Whether you’re a tourist or SoCal local looking for a relaxing afternoon outside of Los Angeles, Newport Beach will offer you a little slice of paradise for the day. Similar to Groupon and Amazon Local, Livingsocial was offering a $15 deal for a two and a half hour whale watching cruise with Newport Landing. My friends and I were going on a weekend which meant this boat ride, including an alcoholic beverage, would normally cost about $40. Was this $15 deal too good to be true?! We headed on down for the day to find out… and what a beautiful spring day it was!
I’ll be honest, the idea of spending almost three hours on a boat has never been very exciting to me. However, the price was right, the sun was out, and I was armed with plenty of motion sickness medication. I was ready to take on the world or at least Newport Beach. Also, the hope of seeing a few whales was exciting too. But more on that later.
Our boat for the day was a comfortable size with plenty of seating and standing room inside and out. I’d recommend getting there a bit early to line up if you prefer seats outside on the top deck. Our boat departed right on time and before we knew it, the Newport mansions along the coast started getting smaller and the search for whales had begun. About 40 minutes in, our captain was instructing us to look over on the right side of the boat since we had spotted a pod, or a group of whales for those less educated (like I was). I would love to present you with my wonderful photographs of tail slapping and whale spouts, however, I just couldn’t get my act together in time. The waters were a bit rough at this point and I needed to concentrate on holding on for dear life. Maybe I’m being a bit too dramatic. I promise you, we had a whale of a time. Sorry, I had to.
To be honest, I enjoyed my time a lot more by just being in the moment, oooing and aaahhing with everyone on board, without having to worry about snapping the perfect photo. While this was a whale watching adventure, we also saw plenty of dolphins and sea lions. At one point, there had to have been at least 30 dolphins swimming along side the boat. I’ve never been to Sea World and have no plans to go in the future so this was pretty damn exciting for me. My final verdict? $15 well spent… and the afternoon wasn’t even over!
If you’re eager to explore one of Newport’s hidden gems, hop on the teeny tiny ferry on Balboa Peninsula and you’ll find yourself on Balboa Island in about 5 minutes. This man-made island can only be described as a cozy, idyllic beach village. You’ll immediately feel the classic ‘Cali’ laid back atmosphere while exploring the island.
After stepping off the ferry, I was immediately drawn to an adorable fruit cart promising chocolate dipped strawberries. I almost gave in but one of my friends told me about a famous frozen banana and ice cream place nearby. Say no more. While on the hunt for chocolate dipped desserts, we took our time wandering through the picture perfect streets of Balboa Island. Some houses along the water had their small boats docked next to their personal beach space. Talk about the perfect front yard!
We discovered two rival banana stands, Dad’s and Sugar ’N’ Spice, which claimed to be The Original Frozen Banana Stand. While Dad’s seemed to have a wonderful selection of ice cream, I headed over to Sugar ’N’ Spice to try one of their chocolate dipped creations. I think I finally know what true love is after taking a bite of a frozen cheesecake on a stick, dipped in chocolate and covered in oreos. Excessive? Yes. Worth it? Yesssssss. My immediate reaction was to share it on Instagram (typical) but I forgot to take one with my good camera so this iPhone picture will just have to do.
I could easily spend an entire weekend in Newport Beach, especially Balboa Island. We bumped into a few tourists visiting from Colorado who were very pleased that they decided to get out of LA for the day to explore more along the coast. If you are a first time visitor to Southern California, it is easy to get caught up in Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Disneyland, and Universal Studios. While each of those places are beautiful (in their own special way) and entertaining, I think you’ll discover the true beauty of California in our beach cities.
Have you ever been to Newport Beach before? What is your ideal day trip? I’d love to know! Also, last week, I wrote an article for AttractionTix on exploring the shiny streets of Beverly Hills. Feel free to read that here! Happy travels!