One of the best weekend trips you can make from our part of the world is to visit the idyllic coastal community of Newport Beach. This oasis by the sea is home to great golf, countless ocean views, and perhaps the best shopping mall in the world. Those in search of a romantic long weekend will make someone very happy with a stay at the Island Hotel.
Everything about this place seems upscale and almost new. Newport Beach is the Singapore of coastal towns in the U.S. The wide clean streets give way to lushly landscaped housing developments not far from pristine office complexes. This is the way it was drawn up on a developer’s model plan years ago and it still looks that way. Great golf, restaurants, and shopping set on a bluff just above some of the West Coast’s best beaches. What more can you ask for?
The Island Hotel was originally opened as a Four Seasons Property many years ago, and it has retained that stature. The commanding location offers spectacular vistas of Big Canyon Country Club, Fashion Island, and the Newport Beach Harbor. Our corner suite on the 20th floor took all this in as well as the Pacific Ocean with nothing but blue sky during our stay. This is one of the best views in Southern California, and the property is 5-star quality.
The rooms are elegantly furnished and actually on the large side, allowing for sitting areas in each room. State-of-the-art electronics will keep even the well-heeled business traveler happy, and the best in down bedding make for a very pleasant night’s rest. Those looking to splurge a bit should inquire about the Island Club, which is the hotel’s concierge room on the 20th floor. Guests will enjoy a continental breakfast in the morning and light snacks with their “Wine Down” evening service. The floor-to-ceiling windows allow for some of the hotel’s best vistas. For complete details visit IslandHotel.com.
The Oak Grill is the signature restaurant here at the Island Hotel, and it is a special venue. Indoor seating fits into a contemporary wood and glass setting while outdoor seating extends onto a large deck with numerous heaters to keep you warm. They even have outdoor fireside seating to take full advantage of a star-filled evening. Chef Marc and General Manager Miguel Rodriquez-Vidal have created a cuisine with influence from California, the American South, and certain global touches.
We started with butternut squash soup, the baby kale and apple salad, and the classic iceberg wedge salad. Our entrées were seared Atlantic salmon and roasted Chilean sea bass. All was prepared to perfection. The service as well could not have been better.
What about the shopping? Well, Fashion Island, which is just a couple hundred yards from The Island Hotel, might well be the best shopping plaza in the U.S.. Certainly it is probably the most valuable real estate of any plaza set among high-end office buildings and multimillion-dollar homes. Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, and Macy’s all have elegant locations here as do countless other upscale retailers. If you get hungry, the food court puts everything else you have seen to shame. I wish I could eat there every day.
Guests at the Island Hotel have access to two great courses nearby. Pelican Hill has 36 holes of Tom Fazio golf set in the coastal foothills just to the south of Newport Beach. Fazio was at his best here as he framed many of the holes with ocean views in the background. Both courses at Pelican Hill wind their way up into the hills allowing for sweeping vistas from most holes. The clubhouse is worth the trip itself, perched at the top of the property overlooking the golf with the 180-degree views of the Pacific Ocean. Even if you did not play golf, you might want to head over there for lunch one day from The Island Hotel.
To best enjoy this visit, you might consider a Sunday-Tuesday stay. Your trip down will be less crowded, especially if you leave Sunday morning. On the return I would suggest making it to L.A.’s Westside and a stop for dinner. By 7 p.m. most of the traffic has calmed down, and you will have a more pleasant end to your journey.