NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. For 55 years, the Balboa Bay Club has been
the private social center of Newport Beach’s glamour crowd. The
list of celebrity members and guests is long, including such names
as President Ronald Reagan, Humphrey Bogart, John Travolta and Zsa
Zsa Gabor. And in May, the club’s owners launched a new era by
opening a 132-room resort next door.
The club is still private, with separate facilities that share
the 15-acre property. But the hotel is open to the public aside
from one members-only dining room (which, sadly for the rest of us,
has the best view).
The hotel has a warm, inviting atmosphere, with gold and cream
tones and tropical touches. Books in the library a reading room off
the lobby where guests can enjoy a quiet cup of tea are as likely
to be about gardening as boating. The emphasis at the Balboa is on
quality, with 520 employees serving a total of 160 rooms in the
club and resort.
The hotel’s elegantly designed restaurant, First Cabin,
overlooks the marina and offers a French-inspired menu that
competes favorably with the many fine restaurants along that
stretch of the California coast. It’s worth a visit in itself.
The bar, named “Duke’s Place” after actor John Wayne, a former
head of the club, is another fine spot to watch boats glide by
while listening to live music.
If they didn’t bring their own yacht, guests can explore the bay
in an electric duffy boat, which allows a closer look at the
charming homes along the Lido Isle waterfront across the bay. Duffy
boat rates are $60 per hour.
Not all rooms have a view of the marina, however. “Bluff view”
rooms overlook the coastal highway and hills beyond, and
“courtyard” rooms face the hotel’s inner courtyard, where the
hotel’s Olympic-size heated pool and Jacuzzi are located.
The private club also has a spa, which hotel guests may use for
an additional $35 fee.
Initially, the hotel has attracted more leisure travelers than
business, but Henry Schielein, president and COO, said he expects
the ratio to even out as the business community discovers the
hotel’s meeting rooms. Though Schielein admits they may never be
what he calls a “convention” hotel. “We’re an upscale hotel on the
water,” said Schielein, “with good food and good service.”