Lido House at Newport Beach: California's new beach house-style hotel

Dave Maclean

A glamorous local once told me that the people of Newport Beach, California, drink more champagne per head than anywhere else in America. I’ve hunted for evidence everywhere, but can’t find anything to back up that specific claim. But, as I explored the area, it felt like the kind of place where you could readily believe such a fact. The locals here live the good life; they park their boats in front of their front doors, they’re down for a little nip and tuck to keep themselves looking youthful, and they always, always seem to be clutching a glass of fizz.

At the centre of this intriguing community is Bob Olsen, a self-made guy who began his career as a carpenter, and now, as a major developer, has just finished the project he’s been mulling over for many years.

Lido House at Newport Beach is an airy new Autograph Collection hotel, and a labour of love for Olsen, where stories abound around the hotel of his attention to detail, even going as far as sniffing hundreds of toiletries to find the perfect bathroom soaps for the showers in each room.

The location

Let’s be upfront - this isn’t right on the beach. There are no up-close ocean views, other than over the rooftops of nearby houses. We’re told it’s a five minute walk, but if you can do it in five minutes, you’ll make the Olympic power-walking team. It’s a solid 10. But - there is some significance to where this place is located; it’s on the spot where the old city hall used to be. It’s influenced the concept of the hotel - Olsen wants it to become the hub of the local area, much like the site was back in its political days (the restaurant is called The Mayor’s Table). It’s a nice idea, and provided it doesn’t become too ‘clubby’ could give it a unique feel, as a chain hotel where you can get a unique mood of the surrounding area.

The smell

You know when you used to walk into a Hollister store? You’d squeeze past the half-dressed teens manning the door, and into the dark interior, and you’d be hit by a smell. It was overpowering, sweet, salty, and reminiscent of a teenage bedroom. I asked a staffer one day what it was supposed to be. “Oh, the beach,” they said. Yeah, not quite. Meanwhile Lido House has nailed it. Everywhere you go in the hotel, the essence of beach hits you. Olsen says months were spent perfecting it, and they really make the most of it. From the lifts to the corridors to the lobby, it wafts around from some unseen dispensers. It’s so popular with guests so far that the hotel is looking to sell it in its on-site store.

The villas

There are six standalone beach houses on site. They sit right next to the hotel, but they look out onto the street rather than other guest rooms, meaning the little terraced row feels like your own boardwalk abode rather than a hotel add-on. The hotel promises that each has its own feel, and they went the extra mile in making sure this was the case. A local interior designer was hired for each house, and given a blank canvas to create their perfect beach house. Some are better than others, depending on your tastes. There’s an eye-catching modern beach house with cool little neon touches, and the whole place feels unique. Others are pleasant but fairly generic, but they’ll suit someone who doesn’t want something too in-your face.

The exterior

“He designed it to look just like his house,” a staff member confides about the owner. That’s the kind of obsessive attention to a vision that I like in a hotel designer, but I wanted to know whether it was true. A local took us out on a boat on the marina, past the house where John Wayne used to live, and the gigantic yacht that Johnny Carson used to ride on, and gently glided past it on an electric-powered boat - sure enough, the two buildings are almost identical.

Rooftop bar

Despite the locals' love of the high-life, there hasn’t been a rooftop bar in Newport Beach, until now. The rooftop drinking space at Lido House is sprawling, with a view over the pool to the south and out across to the beach and ocean to the west.

It's elevated in its style as well as location; there's a champagne-heavy bar menu with food pairings, and a dress code which prohibits tank tops, bold logos, and flip flops to maintain its “beach soiree” vibe.

Room rates start at $300 per night, and can be booked here.