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Uptown Getaway

Originally Published in Trailer Life Magazine

What’s the Southern California motorhomer to do? There aren’t many ways to escape the
stress of the workplace without driving many miles from home. Add to that the fact that
there are few RV parks in the metropolitan areas, freeway traffic is a daunting factor and
time seems to be always fleeting. Fortunately, there is a lovely solution only 60 miles
southeast of Los Angeles: Newport Dunes Waterfront RV Resort. As the name implies, this
park sits beside a laid-back lagoon, with a protected stretch of beach, right in the heart
of the ritzy city of Newport Beach. The facility is located just off Pacific Coast Highway
(State Highway 1), near the junction of Interstate 405 (the San Diego Freeway) and State
Highway 55 (the Newport Freeway). We decided to take advantage of this convenient location
on a spring weekend. From our front-row site, we could watch the sun set and the moon rise
through our RV windshield. It goes without saying, that’s the priciest choice.
Nevertheless, because of the demand, it is wise to reserve a waterfront site as much as a
year in advance. Whether set up in the back row or the front, all guests can enjoy the
park’s 10-acre beach and various water sports. Families flock to the children’s beachside
playground, hosted by a popular whale. A lifeguard is on duty in the summer, when swimming
is popular. Rental kayaks, pedal boats, sailboats and sailboards are ideal for exploring
the bay beyond the lagoon. Rental bicycles, tandem bikes, Rollerblades, boogie boards,
wetsuits, electric boats and fishing boats also are available — even umbrellas and lawn
chairs. Sailing, kayaking and windsurfing lessons can be arranged. Basketball and
volleyball courts, as well as horseshoe pits, are ready to take on all comers. Walkers,
joggers and bikers share the milelong path that circles the lagoon. And we saw a few kids
on scooters and roller skates. Hikers and bird-watchers may continue on a trail through
adjacent Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve and Nature Preserve, a 752-acre coastal
wetland. If you want to take a holiday from the kitchen, the Back Bay Cafe serves breakfast
and lunch year-round, a full brunch on Sundays and dinner on summer weekends (April to
October). Shaded patio tables offer waterfront views, but dining is available inside as
well. Or you might opt to splurge at one of the fine dining establishments in nearby
Fashion Island. Several restaurants are located on the perimeter, where it’s easy to park
your motorhome. We enjoyed a fabulous dinner at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse. Shopping, of
course, is the prime attraction at this world-famous center, which contains more than 200
specialty stores, and at the South Coast Plaza, also in Newport Beach. The latter also has
restaurants, plus art galleries, a theater, a carousel and other attractions. If shopping
is your bag, you could easily spend an entire day at either of these upscale centers.
Newport Harbor is just a short drive away. There, sport-fishing and parasailing are
exciting possibilities. Also the Newport Harbor Nautical Museum houses a collection of
interesting memorabilia. If you’re after a quintessential California experience, take a
short ride on the ferry over to Balboa Island, which offers a variety of family
entertainment. You can stroll the pier while indulging in an ice-cream cone, take a harbor
cruise or ride the Ferris wheel. Newport Dunes is huge, yet is a friendly place with the
feeling of a family-run campground, which in fact it is. Open since 1958, the 100-acre
facility underwent a $50 million redevelopment in 1990. Today it features 406 double-wide
sites with full hookups, including satellite television. Each space is defined by a
vine-covered chainlink fence, for privacy and security, and it keeps pets from infringing
on neighbors’ sites. Fire rings are provided along the shore for campers who hanker for
campfires. The swimming pool and spa, located opposite the office and store at the park
entrance, are nicely landscaped and the surrounding greenery provides privacy. The adjacent
clubhouse contains the coin-operated laundry facilities, group meeting rooms and a
recreation room (sporting a big-screen television). The resort also provides the services
of a full-time activities director, who organizes events for guests of all ages every
weekend year-round and daily from mid-June to Labor Day. In addition, the park is now
offering three-day Disney packages that include premium RV sites, breakfast at the resort’s
cafe, and passes to Disneyland and California Adventure Park, located only 15 minutes away.
The 430-slip state-of-the-art marina features docks, a seven-lane boat launch and a boat
wash. RV guests who tow their own boats can store them here after a day’s cruise. The
Spanish-style clubhouse features a pool, a spa, a recreation room and a fitness center; the
latter is open to RV guests. One section of the park beach is open to the public, with
pavilions that can be reserved for family gatherings and cabanas are available for group
events. In addition to all of the other activities, Newport Dunes guests also have their
choice of several nearby recreational facilities: a nine-hole golf course, miniature golf,
a bowling center, go-carts, batting cages and an arcade. Guided horseback tours can be
arranged at Irvine Regional Park. A two-hour kayak tour of the back bay is conducted every
Sunday morning by a naturalist from the ecological reserve. Staff members of the reserve
also lead walking tours and canoe and pontoon boat tours on Saturdays. Among the thousands
of birds that can be spotted here are the endangered brown pelican, the California least
tern and the peregrine falcon. An interpretive center is open on weekends, and special
events are scheduled throughout the year. In short, there is more than enough to do in and
around Newport Dunes Waterfront RV Resort. Or, you can relax in your lawn chair and soak up
the gorgeous view, with sea gulls swooping around the lagoon and ducks feeding on the grass
between your coach and the sand. Either way, I’m betting you’ll feel like the rich and
famous when camping at this urban hideaway; we did.

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