Stepping a single foot onto iconic Balboa Island or any of the natural estuaries and manmade inlets that make up Newport Harbor can make you feel miles away from Los Angeles. And even though the island itself is primarily residential, it has attracted unique boutiques, gift shops, and a few eateries along the timeless charm of Marine Avenue.
Although not located on the island, Balboa Island easily becomes one of many focal points for anyone staying at the Balboa Bay Club & Resort, certainly located in Newport. The hotel itself has an equally balanced foothold in history and modern luxuries.
Originally built in 1948, a scant 20 years after the area began to take shape, the club managed to capture a resort casual kind of atmosphere. And by doing so, it has seen the signatures of Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, and John Wayne on its guest list.
Balboa Bay Club & Resort creates the illusion of a California Riviera
John Wayne also once served on its Board of Governors, which is why the resort's harbor-front bar is named the Duke's Place. Years ago, it wouldn't be uncommon to see his yacht docked nearby; Balboa was one of his favorite areas in Southern California.
Today, the lounge is known for its resort casual dining, breathtaking views of the harbor, and nightly performances by area jazz masters. It's the perfect last stop before retiring to your room.
Although the Riviera-styled property is built on a sprawling 15 acres, the resort portion is relatively modest with 160 rooms and suites. (The balance includes short- and long-term apartments.)
The best rooms include bay views with small patios or incredibly spacious bay view suites with two separate verandas. The courtyard, standard, and one-bedroom suites are nice, but it's the bay views that make any stay unforgettable. All of them are appointed in luxury, with feather-top beds, crisp white duvets, and rattan and wood furniture.
As a resort and club, the hotel hosts seasonal events — summer barbecues, brunches, and concert series in the summer. And the Balboa Bay Club & Resort is home to a state-of-the-art spa, fitness centers, and full-service nail and hair salon. Guests and members can also rent electric Duffy boats, two-person kayaks, or paddle boards.
Rather than manning a boat on your own, you can board a traditionally adorned wooden gondola at the nearby Newport Harbor. Taking advantage of the calm crystal waters, the sunset tours take passengers past canals lined with beautiful boats and homes. The adventure includes appetizers and sparkling cider. Although perfect for two, the rides do accommodate up to four. Dinner is also available.
The quiet, historic charm of nearby Balboa Island.
Walking the boutique-lined Marine Avenue feels like a place out of time.
It's almost impossible to imagine that in the early 1900s, the island was little more than a manmade sand bar, frequently swallowed up by the high tide. Early developers slowly began to change all that, selling island lots for about $500 (sometimes as low as $25).
Although the island is primarily residential, Marine Avenue hosts several unique boutiques and gift shops. There are several favorites to visit, including Ornate Home, Debra Huse Gallery, and Art For The Soul. William's Patio is the best bet for breakfast; Basilic for dinner.
This island was also home to classic stars like Errol Flynn, James Cagney, and Humphrey Bogart. Today, most homes range between $1 and $3 million.
The Balboa Bay Club & Resort Sails To 8.5 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.
There are more luxurious resorts in the Newport area, including a former Four Seasons, which will probably warrant its own review in the future. However, hotels situated around Newport Center are uniquely different. They are set back far enough from the harbor to change the entire mood of the stay.
Rates for the Balboa Bay Club & Resort vary widely, with standard room starting around $250 per night. You can check airfare rates at Fare Buzz with flights up to 60 percent off. Gondola rides in Newport can be reserved through Xperience Days.