Exploring with Kids: Newport Bay and Muth Interpretive Center

This week’s adventure took us to Upper Newport Bay and the Muth Interpretive Center. This is one of my personal favorites.

Exploring Newport Bay with Kids | Motherhood in the Trenches

Why We Like It:

Hike for All Ages: This is a really great hike for all ages. Even our three year olds did great and nobody complained of exhaustion. It was a warm day but the ocean breeze made the hike enjoyable. If you are new to hiking, this is the perfect trail for you. Just enough hiking to be called a hike but still really easy. There are quite a few opportunities to stop and look out. Toward the end of the loop (see map below for the loop we did), there was a beautiful lookout spot to take a little break.

Exploring Newport Bay with Kids | Motherhood in the Trenches

Nature Finds: There are usually a lot of birds, but on this trip we didn’t spot too many. We spotted a snowy egret flying by, a pair of ducks and a lot of sparrows. While hiking along the bay we spotted some round stingrays swimming near the shore which was a really fun discovery. We also spotted a few salt marsh caterpillars and a ton of snails.

Exploring Newport Bay with Kids | Motherhood in the Trenches

Muth Interpretive Center: This is probably our favorite nature center/interpretive center. The center itself teaches all about the estuary which is fascinating. There’s also a really cool “classroom” where the kiddos can play puzzles, color a large picture of the Upper Bay, play puppets, read books, check out some live reptiles and a large tarantula. My girls could spend forever in there.

Exploring Newport Bay with Kids | Motherhood in the Trenches

Outdoor Amphitheater: This is a great shaded area to have lunch. The kids love climbing on the rocks and logs and playing there. It’s also a great place to see the planes taking off from John Wayne airport. They’re super low and so cool to see close up.


What Should You Bring?

  • Strollers: The trails are stroller friendly. If you have a BOB or something similar, you’ll be great. I have an old, very basic Graco and it did okay but with a bit of struggle.
  • Baby Carrier if you don’t want to use the stroller
  • Sunscreen, hats and sunglasses: There is no shade on the trails and the sun can be pretty intense, even in the morning during the late spring and throughout the summer.
  • Light Jacket: If you’re exploring during the early spring you’ll want a light jacket as it can tend to stay pretty overcast in the morning. Definitely check the weather forecast before you go so you can see what the cloud cover will be like.
  • Lots of cold water: Between the hiking and the hot sun, you’ll need lots of water.
  • Binoculars: You don’t get too close to the bay using the trail so you’ll want binoculars to see the bay and birds flying by.

How to Get There:

This site is a little tricky so I thought I’d share some tips for getting to the center.

For starters you’ll park in a dirt parking lot right off of Irvine and University. The Interpretive Center is down below, so you’ll hike down hill a bit to get there. When you’re in the parking lot you’ll see a map:

Exploring Newport Bay with Kids | Motherhood in the Trenches


and a sign like this:



Follow the trail to the right of the map to get down to the interpretive center.

There is a map on the Newport Bay Conservancy site but it wasn’t very helpful. I’d suggest you look at the satellite version on Google Maps to familiarize yourself with the trails.  I created the map below to show you where to enter, where to park, how to hike down to the center and the that trail we took. The loop we did was the perfect length for all of the kiddos, and mamas too. It took us about an hour with quite a bit of stopping to observe and play. NOTE: When you start the trail you’ll want to stay on the dirt path, not the asphalt bike path. The dirt path is a bit hidden by some benches but you’ll see a fence that separates the dirt path from the asphalt bike path. Make sure you’re on the dirt path. (click the map to make it larger)

Exploring Newport Bay with Kids | Motherhood in the Trenches

Things you should know:

  • The Muth Interpretive Center is open Tuesday – Sunday from 10am – 4pm
  • Wild Tales is a one hour program for kiddos ages 2-5 and is held on Friday mornings from 10:30 am – 11:30 am. There is storytelling, crafts and activities and a nature walk. It’s $5 per kid and you must pre-register
  • Family Science Sundays are held one Sunday each month. This is for kiddos ages 3-12. This is a free event with self-guided activities to help you explore the center and the area around it.

If you guys get to check out the Newport Bay I’d love to see your photos! You can hashtag them #bravelittleexplorers and also check out our Instagram account just for our outdoor adventures! IG: @bravelittleexplorers

Happy exploring!