The Balboa Bay Club’s History and Mystery for the OC

Oct 25, 2010 by Sandy Schroeder

You can’t miss it–especially as you head down Pacific Coast Highway, winding your way through Newport.

The Balboa Bay Club is a legend from the past and, to this day, is still a current day Orange County social/community/business magnet.

Stretching over 15 acres of prime waterfront property, it daily buzzes with a steady flow of members, travelers, and guests.

Throughout the day and, on into the evening, sleek cars and an intriguing array of people flow through the portals of this luxurious landmark property.

It all began in 1948.

Close your eyes, and you can almost swing all the way back to the forties and see Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall flirting at the bar, or look over John Wayne’s shoulder as he sits on the patio playing chess.

For many, many years this was the private club and destination of not only Presidents, but also various visiting royalty and Hollywood’s brightest:

The list is long–and varied–Richard Nixon, Barry Goldwater, Gerald Ford, William Holden, Greta Garbo, Frank Sinatra, Richard Nixon, and Ronald and Nancy Reagan have all been here.

Later, after a chain of ownership changes, a new direction emerged for the BBC.

Beverly Ray, widow of the man who bought the club in 1971, invested $65 million of her own money into its restoration, including a new public wing.

And that was a pivotal point in time–since May of 2003, the club now had to handle two different sections, one public, and obliviously one that’s private.

New faces and old

The private club which has its own dining room, gym, pool, spa, patio, bar, and varied services, which are all accessible via a separate entrance way. And now, they’ve developed an entirely new section for apartments and condos close-by.

Nice perk, members can cast arrive by boat, sailing or motoring up to the dock, and stop by for drinks or dinner.

In the public wing, there’s a posh hotel which has competitive rates, meeting rooms, a pool, spas for hotel guests, Duke’s Place (named after John Wayne), and the First Cabin Restaurant.

The BBC’s Library is a gem.

My personal place of comfort is the library.

It’s the look of the room–the furnishings, the atmosphere, and the warmth of the decor. It’s a reader’s dream.

More sublime choices

Many local OC wives have been known to steer their husbands to Duke’s on Saturday night to go dancing.

Equally appealing, the First Cabin restaurant is a nice touch for that important anniversary, birthday, or other celebration dinner.

For Travelin’ Local’s inimitable way of fun suggestions and readership tips…when life gets you down and you want a brief, plush, nearby getaway that’s very competitive with other local establishments, you can stay here for the weekend, or just the day.

When you check in, make sure you pick up a copy of Joseph Wambaugh’s, The Big Orange, and tuck it into your bag for poolside reading–it’s a fun mystery, and will provide you with a “new” twist on the BBC.

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One Response to “The Balboa Bay Club’s History and Mystery for the OC”

  1. David LaRue says:

    Another great article. You have the knack to make all these places so interesting, and a great place to spend a weekend or longer vacation. But don’t let this information out, or Calif. will be getting more and more visitors who will want to stay and clog up our freeways, and make me stand in line, and, and….


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