along the shoreline that provides panoramic views of the coast bluffs; the International Tennis Hall of Fame; the Redwood Library and Athenaeum, the country’s oldest lending library still in circulation; and Fort Adams—the largest and most complex coastal stronghold in the nation—which was active through World War II.

Civil War reenactment

Civil War re-enactment in Newport News, Va. (Photo by Christian Deeb)

Newport News, Va.

It’s no surprise that Newport News, Va., the largest city on our list in both geographic size and population, also lies on the East Coast. First settled in 1621, it is now home to more than 180,000 people.

Originally documented as “Newportes Newes” by the Virginia Co., the city is believed to have one of the oldest names in the New World. Though no one can be certain, it’s thought that it was named for Christopher Newport, a captain that settled on Jamestown Island in 1607 and made regular trips down the James River to Newport News.

Just like in Newport, R.I., military and maritime industries have a large impact on the region. Fort Eustis, an army installation built in 1918, provides jobs for 10,000 locals while Newport News Shipbuilding offers up 15,000 jobs.

Newport News is known for its wide array of museums, with the Mariners’ Museum and Park, the Virginia Living Museum, the Virginia War Museum and the Endview Plantation all located within city limits. The local community garden, 5-mile Noland Trail along Lake Maury, Japanese Peace Garden and more than 30 other parks in Newport News make it a great spot to enjoy the outdoors.

The city is also known for being home to a flurry of musicians, actors and athletes, including Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and famed singer Ella Fitzgerald. A yearlong Ella Fitzgerald Centennial Celebration is honoring her memory in 2017 by marking 100 years since Fitzgerald’s birth.

Caerleon Amphitheater

Caerleon Amphitheater in Newport, Wales.

Newport, Wales

The only international location on our list lies along the southeastern coastline of Wales, not far from Cardiff, the nation’s capital city. With a geographical area of just under 75 square miles, the city has made a name for itself as a modern commerce center, but it wasn’t always so booming.

The town’s history dates back 2,000 years, when it was first settled by the Celts. Its location at the mouth of the River Usk provided a certain appeal during medieval times, and the Normans eventually built a castle in Newport in the 12th century. Newport’s first official town charter dates back to 1385.

In the 1800s, Newport was still a small seaport, but that changed rapidly when the city built modern docks. Throughout the century, it blossomed into a well-known industrial center, producing steel and exporting coal across Wales.

As of 2014, Newport was home to more than 146,000 people, many of whom emigrated from countries like Ireland and Bangladesh to work in the steel industry. The result was a diverse ethnic community.

In recent years, Newport, Wales, has played host to the Ryder Cup (a men’s golf competition) and the 2014 NATO Summit, but it has plenty to keep visitors busy year-round.

Outdoor adventures are common, with the Newport Wetlands National Nature Reserve, Great Traston Meadows and Wentwood Forest nearby, but Newport is also rich with history and culture. Caerleon, a Roman Empire military site, is home to barracks, baths, an amphitheater and temples, while the remains of Gaer Fort date back to the Iron Age. Another popular site is the Tredegar House, a 17th-century mansion that was home to many influential families over time.

For those who pay Newport, Wales, a visit, don’t forget to check out the Newport Museum and Art Gallery or the Newport Ship for some added culture, or attend a stage show at the Dolman Theatre or The Riverfront theater and arts center—which also houses a dance studio, art galleries, a recording studio and more.

While all of these Newports offer something unique, we’ll always be partial to our own version right here in Orange County.




One thought on “What’s In a Name?

  1. Hcat

    In the old days a lot of people used to call Newport Beach “Balboa”. My family had a place on Lido in the 1940s, and on Harbor Island for the next three decades, and they often referred to them as “the house at Balboa” even though they were not at all on the Peninsula. Note Balboa Yacht Club, which is technically in Corona Del Mar!

    There’s a Newport Pagnell in England which is way inland!

    Reply

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