Days of Splendor

A sunny Newport Beach town house gives renters dream-home amenities-and wheels to roam.

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Tide Watch

Lisa Romerein

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A month-long West Coast vacation taught East Coasters Elizabeth and Mitchell Higgins to love bikes. Back home in Westport, Connecticut, cycling is either for kids or fanatics. But here, says Elizabeth of the Southern California town, "everybody bikes. That's how they get around." So Elizabeth and Mitchell mounted the beach cruisers that came with their rental and put one wheel in front of the other. Soon, they were racing up and down the boardwalk, pedaling to the grocery store, and rolling up to restaurants at night.

The couple has Sunshine Splendor, the rental house they located in cyberspace, to thank for their fresh new fun. Located on bustling, friendly Balboa Peninsula, Sunshine Splendor is five houses away from the beach and 10 houses from the bay. Although it has no yard (a ground-floor garden apartment is separate), terraces yield outdoor living space and lofty views. Off the great room, two sets of French doors open onto a covered second-story balcony. And both bedrooms have private rooftop decks.

Sunshine Splendor's owners are Terri and Don Sowers. They filled the two-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath home with materials and amenities they would want to find in a rental: high-definition flat-screen TVs; deep, tiled Roman tubs; and rain-style showerheads. The kitchen is truly chef's-grade. Renters can whip up delectable feasts using the All-Clad cookware, Wüsthof cutlery, prep sink with garbage disposal, and roomy Sub-Zero fridge. Guests can check in with the office using the home's wireless Internet service.

Unlike some beach rentals, Sunshine Splendor doesn't fill every nook and cranny with coastal kitsch. Rather, Terri's artful touches add to the breezes and briny smells to remind you, in subtle ways, why you're here. There's a sign with an arrow and the word "BEACH" in black, a painting of two women in summer dresses by the shore, and the occasional sea star or crab.

If you need more reminders, look off the roof deck, where you can spy surfers riding the famous SoCal waves. Stroll along the concrete boardwalk and dip your toes in the white sands and sparkling waters. Or check out the bodysurfing break known as the Wedge, where the waves, Terri says, "are 15 feet high and basically drop straight down." Here, the not-so-brave gather with their coffee cups to watch the morning show.

There's tons to do in town, but one of Terri and Don's favorite pastimes is-surprise-bicycling. When they stay at Sunshine Splendor, they hop on the same beach cruisers that won the Higginses over and pedal to Ruby's Diner, on the tip of Balboa Pier. "It's like having breakfast in the middle of the ocean," Terri says. Except you can bike there.

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