Balboa Island Day Trip Guide: 10 Things to Do, What to Expect

Balboa Island is a man-made island – located in Newport Beach, California – that has drawn millions of guests for over a century. With such a rich history and reputation for small-town fun, Balboa Island provides visitors a top day-trip idea for those in Newport Beach. The area is most popular during the summer, but it also offers plenty of year-round activities. Thinking of visiting for a friends’ weekend or family getaway? Check out this Balboa Island guide for what to expect and things to do:

Balboa Island: Guide to 10 Activities for Your Day Trip

balboa island guide daytrip itrip

What to Bring

Plan to spend at least a day on Balboa Island. Those who want to do it all should allot a couple of days for activities, sites and restaurants. Before heading out, make sure to bring spending money and cash in small bills for amusement and ferry rides. Additional items include beach bag, water, comfortable shoes, hats, sunscreen and sunglasses.

Getting Around Balboa Peninsula: Balboa Ferry

For nearly 100 years, Balboa Island Ferry has provided service for drivers, passengers and cyclists to and from Balboa Island and Balboa Peninsula. The ferry operates from 6:30 a.m. to midnight on Sundays-Thursdays, and 6:30 a.m.-2 a.m. on Friday and Saturdays. Cars, motorcycles and bikes are welcome for an additional fee. All fees are affordable and frequent commuters may purchase a commuter booklet.

Balboa Peninsula Trolley, Bike Rentals

One recent addition to the area is the free Balboa Peninsula trolley that runs on weekends until early September. The trolley stops at 18 locations, and visitors are welcome to hop on and off as needed. In addition, bikes, surfboards, beach gear and luggage are welcome aboard.

Another top way to travel Balboa Island is via bike. The island has several shops that rent bicycles, so visitors may ride at a leisurely place. Don’t forget to ensure the bike stays safe, and bring a lock if planning to leave it unattended.

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Beachfront Dining, Treats

Take a break and explore the dining scene on Balboa Island. Many restaurants are located in proximity to one another, offering guests plenty of delicious options within walking distance. Area restaurants offer a variety of menus, including breakfast, Italian, Mexican, sweet treats and upscale beachfront restaurants. Must-see spots include Wilma’s Patio, Dad’s Donut and Bakery Shop, Sugar and Spice, and the Village Inn for nightlife lovers.

Where to Shop

Many know Newport Beach as an artsy community with a laid-back lifestyle, however Balboa Island also showcases this through several small businesses located in the area. In fact, Marine Avenue houses more than 40 boutiques and shops located along the strip. From apparel and candy to art and souvenirs, visitors love browsing all the shops on Balboa Island. Each store showcases its personality and eclectic flair.

Top-rated spots include: Olive Oil and Beyond, Hershey’s Market, Alex’s Fashion Center and Tango Rose, a clothing store. To treat the family, head to Our Gang’s General Store, which has lots of fun items and a coin-operated horse out front to ride.

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Kids Entertainment, Amusement Park

Balboa Island offers vacationers plenty of fun things to do, suitable for all ages. One must-do is riding the Balboa Ferris wheel. While riding to the top, enjoy bay and ocean views. Groups visiting the area may purchase a 10-ride pass for around $30, or purchase individual tickets.

The Ferris wheel is part of the Balboa Fun Zone, an entertainment district full of family-friendly activities. Popular things to do include harbor cruises, bayside bungee jumping, a gigantic swing, whale-watching tours and playing arcade games. Admission to the Fun Zone is free, however bring cash for individual rides and food.

Those looking for water fun have access to the Marina Park, a 10.5-acre park offering outdoor recreation. At the park, families enjoy a nautical-themed playground, outdoor fitness equipment, basketball courts, onsite beach cafe and more. Don’t forget to rent a small sailboat and get on the water. For a leisurely stroll, stop by the Balboa Pier for endless ocean views and a prime spot for watching the sunset.

balboa island guide sailing

Balboa Island Events, Festivals

Annual events and festivals are a great way to meet locals, have fun outdoors and try new experiences. Balboa Island hosts several events throughout the year that focus on the arts, beach lifestyle, food and, of course, activities for all ages. July Fourth welcomes guests to watch Fireworks at the Dunes, the only legal fireworks in Newport Beach. However, don’t miss the Old Glory Boat Parade, also on the Fourth.

Other events include yacht tours, a wooden boat festival, car shows, artwalks and the popular Balboa Island Parade. This annual event is always held on the first Sunday of June, and features marching bands, vintage cars, floats, island dogs, drill teams and more. After the parade, don’t miss the after party with live music, dancing and refreshments. View upcoming Balboa Island events.

Bonus: The Wedge

Skilled surfers and bodyboarders can’t miss the opportunity to ride The Wedge. This popular surfing spot sits east of Balboa Peninsula and creates large waves to either try or watch as others ride their way to the shore.

Looking for more fun things to do? Check out these Newport Beach outdoor activities.

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