61.6 F
Laguna Hills
Friday, Dec 9, 2022

RV by the Sea

It must be summer if Moe B. Dunes is floating in the lagoon at the Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort.

The Memorial Day weekend launch of the 20-foot blue fiberglass whale is a tradition that dates back to the 1958 opening of the resort, an upscale recreational vehicle park and campsite on Newport’s Back Bay.

“He’s the sign of summer,” Andrew Theodorou, vice president and general manager of the resort, said of Moe B. Dunes.

Newport Dunes also saw the return of something else on Memorial Day weekend—visitors staying longer with an improving economy.

“We’re seeing the return of the three- to four-night stay,” Theodorou said.

During the recession, people still came to the park, which is known for its coastal views and lavish services. But many cut their stays to two days, he said.

“We’re seeing pent-up demand,” Theodorou said.

Newport Dunes is more like a coastal resort than a typical RV park.

Visitors park their RVs steps away from the water and a 10-acre beach. Guests can swim, play in a water park and rent pedal boats, kayaks, sailboats and electric boats.

The 100-acre Newport Dunes also has a pool and spa, a store and souvenir shop, a game room and a 450-slip marina with permanent and guest leases.

A restaurant, the Back Bay Bistro, overlooks the water and has a roof that retracts.

There are 386 RV sites, plus a few 400-square-foot cottages with kitchens for rent. There’s also a tent camping area.

In the summer, the largest RV sites go for $200 a day and up. The cottages start at $146.

Newport Dunes arguably is the jewel of the county’s nine RV parks and campgrounds.

Most of the campgrounds in Orange County are closer to Disneyland, according to the Auburn-based California Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds.

They include Orangeland RV Park in Orange, Anaheim Harbor RV Park, Canyon RV Park in Anaheim Hills and CC Camperland in Garden Grove.

Disneyland is a big draw for RV visitors. The county’s parks typically are 90% full in summer, more so than most of the rest of California, according to the association. San Diego County also boasts high occupancy.

Unique Park

Newport Dunes, just off Pacific Coast Highway and walking distance to Balboa Island, is an attraction in itself.

“It is such a unique high-end property that really does have phenomenal occupancy,” said Debbie Sipe, chief executive of the California Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds.

“It boosts occupancy for the entire area,” she said.

Newport Dunes is 85% full from June through August.

The park lures travelers from all over the nation and helps boosts the rate per day for all of the county’s RV parks.

The average daily rate for local RV parks during the summer of 2009 was $68.50, compared to the state average of $40.

In 2009, Newport Dunes saw an estimated $14.5 million in revenue. It paid $2.5 million to the county, which owns the land and collects about 17% of Newport Dunes’ gross receipts.

Newport Dunes has a lease with the county for another 31 years.

Two companies own Newport Dunes: Los Angeles-based Goldrich & Kest Industries LLC, which operates marinas and owns apartment buildings, and Rancho Santa Fe-based Terra Vista Management Inc.

The companies bought Newport Dunes in 2002 for an estimated $50 million from San Diego-based Evans Hotels Corp., which had owned the resort since the 1970s.

As summer gets under way, the resort hires about 50 workers for a peak of 225 employees.

The campground’s three main revenue sources are RV site rentals, event catering and the marina.

Newport Dunes also has approval for a 275-room hotel, on land now used for boat storage. The project is on hold amid the still sluggish economy.

A larger hotel at Newport Dunes was rejected by voters in 2001 in an early test of 2000’s Greenlight Initiative restricting development in Newport Beach.

Newport Dunes also draws revenue from its store and souvenir shop, boat and cabana rentals, pet registration fees, event parking and the restaurant.

“This resort is profitable,” Theodorou said. “We make sure every single event we take, every single thing we try to do, is profitable for us.”

Profits from Marina

The marina is the biggest source of profits.

The marina historically has been about 98% full. Some slips opened up in the downturn, leaving it now about 91% full, Theodorou said.

A monthly slip rental for a 20-foot boat goes for $475 a month.

The slip rates traditionally have been one of the highest in the county because of the services at Newport Dunes.

Boat owners have their own clubhouse with a pool, Jacuzzi and fitness room. They also can use the campground facilities.

The RV site takes reservations just like a hotel, Theodorou said. It uses reservation software that adjusts rates with capacity to boost revenue.

Guests check in at the front desk. Instead of a key, they get assigned a site.

RV sites start at $64 a night in the summer for a small one. The park also rents RV sites monthly for as much as $1,800 a month, depending on the site.

Newport Dunes draws tourists and locals alike.

“The outside community is key to providing extra revenue in day use and catering operations,” Theodorou said.

Newport Dunes hosts free events for guests and locals—except for parking, which is a source of revenue.

The resort has 1,300 parking spaces in all.

When the nearby Hyatt Regency Newport Beach holds its summer jazz festival, Newport Dunes charges $25 for event parking. It also parks attendees of the annual Toshiba Classic golf tournament.

Up to 500 people turn out for weekend movie nights on the beach at Newport Dunes. Movies are shown on a giant inflatable screen.

About 10,000 people come for the annual Fourth of July fireworks show, sponsored in part by the city of Newport Beach. Summer Saturdays are band nights. Newport Dunes recently bought a 40-foot stage for performances.

This season, the park is bringing in skateboarding ramps for visitors and locals and is starting a sailing club.

Inviting locals to the campground for events is good for business, Theodorou said. It can lead to a future wedding, birthday party or other event, he said.

“This year we tripled the number of weddings,” Theodorou said.


Newport Dunes has made a few investments in recent years, adding the Back Bay Bistro and 12 cottages.

The cottages, added in 2004, cost $35,000 each. Newport Dunes since has made back its investment on the cottages, according to Theodorou.

“They have been very popular,” he said.

RV guests often use them for their family and friends, Theodorou said.

Theodorou, who started working at Newport Dunes 11 years ago, has been in the hospitality business his entire career.

Born in England and educated in Germany, he has managed hotels in London, Germany and Cyprus.

He came to the U.S. in 1990 and worked for the Disneyland Hotel, Westwood Marquis Hotel & Gardens in Los Angeles and the Balboa Bay Club & Resort.

Want more from the best local business newspaper in the country?

Sign-up for our FREE Daily eNews update to get the latest Orange County news delivered right to your inbox!


Featured Articles


Related Articles