Beach Daze in The OC

Camping in Newport Beach surrounded by friends and family sounded like a great idea – the sun, the sand, the surf, the sunsets… Sure, we could drive the 45 minutes from home to the beach each day – but that would be too easy. Instead my girlfriends and I decided to pack it all up – the hubbies, the kids, the dogs, the bikes, the skateboards, the boogie boards, the corn-toss – jam it into the RVs and head to the beach!

The beaches in “The OC”- Orange County, California – are about as perfect as they get so we settled on Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort in Newport Beach, California. Known as a premier family holiday destination with beautiful scenery and an abundance of activities, it seemed like the perfect location for our local adventures.

You need to reserve early for these spots on the bay and unfortunately, they are not cheap – about $3,000 for the week for a beachfront spot!?! – but I have to admit, having a glass of wine at the end of the day with this view was easy to get used to.

The front row of RV spots provides a nice grassy area with beautiful climb-able trees in front of your RV and a cute white picket fence that leads you to the bike path, the sand, the bay … summer family bliss! Here’s the good/bad/ugly of our stay in The OC:

The “Good”

The resort has beachfront RV spots as well as cabins. If you really do your homework, they have some great corner spots that practically have their own yard. They also have several rows not on the beach, and some tent spots which can bring down the cost by half. There seemed to be plenty of space on the roads for the kids to ride their bikes and skateboards, to walk the dogs, and get a corn toss tournament going. They have a swimming pool, a market, a laundry facility (but we’re on vacation!), a nice restaurant and a rec room with a pool table, ping pong and games. Their showers are wonderfully kept and have code keys on the doors.

The resort is packed with things to do: There is a water playground with giant floating inflatables along with every water toy rental that you can imagine: kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, pedal boats and real boats! On top of that, they have every wheeled toy on Earth including golf carts, bikes and surrey bikes – truly, a little somethin-somethin for everyone. The beach is on the bay, so there are no waves – a plus for the little ones. There is also a wonderful winding path with a bridge over the water that circles the entire bay – so you can bike ride, skateboard or walk the whole beautiful loop.

Around town, there is more kayaking, bike riding, canoeing, beautiful beaches, boating, events (we stopped by the Sawdust Festival), restaurants, shopping, gondola rides (and maybe a little impromptu dock diving). If you are looking for some fun in the sun – there is no shortage here.

No RV? No problem! There is an RV rental office onsite and will deliver the RV right to your spot so it is waiting for you with the A/C on when you arrive. The price of renting the RV is comparable to the price of their beachfront cottages. And if you get a real hankering for a real hotel in South County, try the Marriott Newport Coast Villas, or a bit further south at the Surf and Sand in Laguna or the Laguna Cliffs Marriott in Dana Point.

The “Bad”

With the exception of a select few, the RV spots were small – so hold your breath as you’re backing in that baby! Aside from the beachfront spots – the rest of the place looked kind of like a parking lot. No greenery or trees to speak of beyond the front row. Now, the fact that you are steps from the ocean and all those activities is still fantastic, but there is no hanging out in your spot enjoying the view unless you are going to spring for the beachfront.

That mile of beachfront that you pay for is open for day use, so be prepared for it to get busy during peak hours. We found that it was particularly popular with local children’s day camps. However, staking your spot amongst the beach-goers is as easy as getting your chairs and umbrella in the sand early.

The resort apparently runs many activities throughout the day. We showed up for two – Volleyball and a pool tournament – but there was no activity director to be found – not even a volleyball! I have a feeling most people learned the drill, as we did, don’t bother showing up. The one activity that was a huge hit, however, was movies on the beach. These were a nice touch and very popular.

The “Ugly”

The big price tag at the Newport Dunes resort doesn’t include anything except the slab of cement (or dirt) on which to park your RV. In fact, they even charge you extra to secure a particular spot – which is pretty important when traveling with friends! Most of the activities at the resort charge by the hour, $15 here, $20 there, $50 for this or that – even $0.25 for a ping pong ball! So bring your ATM machine. They also charge you for shade: If you want a cabana on the beach (which is actually a pergola with a picnic table underneath) or an umbrella or even a fire pit, get your wallet. This is the OC, don’t forget.

All in all, however, we knew our beach week would be expensive and planned for it. Despite “The Bad” and “The Ugly,” we really had a spectacular week. We did something new every day, the weather was on point, and honestly, a solid week with family and forever friends (and our kids putting their screens down to bike, swim, play, laugh, surf, and enjoy the beach)… I couldn’t ask for more than that!


Good to Know

  • Bring equipment for everything your kids might want to do so you don’t have to rent it. Grab your bikes, boogie boards, fire pits, wood, paddleboards and kayaks, if you have them. It’s worth the schlep.
  • Plan ahead and take advantage of some Groupon deals for activities and restaurants. There are tons available for places just outside the resort at practically half the cost. We used it for our gondola ride, kayak rentals, as well as a deep sea fishing excursion. Those deals were a steal and I suggest you look up some ways to enjoy the fun while saving some cash for a nice restaurant or two.
  • The onsite market is a little pricey (as most are), so we took advantage of the nearby Pavilions market.
  • Travel during off-peak (Labor Day through Memorial Day) for better savings.
  • There are no BBQs at the campsites, so bring your own or plan meals that don’t need one.
  • Wifi is spotty and weak. If you are here to truly disconnect, this won’t be a problem. But don’t expect for the kids to stream a movie during quiet time. The connection is just too slow to support that.
  • Don’t miss: The family of ducks that come by for their nightly visit to the beachfront sites.



by Kelly Dietz, January 2017

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