10 of Newport Beach’s Best-Kept Secrets
Make no mistake: a trip to the Balboa Fun Zone, Lido Marina Village or Fashion Island are all great ways to spend a day in Newport Beach, but when it comes to living like a true local, there are a number of hidden gems worth a visit. From secret beaches to sultry speakeasies, Newport Beach is so much more than its tourist attractions. Here are 10 of Newport’s best-kept secrets (shhh!) and how to find them.
Since 1957, this waterfront cafe has served up some of the best breakfast, malts and milkshakes around. Situated on a sleepy cul de sac on Harbor Island Drive, Galley Cafe stays true to its retro roots with its unmistakable old-school appeal. You’ll love the vintage leather booths, classic diner menu and aroma of fresh-brewed coffee.
Tucked just below Lookout Point Park is Pirate’s Cove—a hidden beach with crystal clear waters, silky soft sand, sea caves and towering rock formations. To find it, you’ll need to put on your adventure cap, as it sits at the entrance channel of Newport Bay. Start at the intersection of Ocean Boulevard and Heliotrope Avenue, and you’ll find a set of stairs that drops down into Pirates Cove.
Put on your walking shoes and embark on a 1.3-mile stroll along the bluffs in Castaways Park. This scenic path boasts stunning views of the Newport Back Bay and Harbor. Both tails of the trail end at Dover Drive, so visitors can make a loop by continuing along the pathway. Pro tip: bring your pup!
While its rustic brick exterior may not look like much, Lombardy’s serves up one heck of a sando. This little Italian market and deli on Balboa Blvd features a tasty selection of hot and cold sandwiches, such as caprese, meatball, roast beef and more. Plus, with a location just steps from the beach, you can enjoy your lunch on the sand!
From organic home goods and natural skincare to eco-friendly gifts and local California flowers, Little Shop by the Sea is all sorts of eye candy. Located about midway down the Balboa Peninsula, this tiny female-owned shop is chock-full of goodies you’ll love! The best part? You can bring your empty containers and refill them with their selection of organic bath and beauty products!
While many of Newport’s best restaurants, shops and things to do live near the shore, this coffee-shop-meets-surf-shop sits right on the border of Newport Beach and Costa Mesa. Stop in, and you’ll find a curated menu of craft espresso drinks and a collection of surfboards, home goods and hip apparel. In other words, you’ll be ditching your Starbucks mocha for a creamy Rose Cardamom Latte in no time.
Saigon Beach Vietnamese Restaurant
Quaint in size but heavy on charm, Saigon Beach masters the fusion of traditional Vietnamese cuisine and modern flavors. The industrial-chic diner is just a few blocks from the Newport Beach Pier and offers a delicious menu with dishes like Bánh Mì (baguette sandwiches), Phở Filet Mignon, Crazy Rich Pork Belly ‘Bao’ and more.
At the end of a ravine called Buck Gully in Corona del Mar sits Little Corona—a small beach known for its rocky reefs and tide pools. To get there, drive on Ocean Boulevard until you reach Poppy Avenue. From that intersection, you’ll find a paved ramp that descends to the beach. Don’t forget to wear sturdy shoes and check the tide schedule here.
It’s no secret that Newport Beach is home to an array of swanky, seaside hotels. But if you’re looking for a serene (and affordable) escape, the Crystal Cove Beach Cottages offer an enchanting retreat. These little bungalows are located in the Crystal Cove State Park Historic District, and each one has been restored to preserve the architectural charm of the initial structures.
Located below CdM Restaurant sits the eatery’s cozy, speakeasy-style concept, Under CdM. To find it, locate the staircase to the right of the main entrance that leads to the bar’s red upholstered leather door. Enter, and you’ll find an intimate space with red velvet sofas and a retro 1940’s photo booth. This hidden watering hole is the perfect spot for a nightcap (and a trip back in time).
Written By: Kaylin Waizinger