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Newport Beach is one of California's Overlooked Treasures What: Charming island and peninsula, with great beaches. Despite all of its charms, it's often overlooked by tourists and area residents alike, which keeps it relatively uncrowded. The seven islands of Newport Beach Harbor lie cradled inside Balboa Peninsula, and are some of the most expensive real estate in Southern California. Homes costing $1.5 million and up are surrounded by one of the world's largest small yacht harbors. Newport Beach is a quiet, relaxed place where you're more likely to meet the harbor patrol than the highway patrol, and you'll hear more birds than automobiles. Where: Just off Pacific Coast Highway in Orange County. Take CA 55 south from I-5 and directly onto Newport Blvd., or exit CA 1 at Newport Blvd. Newport Blvd. turns into Balboa Blvd., and goes down the middle of the peninsula. Reach Balboa Island from the peninsula by ferry, or take Jamboree Rd. south from I-5. When: Any time Newport Beach Sights and Activities Harbor Cruise: Cruise on the Pavilion Paddy to get acquainted with Newport Beach Harbor. Soak up sunshine while moving gently past through green water. Float past waterfront homes, each with their own boat dock, and listen to the gossip-column stories of today and yesterday. Learn who owns that enormous yacht, and how they made their money. You'll pass cottages so small you'd have to go outside just to change your mind, and million dollar mansions divided by sibling squabbles. Balboa Beach: Balboa Peninsula's beach was named one of the top ten urban beaches in the United States by Surfrider Magazine in 2001. Ocean side or harbor side? It could be the most difficult decision of your day. The Wedge, at the ocean-side tip of Balboa Peninsula, is famous for bodysurfing. Nearby, Corona del Mar State Beach sits below protective cliffs, the sand littered with beachgoers. Balboa Island: The ferry takes you to Balboa Island, but first stop for lunch on the upstairs patio at Newport Landing, where the harbor traffic provides a side dish of free entertainment to go with your meal. Once planned to be a racetrack, Balboa Island now teems with cottages arranged in neat rows, looking like a Norman Rockwell scene with American flags flying. Marine Avenue, the island's only shopping area, offers a variety of wares, from handmade kites to resort wear. Side Trip: Newport Beach likes to claim Catalina Island as one of its attractions even though it's technically in Los Angeles County, but who can blame them? If you have the time, take the Catalina Flyer for a day trip to Catalina Island, "the land of happiness."

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