Whether by cruise or Duffy boat, surfboard, kayak or paddleboard, there are plenty of ways to get on—or in—the water this summer.
By Sharael Kolberg
Summer is the best time to be out on the water in Newport Beach. With Newport Harbor, the Back Bay and the greater Pacific Ocean right off the peninsula, there are many ways to enjoy some fun in the sun through local aquatic activities. Whether you want to be fully immersed in the sea or riding on top without getting soaked, here are five ways to take advantage of our picturesque waterways during the warmer months.
Cruising Along the Coast
For a romantic date night dinner, get dressed up and hop aboard a City Experiences’ yacht for a 2 1/2-hour Newport Beach Premier Dinner Cruise. Enjoy views of beautiful beaches at sunset (during summer trips) and be awed as you cruise by luxury yachts and mega-mansions. Passengers will also be serenaded by barking sea lions during this calm and comfortable cruise around Newport Harbor.
Dinner at a reserved table inside features an appetizer, entree and dessert, all made from local, seasonal ingredients, as well as coffee and tea. While not included, alcohol is available for purchase. After dinner, enjoy music provided by a DJ or step out onto the deck to take in the night sky. Bring a jacket or sweater to bundle up after the sun goes down.
“We also have options for a more lighthearted night out with our Sights & Sips cocktail cruises, which showcase the best Newport Beach harbor views with cocktails and light hors d’oeuvres,” says Amy Deift, general manager of City Cruises in LA and Orange County. (City Experiences, formerly called Hornblower, is the parent company of City Cruises.)
Another cruise option, only available through June 24, is dinner or brunch aboard the late John Wayne’s Wild Goose yacht in honor of the anniversary of the famous actor’s birthday. Wayne used to reside in Newport and this cruise will pass by the 10-bedrooom waterfront mansion where Wayne and his family lived. Passengers will also have the chance to sip cocktails made with Duke bourbon—inspired by Wayne, whose nickname was Duke—and take an informal tour of the yacht, led by the crew. A portion of ticket sales from the Wild Goose cruises benefit the John Wayne Cancer Foundation.
Another way to cruise the harbor is by renting a Duffy boat. Invite up to 10 of your closest friends for a mellow afternoon on the water in a vessel from a local company like Vision Electric Boat Rental. Ask about their pink Duffy for a fun girls’ day out. Pack some wine and snacks, play your favorite music and explore the harbor at your own pace; no boating experience is necessary, but the driver may not drink alcohol. If you’d rather sit back and relax, Vision’s staff can recommend a local captain who can be hired to take the helm.
If you’re not up for packing a picnic lunch, dock and dine at one of several restaurants along the coast for a memorable afternoon on the water. Restaurants such as Bluewater Grill, Woody’s Wharf and The Winery Restaurant & Wine Bar (with arrangements made in advance) will deliver fresh, local fare for you and your guests to dine on from the comfort of your Duffy. The Cannery also has a 22-foot Duffy for rent while The Winery also has packages that include boat rental and a multicourse meal. Take it out for a catered Sunday brunch or happy hour cruise before dinner.
Navigating the Waves
For an upper body and core workout on top of the water (hopefully without getting too wet), stand-up paddleboarding is a great option. The hardest part about SUP is maintaining your balance, so you don’t fall into the big blue. The wider the board, the more sturdy it will be.
Bring your own or rent one from companies such as Paddle Board Newport Beach, located on the Balboa Peninsula. The staff will get you set up with the right size board and paddle, carry the equipment down to the nearby waterfront and show you the basics of how to get started. Rentals are available by the hour or the day; the business also rents out kayaks and bikes.
“In Newport Harbor, paddling around Lido Island and by Balboa Fun Zone are good spots to go,” says manager Connor Hatch, adding that, in the morning, you don’t have to deal with as much of the currents or boat traffic. “… Plus you get great views with the mountains as a backdrop.”
Paddling a different kind of craft—a kayak—is also a good bet for viewing the scenery while also getting some exercise. Spend a morning or afternoon paddling a kayak around the Back Bay, a serene environment with excellent bird-watching opportunities. The Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve and Ecological Reserve spreads across 1,000 acres of open space and wetlands and is home to numerous rare and endangered bird species.
Get out and enjoy nature on your own kayak (you can even bring your dog), or stop by the Newport Aquatic Center to rent a single or double kayak (minimum age is 7 years old); SUP rentals are also available as well as 12- or 18-person outrigger canoes (minimum group size is 10 people for the canoes). If you don’t know the area or have the skills to feel confident on the water, private lessons are available, or you can sign up for a Newport Conservancy guided kayak tour.
“A kayak tour will give you a completely different perspective and appreciation for Upper Newport Bay,” says Cesar Gallo, Newport Bay Conservancy board chair of community outreach. “I highly recommend it to both beginners and advanced paddlers interested in learning about their natural surroundings.”
The two-hour guided tours—from 10 a.m. to noon Saturdays for ages 8 years and up—are led by a naturalist and feature a history of the bay and identification of native plants, birds, animals and marine life.
For a more adrenaline-pumping time on the water, surfing is the sport to try. For those with lots of experience, The Wedge is a popular summer spot for surfing and bodyboarding at the southeast end of Balboa Peninsula. The powerful shore-breaking waves can get up to 30 feet tall.
Even if you don’t want to brave the big surf, it’s a thrilling sport to watch. Throw down a beach blanket, pack a cooler with drinks and snacks, unfold your beach chair and be entertained by the skilled watermen and women as they tackle the unruly ocean. Don’t forget a hat and sunscreen.
But this beach town offers plenty of other places for beginners and longboarders, too. Head to the Newport Beach Pier area for more manageable waves, with lessons available through several businesses including Endless Sun Surf School. Co-owner and instructor Amy Reda says the pier is the perfect spot to learn in Newport.
“It is known for having a gentle, beginner wave that rolls in and breaks slower, giving you more time to stand up on the board,” she says. “Plus, it is safer since the shallow bottom allows you to touch for a long period of time.”
Don’t have a board of your own? You can rent one a few blocks from the pier at 15th Street Surf Shop, established in 1961. They have a range of styles and lengths to choose from (as well as wetsuits), that are available for hourly, daily or weekly rentals.
So, whether you want to ride the waves, glide across calm waters in a kayak or sit back and relax on a cruise with drink in hand, there are endless opportunities to get out on the water this summer.