Enjoy Newport Beach Without Spending a Dime!
The best things in life are free. And as lifelong locals of Newport, our favorite things to do in town cost absolutely nothing. And that’s why we love it here! It’s so easy to create lifelong memories without ever swiping your credit card! Here are our 10 favorite ways to save a buck and have a ball in Newport Beach!
1. Roast S’mores on the Sand
Pack a cooler and beach blanket and head to the fire rings for sunset! You’ll have the best seat in the city as the sun sinks behind the Pacific. Build a cozy bonfire, whip up a s’more, and sing a song or two. A beach bonfire is perfect for birthday parties or as an instant way to make any evening special. You can find the fire rings right next to the Balboa Pier and at Little Corona (with plenty of city parking next to both). They are available on a first-come-first-served basis, so during the busy summer months, be sure to snag your fire ring early!
Pro Tip: Up your s’more game by replacing the Hershey’s chocolate with a Reese’s peanut butter cup. Divine!
2. Explore the Local Tide Pools
Ditch the screens and dive straight into nature with a trip to the tide pools at Crystal Cove State Park. Sea anemones, hermit crabs, and fish of all shapes and sizes are the true locals in these parts. Just a 10 minute drive from the Newport Peninsula, Crystal Cove makes for the perfect day trip! Coastal hiking trails abound. The beach is simply gorgeous. And on Wednesdays during the summer, free arts and crafts are offered to the public! Be sure to grab a bite at the Crystal Cove Shake Shack or the Beachcomber Cafe – two delicious, casual spots that look directly out on the ocean – after your adventuring.
Pro tip: Schedule your tide pool trip around the low tide. That’s when the sea creatures are easiest to spot!
3. Play on the Peninsula’s 10-Acre Park
Marina Park is the perfect alternative to a day at the beach. With an expansive grass lawn, nautical-themed playground, and front row access to the bay, this park has it all! Embark on a kayak or stand-up paddle board into the harbor, right from the park’s shore! Equipment is available for rent for folks ages 6 and up. The Lighthouse Cafe is located on the park premises as well, serving a killer breakfast, lunch, and dinner accompanied by uninterrupted views of the harbor.
Pro tip: Be sure to visit the larger-than-life lighthouse replica. Unlike a real lighthouse, this one includes a bright red slide to play on!
4. Explore the Historical Dory Fish Market
Sneak a peek at the fishmongers at work at the Dory Fishing Fleet & Market. Founded in 1891, this historical (and active) landmark will whisk you back to yesteryear, with its wooden boardwalk lined with stalls of fresh fish and crab. In the mornings, you’ll see dinghies beaching themselves in front of the market to drop off their morning catch – quite the dramatic scene! But you gotta get here early: it’s typical for the day’s catch to be sold out by 6am! Talk about the early bird catching the worm – or, fish!
5. Have a Ball at the Balboa Family Fun Zone
Newport’s most beloved landmark, the Fun Zone is a flash of color, games, and family fun. Fly on the ferris wheel or compete for a bushel of tickets at the arcade. It’s here you catch the ferry to Balboa Island (a five minute ride for $1.25 or $.50 for kids). Embark on a whale watching or deep sea fishing adventure. Take the 1-hour trip to Catalina Island on the Flyer (always a top-rated day trip for families!). And all throughout Balboa Village, there are one-of-a-kind boutiques for shopping and fabulous restaurants for dining. With so much activity teeming at the Fun Zone, you’ll be entertained just by strolling through the mayhem.
6. Picnic at the Beautiful Pirate’s Cove
Just west of Corona del Mar State Beach, Pirate’s Cove is a photo-op fantasy, with picturesque views everywhere you turn. No pirates to speak of in these parts, but instead, the most private and stunning place to picnic in Newport Beach. From the water’s edge, you’ll look out onto the harbor entrance, with sailboats and yachts skimming by. Beautiful rock structures jut out from the water with gorgeous homes tucked away in the nearby cliffs, making this area look more like the Amalfi Coast than anything else.
Pro tip: If you’re looking to take small kids to the beach, this is the place, since the waves simply lap onto the shore. As an added bonus, a city parking lot sits just adjacent to the cove, for easy in-and-out access.
7. Enjoy Live Music on the Waterfront
Lido Marina Village is one of the chicest shopping centers in Newport. Effortless coastal styles, top-of-the-line beauty products, and cutting-edge eateries abound. And now, every Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday from 12:00-3:00pm, sit back and relax on the waterfront deck as laid-back California tunes float through the breeze. There’s no better way to live like a local than by lounging on the Lido Deck and listening to live music (with something delicious in hand to sip on, of course!).
8. Romp on the Beach with Your Pup
Newport Beach is truly dog’s best friend. It’s easy to enjoy this town with your pups, as all 10 miles of the city’s beaches are open to pets before 9:00am and after 4:30pm. As long as your dog is leashed, your pup can romp and play all they’d like! The Newport Beach boardwalk, though, is always open to dogs. Pretty fetching, wouldn’t you say!
Pro tip: There currently is an unofficial dog beach at the Newport Beach River Jetties where dogs play together leash-free at all times of the day – check it out at your own discretion.
9. Hike the Newport Back Bay Nature Preserve
From misty morning hikes to stunning sunset strolls, Newport Beach has some of the most picturesque and accessible trails and pathways for enjoying Mother Nature at her finest. One of our go-to’s is the Back Bay Nature Preserve. With over 10.5 miles of wide paths and little elevation change, these coastal wetlands are perfect for exploring with the whole family on foot or on bike. You’re also guaranteed to spot the many migratory birds and local wildflowers that are teeming at every turn.
Pro tip: For more of California’s native landscape, visit the nearby Environmental Nature Center, a 5 acre outdoor experience that immerses you in Californian habitats.
10. Go Crazy with Beach Games Galore!
We’d be slacking on the job if we didn’t mention our favorite ways to enjoy Newport’s largest playground: the beach! Drip castles, for example, are far superior to sandcastles. We find they are easier (and honestly more fun) to make than a standard sandcastle.
Or how about a human sand mermaid? Kids get a kick out of burying their parents’ lower half in sand to then transform them into an exotic sea creature, with tail and seaweed accessories.
Ever noticed those strips of rock that jut out into the ocean in certain places of Newport? These jetties, or “groins,” as they’re officially called, are used for moderating tidal movement of water and sand. The public, though, is free to climb on them at their own risk. We highly recommend saving this excursion for low tide and small surf. Not only is this the safest way to enjoy the jetties, but also, these conditions will help you see much more sea life in the rocks’ nooks and crannies.
Some other fun ideas: pretend the waves are “lava” and run away as they lap onto the shore, play on the lifeguard towers (when there’s no lifeguard on duty), host a boogie board contest, catch waves in an innertube (much easier to use than a boogie board), play an epic round of paddle ball, or simply hunt for seashells. There’s so many memories to be made along our water’s edge!