Newport Beach is a seaside city in Orange County, California, United States. Its population was 85,287 at the 2010 census. Newport Beach is also home to Newport Harbor.
Newport Harbor and Newport Bay
Newport Harbor is a semi-artificial harbor that was formed by dredging Newport Bay estuary during the early 1900s. Several artificial islands were built, which are now covered with private homes: Newport Island, Balboa Island, Little Balboa Island, Collins Island, Bay Island, Harbor Island, Lido Isle and Linda Isle.
Newport Harbor once supported maritime industries such as boatbuilding, shipbuilding, and commercial fishing, but today it is used mostly for recreation. Its shores are occupied mostly by private homes and private docks. With approximately 9,000 boats, Newport Harbor is one of the largest recreational boat harbors on the U.S. west coast. It’s a popular destination for all boating activities, including sailing, fishing, rowing, canoeing, kayaking, and paddleboarding.
Commercial maritime operations today include the Catalina Flyer ferry to Catalina Island, harbor tours, sport fishing and whale watching day trips and charters, and a few small commercial fishing boats.
Newport Bay is divided by the Pacific Coast Highway bridge, which is too low for most sailboats and very large boats to pass under. North of the bridge is referred to as Upper Newport Bay, or the Back Bay. South of the bridge is commonly called Lower Newport Bay, or Newport Harbor. However the Back Bay also has harbor facilities, especially the marina and launch ramp at The Dunes.
The north end of the Newport Harbor channels around Lido Island have a number of small business centers and were at one time used by the fishing fleets as their home. On the North East side of the channel, the Lido Marina Village now provides the local port to many “Newport Party Boats” as well as small merchants and local restaurants. It also hosts the area boat show each year as well as an organic “Farmers Market” Sundays, in addition to being the port for the local Gondola Company. In 2014, the center was closed for a renovation.
In 1927 a home was built at the mouth of the entrance of Newport Harbor that came to be known as the China House of China Cove. The home was built using the traditional Chinese architecture. It was a landmark in the Newport Beach Harbor until it was demolished in the 1980s. Some of the original roof can be seen on a home located in the China Cove.
Upper Newport Bay is an estuary that was formed by a prehistoric flow of the Santa Ana River. Today it is fed by a small stream from San Diego Creek. Much of Upper Newport Bay is a protected natural area known as the Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve, established in 1975.
The Upper Bay of Newport is a canyon, which was carved by a stream in the Pleistocene period. The Lower Bay of Newport was formed much later by sand that was brought along by ocean currents, which constructed the offshore beach that is now recognized as the Balboa Peninsula of Newport Beach.
Before settlers reached the coasts of California, the Newport area and surrounding areas were very prominent Indian lands. Indian shells and relics can still be found today scattered throughout the area. Though, throughout the 1800s, settlers began to settle the area due to the availability of land. The State of California sold acre-plots of land for $1 a piece in the Newport area. Anglo-American inhabitation in the area grew substantially following the events of 1870 when a 105-ton steamer named The Vaquero, captained by Captain Samuel S. Dunnells (against warnings posted by surveyors) safely steered through the lower and upper bay of Newport where it unloaded its cargo. James Irvine, after hearing the astonishing news, quickly traveled from his home in San Francisco to the San Joaquin Ranch. Meeting in Irvine’s ranch house near current day UC Irvine with his brother, Robert Irvine, and friend James McFadden, they all agreed that the newly found port should be named simply, “Newport” thus where Newport Beach gets its name.
In 1905, city development increased when Pacific Electric Railway established a southern terminus in Newport connecting the beach with downtown Los Angeles. In 1906 (with a population of 206 citizens), the scattered settlements were incorporated as the City of Newport Beach.
Settlements filled in on the Peninsula, West Newport, Newport Island, Balboa Island and Lido Isle. In 1923 Corona del Mar was annexed and in 2002 Newport Coast, East Santa Ana Heights and San Joaquin Hills, were annexed. In 2008, after a long battle with the city of Costa Mesa, Newport Beach annexed West Santa Ana Heights.