Upper Newport Bay
This nature reserve, known as 'Back Bay' to the locals, is a gem of tranquillity. Saltwater meets freshwater here, creating the perfect hangout for native birdlife, and there are over 200 species to spot - some of them endangered. Besides the fabulous wildlife, there's walking and biking trails, horse-riding, kayaking trips - and a chance to escape the hubbub of the main beaches.
This iconic local landmark, a Victorian bath- and boat-house built in 1906, now houses a restaurant and shops. It's at the heart of a bustling area where boats leave for cruises, fishing trips, and both Catalina and Balboa Islands. Just nearby are the Ferris wheel and traditional amusements of Fun Zone, as well as plenty of beachside eateries and shops.
One of the best way to invoke the O.C spirit on Newport Beach holidays is to head to Fashion Island, a ritzy outdoor shopping mall. Bloomingdales, Macy's, Nordstrum and Neiman Marcus are the anchor stores here, and there are exclusive boutiques aplenty - as well more accessible stores. In between are fountains, ponds with koi carp, restaurants, and a miniature train for kids.
Corona del Mar
Upmarket 'CDM' has two fantastic golden-sand beaches separated by a cliff - both of which come with the bonus of fire pits and volleyball courts. There's great snorkelling here on the reefs offshore, while slightly further along the coast is Crystal Cove State Park, with a stretch of coast that's paradise for beachcombers and solitude seekers alike.
Museum of Art
If you're after a culture fix after all that beach life, head to the Museum of Art. There's a good collection of Californian art plus cutting-edge artists, as well as a sculpture garden and a film theatre showing art house classics.