Archives For Beaches

Marina Park in Newport BeachIf you’ve spent any time in Newport or Balboa recently then you may have noticed the gorgeous new park that just opened between Newport Beach and Balboa Peninsula. It may surprise you, however, to learn that Marina Park actually sits right on Balboa Bay and is an ideal spot to take babies, toddlers, and big kids for a day at the beach!

Marina Park 2


  • Nautical-themed playground equipment.
  • Lighthouse slide with gorgeous views of the bay from the top. There was a sea lion swimming around the day we were there.
  • Educational information about the ocean and the role that humans play incorporated into the play structures.
  • The playground is right on the water so kids can easily divide their time between the water and playground.
  • Super calm water that is perfect for little ones that may be afraid of waves at other beaches. We spoke with the employees at the Community Center and they assured us that the water in the bay is clean and safe for kids.
  • There are four shaded picnic tables, two unshaded picnic tables, and a few benches around the playground. Or you can eat on the beach like we did!
  • Kids and adults can play basketball or participate in the fitness circuit around the Community Center.
  • Eat at the the Lighthouse Cafe in the community center for breakfast or lunch. The menu includes soups, salads, sandwiches, and other delicious entrees.

Marina Park

Know before you go:

  • There are clean public bathrooms located in the lighthouse.
  • There is a shower right next to the lighthouse to rinse the sand off your kiddos.
  • Even if you don’t plan on having your kids go in the water bring a change of clothes… we saw a few kids run into the water fully clothed. It’s just so tempting!
  • Make sure you watch your children carefully… there are no lifeguards and little ones can make their way to the water quickly!
  • Bring towels, beach toys, beach chairs, and an umbrella because the park is right on the beach.
  • If you are looking for more of a “traditional beach” with waves you can walk across Balboa Blvd. and find a great one by the pier.
  • There’s a ton of construction happening in the area so be prepared for additional traffic on top of the typical beach traffic.

Working out at the Marina Park


1600 W. Balboa Blvd., Newport Beach, CA, 92663

Parking Information:

  • Plenty of nearby parking. There’s a large paid parking lot at the Community Center at Balboa Blvd. and 16th Street, a small lot on W. Balboa Blvd and 18th Street, additional parking around the corner on 18th Street along the bay. Parking at these locations is $1.75 per hour and you may not pay for fractions of an hour. The pay stations require you to input your license plate (or part of your VIN) and they do accept credit cards (including Amex).
  • Free street parking is available in areas along W. Balboa Blvd or smaller streets in the area. Depending on how much stuff you’re carrying you may be more or less motivated to pay for parking!


Marina Park 3

Kelly Rafter
Blog Contributor

About the Author
Kelly and her husband have two little boys, ages 3 and 5. She loves taking her boys on adventures around Southern California that focus on learning, getting their wiggles out, and having fun! When she isn’t fulfilling her mommy duties she teaches at a local community college and is an educational consultant.

Tide Pooling Shaw's CoveI love to go to the beach during the winter months to check out the beautiful tide pools. You don’t have to worry about the heat, the crowd or parking, so it really becomes an easy fun way to spend an afternoon with the kids.

I recently discovered the Shaw’s Cove tide pools in Laguna Beach and I really recommend you take the kids to check them out. Also, this beach is beautiful and secluded and it is definitely a perfect place to snorkel or swim during the summer months.

Tide Pooling (2)

How to get there:

The entrance of this beach is off of Cliff Drive and Fairview Street in Laguna Beach. You will see a stairway leading you down to the beach.

Entrance Shaw's Cove

What you should know:

  • Tide pools are located on both sides of the beach. You can’t miss them.
  • There aren’t any restrooms, so plan accordingly.
  • To get to the beach you have to walk some stairs. It is only a couple of minutes (or less), but I don’t recommend you take a stroller or a wagon with you.
  • In winter it is very easy to find street parking close to the entrance of the beach, but I can imagine that it might be difficult during the summer months.
  • Wear shoes when you check out the tide pools. My girl decided to take them off and cut her foot within seconds.
  • When you go see the tide pools you are supposed to check the tide report first. To be honest with you I never do, I just go and hope for the best. But in case you want to analyze the tide report before heading out, here it is.
  • Remember that you can not remove anything from the beach. So leave the animals, shells, rocks alone. You will go to prison if you remove them…well, I am not sure if they will actually take you to prison, but don’t chance it. Leave the beach alone for everyone to enjoy ;).
  • If you are visiting the Shaw’s Cove during a busier time of the year, you might want to consider taking their free shuttle which drops you off right in front of the beach entrance. Here is a map of the Laguna Beach Trolley’schedule . Note that they offer free parking on weekends at the Mission Hospital.

Laguna Beach Trolley'schedule

Shaw's Cove Beach

Visit to the Ocean Institute

Click on Image to Enlarge

If you are looking for something fun to do with the kids on Sunday, pay a visit to the Ocean Institute, then take an interactive tour of the tall ship Pilgrim and lastly have a nice picnic and playtime on the beach….and you can do all this without moving the car once. Here are the details of this fantastic family outing:

Visit to the Ocean Institute

The Ocean Institute is fairly small but they have lots of activities so you can easily spend 3 hours in it, if not more.

They have a touch tank, a shark and ray pool, a jelly fish station, a microscope station, and many other ocean animals to observe. They also have amazing activities throughout the day. The best one was the squid dissection. Both my kids got to open up a squid, find several body parts, dissect the eyes, and write with the squid ink! I know it might sound yucky but my kids loved it! They also had octopus and Moon Jelly feeding and other activities. And don’t forget to ask for a scavenger hunt sheet at the front desk.

Also you should know that last year the Ocean Institute opened a new exhibit, the Headlands and Beyond, which includes a tank with local sea creatures, an interactive globe, ROV touchscreen, experiments, and a children’s playscape. They also opened the Maddie James Seaside Learning center which you can tour at 11am, 12pm, 1pm and 2pm.

Visit to the Pilgrim

On Sundays the admission fee includes the tour of the Pilgrim a full size replica of an early nineteenth century ship. The tour guide, dressed up in period costume, made the tour real fun and educational for everyone. The tours are on a first come, first served basis and are offered between 10am and 2:30pm. You can sign up at the front desk once you get there.


The Baby beach is right next to the Ocean Institute. This beach is perfect for younger kids since the ocean is completely flat. It is a small beach and it can get pretty crowded on Sundays, but I still like it since I can relax and not worry about my kids getting taken by a wave. This beach has restrooms, showers, picnic tables, BBQs, and a large grassy area with lots of shade. Lots of people like to rent a paddle board. It costs $25 per hour so it is quite expensive but you can split the cost and share it with a friend.

If you prefer a “regular” beach, you can find one right behind the Ocean Institute. You can access it by walking on the right side of their building. This beach also has great tide pooling.


Park at the Ocean Institute for free. Don’t even try to get a parking spot closer to the beach, it is almost impossible. Just use their parking lot and leave your car there until you are ready to go home. The Ocean Institute’s parking lot is right next to the beach parking lot, so don’t worry about having to walk too far. 


24200 Dana Point Harbor Dr., Dana Point, CA, 92629

Weekend Hours

Weekends from 10am to 3pm. Tours of the Pilgrim are only offered on Sundays.

Weekend Cost:

$7.50 for ages 2-12
$10 for ages 13+

Free for children under 2.

For more information about the Ocean Institute, click here


During the week you can visit the Headlands and Beyond exhibit and the Maddie James Seaside Learning Center for $5. It is open Monday through Friday from 10am and 4pm.