Neighborhood Guide: Balboa Island
In search of the perfect daycation? Balboa Island in Newport Beach is the perfect place to spend a carefree day by the bay. This charming neighborhood is home to a medley of quaint boutiques, locally owned restaurants, historic homes and plenty to do and see. Spend an afternoon with your toes in the sand, watching the boats cruise by, and don’t forget to treat yourself to an iconic Balboa Bar! Here’s your guide to a sun-drenched day (or week) on Balboa Island.
While Balboa Island isn’t home to any hotels, it’s still an ideal spot for a serene staycation. Beach house rentals are the way to go if you’re looking to stay on the island. Most of them harness the appeal of a beach cottage with features like Dutch doors, trimmed hedges and cozy patios. Book an extended stay, and enjoy the perks of a vacation rental on the bay! To browse our list of Balboa Island vacation rentals, click here.
Balboa Island’s Marine Avenue is lined with a mix of restaurants and cafes, and there’s no better way to start your morning than with a trip to Dad’s Donut & Bakery Shop. This counter-serve shop has remained an island staple since the 60s and is known for its variety of sweets—try their applesauce donut! When it comes time for lunch, Wilma’s for a sit-down meal on the patio or Crocker’s for a “well-dressed frank.” And when the sun begins to set, snag a table at Ciao Balboa, a New York-style Italian eatery, Basilic, a seasonal French-Swiss eatery, Royal Hen, a California gastropub or The Village Inn, a cozy tavern with American bites and live music for dinner.
When it comes to shopping small, there’s no better place than Balboa Island! Stroll down Marine Avenue, and you’ll discover a variety of locally owned boutiques with handmade goods and beachy apparel. Stop by Isabelle’s Cabinet or Etc. Etc. for on-trendy clothing and accessories, or visit Sur La Mer Coastal Goods or Shirley’s Heart for some tasteful home decor. A trip down Marine Ave is a fun and easy way to shop small and support local makers.
Looking to get your steps in? The Balboa Island Loop is a 2.5-mile paved path that offers views of Newport Harbor and the island’s cottages. Lace up your sneakers and take in panoramic vistas of the bay as the boats cruise by. And during your trek, don’t hesitate to stop for a chocolate-dipped Balboa Bar or frozen banana from Sugar ‘n Spice!
During your day or stay on the island, be sure to check out the historic Balboa Island Museum. This age-old landmark pays homage to the history and local culture of Balboa Island and Newport Beach. Here, you’ll find a range of exhibits that touch on the community traditions of surfing, fishing and boating. And speaking of boats, don’t leave the island without hopping on the historic Balboa Island Ferry, which has transported visitors back and forth from Balboa Island and the Balboa Peninsula since 1919. Hop aboard and hit the retro Balboa Fun Zone, which is complete with a Ferris wheel, old-school arcade, ice cream shops and more.
Written by: Kaylin Waizinger