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Scenic Driving Routes in Newport Beach

October 18, 2023

Nothing clears the mind and refuels our sense of adventure quite like hitting the open road, even if it’s just for an afternoon. We’re highlighting a few favorite stretches of road in the beautiful Newport Beach area, complete with roadside diversions for food, history, nature and entertainment. Rent your vehicle of choice from one of Newport Beach’s premier dealerships, strap in and hit the gas!

Crystal Cove State Park

One of Orange County’s largest remaining examples of protected seashore, Crystal Cove State Park boasts 3.2 miles of sandy beaches, tidepools, rolling waves and untouched spaces. The most direct way to get to Crystal Cove is to drive south on Pacific Coast Highway. Enjoy the spectacular views of the ocean and wildlife on your way to this unique destination.

The waters offshore are a designated underwater park popular with swimmers and surfers. If you enjoy the great outdoors, you can even park and stay in the Crystal Cove State Park Moro Campground or cozy up in one of the historic cottages available for rent.

Best beaches in Newport Beach

Other attractions along this stretch of coastline include the beautiful Tuscan-inspired Resort at Pelican Hill, the Crystal Cove Historic District and upscale restaurants like A Crystal Cove and Mastro’s Ocean Club.

Upper Newport Bay Nature Reserve

In the heart of Newport Beach lies the sparkling Upper Newport Bay Nature Reserve, also known as The Back Bay. Another area of protected wilderness, this 1,000 acres of preserved wetlands is home to Newport Dunes, a family-friendly waterfront resort, the Back Bay Science Center and the Newport Bay Conservancy.

Take a short, scenic drive inland north and east a few miles and you’ll hit the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve, where you can enjoy this uniquely picturesque setting that features an abundance of opportunities for outdoor activities. Go bird watching, jogging, biking, hiking and kayaking! The Back Bay was purchased by the state in 1975 for its Fish and Wildlife Department’s Ecological Reserve System and further expanded to more than 85 acres in 1985. Make sure you take in the natural beauty of the white cliffs at this expansive nature preserve. To understand this unique environment, visit the Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center while you’re there.

Buck Gully

Orange County features numerous canyons and spectacular views of the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains. As you drive around, you will get a great view of Bommer and Shady Canyons from the San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor (Route 73). Then, continue your scenic drive by exiting at Newport Coast Drive to visit the Buck Gully Nature Reserve.

Buck Gully is a coastal canyon bordered by urbanized neighborhoods and the Pelican Hill Golf Club. For a real get-away-from-it-all, this park features a wonderfully remote single-track road with only a few bridge crossings for a nice afternoon hike or off-road bike ride.

Balboa Peninsula

Spanning three miles, the always buzzing Balboa Peninsula is framed by the harbor on one side and sandy shores on the other. To get there, turn onto West Balboa Boulevard from Pacific Coast Highway, which eventually leads down to the world-famous surf spot, The Wedge. As you cruise down the peninsula, you’ll discover several charming seaside restaurants, stunning coastal homes, ocean views and historic landmarks like the Balboa Pier and The Balboa Pavilion. Swaying palms and a sea breeze set the scene for this postcard-worthy drive, and you’ll definitely want to stop for a bowl of seafood chowder at The Crab Cooker. Pro tip: cruise down the Balboa Peninsula during sunset and watch the sky change colors!

Written By: Kaylin Waizinger

Written by Visit Newport Beach

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