10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know about Newport Beach

It’s no secret that Newport Beach is one of the most idyllic coastal towns this side of the Pacific Ocean. (We see you, Venice Beach.) But there’s more to know beyond the surf and shore, so brush up on your Newport Beach knowledge with these 10 facts …

1. There’s romance in the air.

Book your sunset cruise and put that champagne on ice because Newport Beach was named by USA as one of the top 5 “Most Romantic Beaches in California.” The publication cited couple-friendly activities like surfing, sailing, paddle boarding, kayaking, boogie boarding and sport fishing among the many things to enjoy with a special someone while visiting Newport Beach’s 10-mile stretch of oceanfront bliss.

2. There’s also bro-mance in the air.

Last year, Newport Beach came in at No. 3 on Thrillist’s ranking of “America’s 12 Bro-iest Neighborhoods.” Among the reasons for its overwhelming bro-tential: Epic July 4 celebrations and the ability to wake up, surf, go to work, sleep and repeat.

3. “Superstar” status? Check.

This one doesn’t quite mean what you think; in an annual report by the National Resources Defense Council, Newport Beach was designated one of 35 “superstar” beaches in the U.S. for “consistently meeting water quality safety thresholds.”

4.  Newport Beach is for the birds.

Upper Newport Bay—one of only a handful of estuaries remaining in Southern California—is a coastal wetland that’s also home to more than 200 species of birds. Widely known as one of the best bird-watching sites in the U.S., this wildlife locale is visited by tens of thousands of birders each year who flock from near and far to catch glimpses of the elusive—and endangered—Ridgeway’s rail or spot a California least tern.

5. It all started with a 105-pound river steamer.

Way back in 1870 when Captain Samuel S. Dunnells rolled his river steamer, Vaquero, through upper Newport Bay, he subsequently squashed the long-standing rumor that the area was unable to be navigated by boat and thus a “New Port” was born. Five years later, two young businessmen named James and Robert McFadden scuttled down the coastline from Northern California via stagecoach to purchase land from Dunnells and turn Newport into a commercial trade and shipping center.

6. Scratch that. It actually started with an explorer from Portugal.

Though Native Americans (including the Tongva and Juaneño/Luiseño people) inhabited the area now known as Newport Beach for thousands of years, it wasn’t until Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo charted out the shoreline in 1542 that the town was first on the map. Literally.

7. Home prices in the early 1900s were ever-so-slightly lower than they are today. [Sarcastic emoji face.]

In 1906, construction on the Balboa Pavilion and Balboa Pier was completed, with both structures intended to lure homebuyers to the area. During that time a typical bay front home sold for an average of $500. (Today, the median home price in Newport Beach is estimated at just over $1 million.)

8. In Newport Beach, Shirley Temple is way more than a sugary drink.

Throughout her childhood, Shirley Temple grew up summering in Newport Beach. From June through August, her family rented a home on the Balboa Peninsula and as her fame grew, surprisingly so did her involvement with the local community; in 1936 she cut the ribbon at the Newport Harbor dedication ceremony and in 1941, at the age of 13, she was crowned the first-ever Miss Newport.

9. Newport Beach, here’s looking at you, kid.

Along with Temple, Humphrey Bogart was also a longtime Newport Beach resident. The Casablanca star spent much of the 1940s and 50s (when not filming hit movies, of course) sailing aboard his yacht, Santana, with actress Lauren Bacall, whom he wed in 1945.

10. One if by land, two if by sea …

Aviation innovator Glenn L. Martin broke an over-water flight record on May 10, 1912 when he flew his self-built seaplane on a 68-mile round trip from Newport Bay to Catalina Island. He even picked up a sack of mail in Catalina before heading back to the mainland, thus making history once again by delivering the first mail via air … ever. Talk about neighborly hospitality!