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A Journey Through Newport Beach’s Most Iconic Landmarks

October 5, 2023

Let’s take a stroll down the memory lane of Newport Beach‘s oldest landmarks, which stand as a symbol of our city’s rich maritime past. When the area was inhabited in 1906, roughly 400 people were living here and industries such as salt mining, canning and fishing were prevalent. In later decades, sport fishing, yacht building and brokering became popular, and it wasn’t until after World War II that the city flourished into a vacation destination.

Today, Newport Beach is a vibrant coastal town chock-full of award-winning restaurants, world-class retail destinations, luxury hotels and all types of recreational pursuits. And while our city may look drastically different from decades past, there are several noteworthy and iconic landmarks that still stand, offering a glimpse into the history of our town. Here are five historic hotspots worth checking out the next time you find yourself in our city by the sea.

The Balboa Pavilion (Built in 1906)

Our first stop on this coastal odyssey takes us to The Balboa Pavilion, a charming piece of history that has graced Newport Beach‘s shoreline since 1906. Step into the past as you wander through this iconic Victorian structure, boasting a rich history of hosting grand soirées and casual beachgoers alike. The original building consisted of a bathhouse on the first floor and a large meeting room on the second floor. In the early 1900s, it was home to the post office and a barber shop and later became a popular spot for sport fishing companies. Today, it is a symbol of timeless elegance and serves as a major focal point in Newport Beach.

Crystal Cove Historic District (Est. in the 1920s)

Nestled within the breathtaking Crystal Cove State Park is a treasure trove of cottages that date back to the 1920s and 1930s. These charming beachfront cottages are part of the Crystal Cove Historic District and were once the getaway of choice for Hollywood stars. Thanks to non-profit organizations like the Crystal Cove Conservancy, 28 of the 46 have been meticulously restored to preserve their historic integrity and significance. Stroll along the sandy pathways of the Historic District, snap photos of the colorful facades and imagine the tales these cottages could tell if walls could talk.

Balboa Island Ferry (Est. in 1919)

As you explore Newport Beach‘s history, don’t miss the iconic Balboa Island Ferry, which has transported passengers across Newport Harbor since 1919. This short yet scenic journey offers picturesque views of the bay and will take you to and from the charming Balboa Island. The Beek family owns and operates the Balboa Island Ferry as well as Island Marine Fuel, and while the ferry ride across the bay used to cost a mere 10 cents, guests can now expect to pay a couple of bucks.

Sherman Library & Gardens (Est. in 1966)

While not the oldest landmark in Newport Beach, Sherman Library & Gardens, established in 1966, is a green oasis with historical roots. Founder and businessman Arnold D. Haskell had a passion for education and gardens, and in 1966, he founded Sherman Library & Gardens, naming it after his mentor, Moses H. Sherman. Today, the gardens feature a conservatory, central garden, cafe, library and gift shop. Wander through lush landscapes, charming courtyards and enchanting tea garden—it’s the perfect way to spend a serene afternoon in the lovely enclave of Corona del Mar.

Balboa Fun Zone (Built in 1936)

Throughout its history, the Balboa Fun Zone has consistently lived up to its name. This waterfront amusement area is an iconic piece of Southern California history that came to be in 1936 when Fred Lewis, the owner of a failing boatyard, leased his land on the Balboa Peninsula to entrepreneur Al Anderson. Anderson quickly turned this bayfront property into a family destination with the addition of a Ferris wheel and merry-go-round. Today, the Balboa Fun Zone enters a new chapter with its recent purchase by the Pyle family, who are longstanding residents of Newport Beach. This acquisition ignited a sense of excitement and anticipation, promising a reimagined and vibrant experience that continues to captivate and entertain locals for decades to come.

Written By: Kaylin Waizinger

Written by Visit Newport Beach

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