Sunday Drives, Newport Back Bay


The Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve and Ecological Reserve is quite the tongue twister but what the locals call it today and I what I called it when I was a kid is simply, the Back Bay.

Many, many years ago it was designated as an area for speed boats and water skiing.  It was far away from the mansions and homes in the main bay so the noise and wakes never affected any residents.

Back then, I remember seeing my first water-skier riding high behind the boat, holding on to the rope as if for dear life.    I couldn’t figure out how they stayed up without sinking.   I guess I was too young to understand physics.  Still it was fun to watch as this part of the bay was filled with life.

Today, the drone of speedboat motors is long gone only to be replaced by the much quieter kayaks, stand up paddleboards , and outriggers.


The quietude is interrupted once in awhile when a low flying airline from John Wayne Airport takes off to who knows where.  I was thinking what a bummer that these million dollar homes are right under a flight path.

Have Kayak will Travel
The Upper Newport Bay is a coastal wetland that encompasses 1,000 acres of small water-ways, a larger channel, reeds, and marsh.  It is also home to hundreds of different species of birds.


A bird flies by with the Newport Aquatic Center in the background

On land, there is a ten mile loop for joggers, bicyclists, hikers, roller bladders, and for about 3 miles of it motor cars can join in on the road.  On water, there are plenty of nooks and crannies for you to explore via kayak or SUP.  If you don’t have your own, across the bay the Newport Aquatic Center has plenty of rentals.

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Balboa Island, Marine Street

The Lost Art of Window Shopping
I bet if you asked a 10-year old today if they knew what surfing the web was, they would rattle off at least 5 different online stores.  Ask them again what window shopping is and they will probably give you a blank stare.

The true appeal of window shopping is being able to wander around the store fronts gazing at their displays while hanging out with your friends or holding hands with your partner.  It is a true bonding experience.  If you are so inclined you will enter the store and if you are even more interested, actually buy something.

The window displays act like a beacon to lure you in to see what goods they have inside.

Marine Avenue on Balboa Island is all of that.   It is a long street filled on both sides with a vast collection of novelty shops, antique stores, restaurants, surf shops, clothing boutiques, dessert stands, bakeries, and much more!   It is all there for your window shopping enjoyment and of course buying pleasure too as I am sure the store owners are hoping.

Balboa Island itself can be only entered a couple of ways.  One way is by taking the lantern filled bridge that drops you right off into Marine Avenue. The second way is to take the four minute-or-so ride on the ferry boat from the Newport Peninsula.

The Island is mostly homes with the exception of Marine Avenue and a few stores over by the ferry landing.  It is a great place to visit for the holidays as at least 75% of the homes decorate.

Plan the day to do lunch and then the rest if the time to enjoy the unique shops situated on the route.  There are quaint restaurants on the Island that serve up all sorts of cuisines and you must save room for dessert as Balboa Bars and chocolate covered frozen  bananas  have been mainstays here for well over 70 years.  They allow you to pick your toppings and for me, chocolate sprinkles on a Balboa Bar are the only way to go.


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