Balboa Bay Resort
1221 West Coast Highway
Newport Beach, CA 92663
A lovely display from First Cabin's Sunday brunch
Newport Beach must be one of the happiest places on Earth, for I have rarely seen so many smiling faces and thoughtful gestures abounding as I did the weekend I spent at Newport’s Balboa Bay Resort. What’s not to be happy about at this resort? Beautiful sweeping views of the active bay, bright sunny weather, and close proximity to the quaintest villages and attractions are some of its highlights. Balboa Bay Resort is the only AAA 4 Diamond waterfront resort in this lovely seaside village of Orange County and, from my perspective, resides in the same sophisticated league with the Hotel Del Coronado, similarly maintaining its own picture wall of esteemed guests such as Ronald and Nancy Regan, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, John Wayne, Greer Garson, and Joey Bishop. Nobody at this resort sloughs through his or her job. From the waiters to the front desk to the bellboys, everyone treated my family and me with exceptional grace and care.
The resort is perched on the Newport harbor, with views of enormous yachts and of the lavishly residential Lido Island. As my family ate at the resort’s main restaurant, First Cabin, we watched glowing yachts and Duffy boats (electrically motorized boats) leisurely drifting by. Back in the resort’s earlier days, John Wayne was a regular here and the resort pays him homage by dedicating its lounge, Duke’s Place, to him. Newport Beach is said to be a playground for overworked Los Angelites, and one can easily imagine how this lovely resort would serve as a refuge for anyone, not just those from Los Angeles, needing some serious rest--in style.
The resort is within a fifteen minute drive of such beautiful attractions such as Balboa Island (three main streets of artsy shopping), the Newport Pier and Beach, and the Balboa Fun Zone (a small amusement park on the bay). Newport Beach is also home to two nature preserves, free to the public, including the Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center and the Environmental Nature Center. Fashion Island is a nearby mega-mall for serious shoppers. Plenty of entertainment and activities, for kids and adults alike, surround this resort.
The Balboa Bay Resort is situated right on the Newport Bay
For this reason, I would not call Balboa Bay Resort a true destination resort because too many attractions orbiting the resort make it impossible to stay put. Yet everything within the resort itself is of the highest class. The First Cabin Restaurant, overlooking the bay, has standout service that makes one feel that that he/she is relaxing among old friends. On the first night of our stay, Mike, our distinguished waiter, greeted our table by asking my kids who among them plays soccer. Since they all do, the conversation overflowed throughout the meal with his cute health tips that amused my kids, such as that “adding onions to the hamburger will help burn free radicals in the body, very good for soccer players.” His old-fashioned charm and concern that everyone had everything needed to be completely comfortable is a rare find today. On the second night, we met youthful Eugene, equally engaging. When one of the meals was cold, he rushed it back, returned in minutes, and declared that the cook was being “flogged,” a comment that kept my kids laughing throughout the meal.
The First Cabin’s Sunday Brunch was, for me, a cheese lover, outstanding. It had a lovely carving station of New York Strip and Pork Loin as well as traditional brunch favorites such as applewood bacon, assorted sausages, herb crusted tomatoes, French toast and fingerling potatoes. A salad table was also available with tomato salad, Greek salad, and potato salad. The highlight for me though was the table devoted to smoked salmon along with Charcuterie and Artisanal cheeses. Bries, blue cheese, smoked cheddar, and many other cheeses were accompanied with delicious dried fruits such as figs, apricots, and cranberries. My husband was smitten by the cheese blintzes with berry compote. The servers kept the freshly squeezed orange and grapefruit juices and coffee flowing.
First Cabin was also featuring Oktoberfest for lunch and dinner all throughout October, a German menu offering marinated herring, Bavarian bratwurst, wiener schnitzel, and others. I had the Schweinshaxeen, a pork shank. Duke’s Place, the more casual adult dining for the resort, offers hors d’oeuvres and live entertainment. After dinner one night, walking by the lounge, we saw a jazz band with a flutist playing. The resort also has an upscale boutique, the Bay Club Collection.
The Duffy boat ride is an unforgettable experience
My family stayed in two adjoining, plush rooms. The rooms average 500 square feet, with some of the most comfortable beds I have yet experienced, complete with pillow-top mattresses and down-filled duvets. Synthetic pillows are available upon request. Each room has its own balcony, ours faced the serene courtyard with the pool, and visitors can even request bayside rooms for ultimate viewing pleasure. The balconies were well-gated and secure, but of course, don’t leave little ones unattended on this or any balcony. My kids had a good time hanging out on the balconies. The room possessed all of the modern conveniences: multi-line telephones, high-speed Internet access, safes, DVD and CD players, twice-daily maid service, radios on the digital clocks, in-room coffee and tea, Evian water, and daily newspaper delivery. The resort has the newest, On-demand movie system but also the front desk keeps a collection of DVDs. The front desk clerk, Hal, modestly told me that their collection was simple, just donations from employees, but when he read me the complete list on the room phone, it was quite a decent collection, including Edward Scissorhands, Jurassic Park, Polar Express, A Bug’s Life, and many others. After I ordered three movies, Hal called back with profuse apologies that one of my movies had not been returned and is not available. He offered to read the list to me again so that I might select another movie. I was impressed with his concern over this small detail and also that, when he came up to the room with the other two movies, he would not accept a tip, further exemplifying the gracious service that typifies this resort.
I later wandered down to the first floor of the resort, looking for the lounge, when a clerk approached me and asked if he could help me find anything, yet another example of the active hospitality of the staff. The lounge was very relaxing with a fireplace and couches to unwind. The resort also contains a small Business Center, with an unlimited fax service for guests. A full-service spa and workout facility, open 24/7, are also available.
The next day, my kids enjoyed the heated pool and hydro-spa. Towels are available by the pool. I watched the kids swim and curled up on one of the cozy poolside lounge chairs with my ipad, relaxing and breathing in the fresh bay air. This is a perfect scenario for kids to play while parents catch up on some work.
One of the most memorable aspects of the visit was our Duffy boat ride around the Newport Harbor. These electric boats can be rented from the Balboa Bay Club, next door. Our friendly driver was a long-time Newport resident and gave us all the inside scoops on the community, homes, and yachts as we drifted along. She pointed out John Wayne’s and Nicholas Cage’s previous homes, and mentioned that Nicholas Cage used to hang out a lot on the harbor with his young son. She gave us details of the community such as the popular Christmas time tradition of decorated, well-lit boats that cruise in a boat parade and the Halloween festivities on Balboa Island, as we got close-ups of the beautiful homes, the various islands, and the Balboa Pavilion. Some guests bring a picnic basket along for the Duffy ride. What a memorable experience!
The Balboa Bay Club is more than a haven for visitors, but also a hub for the local community as it hosts an array of festive events; coming soon are the Children’s Halloween Festival, an adult Halloween Party, Gingerbread House Making Workshop, Holiday Wreath making Workshop, and a Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner, to name a few items.
As we were getting ready to leave, I saw staff rushing about, getting ready for the big chili cook-off, complete with live music, teams, and a judge. I could see that long after I leave, the bliss here at Balboa Bay Resort will persist for those lucky enough to stay.
The lounge is the perfect place to relax at the end of the day
The harbor homes are some of the interesting sights from Balboa Island