Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve Events


Family Science Sundays, One Sunday each month from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Recommended for ages 3-12. Enjoy free activities in the Muth Interpretive Center classroom, with a different educational theme to explore. The activities are self-guided and can include hands-on exhibits, outside hikes, crafts and more. No registration is necessary.

Wild Tales, every Friday, from 10:30-11:30 a.m. at Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center for 2-8 year olds. Enjoy story time, a walk and an activity. Pre-registration is required. 949.923.2269.


Click on photo for a  larger image

Kayak Tour every Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m. Launch from the Newport Aquatic Center at 1 Whitecliffs Drive for a two-hour guided tour of Upper Newport Bay. Trained naturalists begin with a quick lesson on how to paddle and then lead participants into the Ecological Reserve. They make several stops where they discuss various aspects of the ecology and wildlife of the Bay. Each tour is unique with startling differences in birds and other wildlife seen depending on the season and state of the tide. In winter, there is a huge abundance and diversity of shorebirds, ducks, and grebes that have migrated from Canada and Alaska. Roughly 80 species of fish have been found here. Bring sun protection, even in winter, and be prepared to get a little wet. Make sure to arrive at least 15 minutes prior to tour to check in and fill out a waiver. 


Click on photo for a larger image


Back Bay Drive Nature Walks on the first Sunday of the month. Enjoy a leisurely morning walk along Back Bay Drive observing birds and plants. A side channel of the estuary runs adjacent to the multi-purpose road and there are great opportunities to view shorebirds, waterfowl and other birds.

Back Bay Science Center Community Day every Sunday at 10 a.m. Learn about ongoing research, restoration and education. Explore touch tanks and tour the teaching lab. Free; no reservations needed. 600 Shellmaker Road.

Big Canyon Bird and Plant Walk on the third Saturday of the month. Expert Newport Bay Conservancy Naturalists conduct highly informative themed plant and bird programs at Big Canyon. They involve a short walk in an area where several habitats meet, and provide a great introduction for those interested in identifying the birds and plants they see at the Bay. Free; no reservations needed. 600 Shellmaker Road.

Big Canyon Bird Walk on the last Sunday of the month (except in December). For those interested in a more intense bird-watching experience and the possibility of seeing something rare, one of the bird experts offers a 2-3 hour outing at Big Canyon. Suitable for beginner and advanced bird watchers. Free; no reservations needed.

Family Hike on the 1st and 3rd Saturdays of every month. Meet and the Muth Center patio for an hour-long hike providing a great introduction to the Bay. All ages welcome. Call 949.923.2269 to RSVP.

Birds in flight

Habitat Restoration in Newport Bay on the second Thursday of the month. Birds and other wildlife need a healthy habitat to thrive. Be a part of that positive impact while enjoying the beauty of Newport Bay and Big Canyon. All training, tools and gloves will be provided.

Shellmaker Discovery Tours on Saturdays where you can join a California Dept. of Fish & Wildlife Naturalist to learn about Shellmaker Island’s rich history, the future of the Back Bay Science Center, and discover unusual and endangered plant, bird and crab habitats.

Ground squirrel heated tail

Restoration Program in Newport Bay on the second Sunday of the month. Join Preserve staff and other volunteers in enhancing the Bay’s habitat for local wildlife. Activities may include non-native plant removal, planting natives, watering, trash cleanup and Butterfly Garden maintenance. No experience is necessary. Bring a hat, sunscreen and snacks. Water and tools are provided. Space is limited and pre-registration is required.


What Else?

Walking and Jogging

Back Bay Drive is a multi-use road that stretches 3 miles northwards along the east side of the Bay from the Back Bay Science Center at Shellmaker Road to Vista Point on the corner of Eastbluff Drive. Back Bay Drive is one-way for motor vehicles from south to north. This is the best route if you would like to be close to the water and see shorebirds and waterfowl, but bear in mind that bikes and pedestrians share the road. Street parking south of Shellmaker Road, at the bottom of San Joaquin Hills Road and on Eastbluff Drive, and a parking lot at Big Canyon. There are scenic pedestrian trails at Big Canyon.


Click on photo for a  larger image

Horseback Riding

There are designated horse trails between 23rd Street and Bayview Drive, but there are no horse rental facilities in the Ecological Reserve or Nature Preserve.


There is a 10-mile bike loop around the Bay. Starting at Jamboree at San Diego Creek and heading clockwise the first stop is Vista Point on the corner of Eastbluff Drive and Back Bay Drive. Take Back Bay Drive to the Newport Dunes Resort. Follow the sign-posted bike path through the resort, which brings you out onto Pacific Coast Highway at the bridge. Take the highway over the bridge and turn right on Dover Drive. You can take a quick detour to Castaways Park, Northstar Beach or Galaxy Park or follow the direct route along Dover to Irvine Avenue where you will turn right. On Irvine just beyond Santiago Drive a set of paved trails begin. These take you to the Interpretive Center, and from there to Bayview Drive and back to Jamboree Road. The 22-mile Mountains to Sea Trail, which runs from Weir Canyon north of Irvine Regional Park joins the Back Bay Loop at Jamboree Road and continues through to Shellmaker Road.

Newport Bay Conservancy

Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center,

2301 University Drive, Newport Beach. Email:

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Photos courtesy of Upper Newport Bay