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.

The Loop allows for cars going one way and there are a few places to stop to enjoy the view. There is also a parking lot half way around the loop where you can get out and walk around.


One of the walkways near the parking lot

Also across the bay, the distinct white cliffs of Dover Shores can be seen.  Unlike the world renowned cliffs in England, these bluffs are filled with beautiful homes that have an amazing view of the bay and beyond.  In the distance the eclectic Fashion Island mall and the tall buildings of Newport Center can be seen.


Fashion Island and Newport center in the distance

Also, in Dover Shores, the Castaway Park is open to the public and gives you that same awesome view. You can sit at a bench and enjoy the same scene as the million dollar homes minus the high mortgage.


The view from Castaway park

Too bad it was a gray and overcast day because it is a lot more beautiful than it looks in a photo.

I guess you are going to have to check it out yourself.

All you need is a car, a kayak, SUP, bike, roller blades, or just your feet , and if you are lucky, a nice sunny day.

Story and photos: Debbie Colwell

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