balboa island

Welcome to your gateway guide on how to get to Balboa Island, a charming island nestled in the heart of Newport Beach, California.

Renowned for its picturesque coastal beauty, Balboa Island draws visitors with its quaint seaside houses, boutiques, and the famous Balboa Island Ferry.

Whether you’re craving a relaxing beach day, a taste of local seafood, or a leisurely stroll along the Marine Avenue, Balboa Island promises a delightful escape.

For first-timers, knowing how to get to Balboa Island efficiently is key to enjoying all that this idyllic locale has to offer.

The journey is part of the adventure, and with the right information, you can make your travel as smooth as the gentle sea breeze that graces this Southern California gem.

In this guide, we’ll explore the various travel options to ensure your visit starts off without a hitch.

Understanding Balboa Island

how to get to balboa island

Overview of Balboa Island

Balboa Island, a man-made island located in Newport Beach, California, is a fusion of small-town charm with the elegance of a seaside retreat.

Developed from dredged sand in the early 1900s, it has grown into one of Orange County’s most coveted destinations.

The island is divided into three sections: the main island, Little Balboa Island, and Collins Isle, all connected by bridges and accessible by a short ferry ride from the mainland.

The geography of Balboa Island is unique with its compact size making every spot easily accessible on foot or by bike.

The main attraction here is Marine Avenue, a bustling street lined with locally-owned boutiques, galleries, and restaurants that offer a taste of local culture and cuisine.

Another highlight is the famous Balboa Island Ferry, which provides scenic views of the harbor and is a favorite among visitors.

The island’s perimeter path is perfect for leisurely walks or morning jogs, offering panoramic views of the harbor and luxurious waterfront homes.

Best Times of the Year to Visit

The best time to visit Balboa Island is during the spring months from March to May or in the fall from September to November.

During these months, the weather is pleasantly warm with minimal rainfall, making it ideal for exploring the outdoors and enjoying the island’s attractions.

The summer months bring in larger crowds and higher temperatures, perfect for those looking to bask in the vibrant beach scene.

Conversely, winter is quieter and cooler, ideal for visitors seeking a more serene experience or who are interested in the holiday decorations and lights that adorn the island each December.

Visiting Balboa Island during these optimal times ensures a comfortable and enriching experience, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the laid-back lifestyle and scenic beauty that the island has to offer.

Planning Your Trip

balboa island yacht

Starting Your Journey: Major Nearby Cities and Airports

Balboa Island is conveniently located near several major cities and airports, making it easily accessible for both domestic and international travelers.

The closest major airport is John Wayne Airport (SNA), located just about 7 miles from the island.

For those coming from further afield, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and San Diego International Airport (SAN) are also viable options, approximately 40 miles north and 85 miles south of Balboa Island, respectively.

From these airports, several transportation options are available:

  • Car Rentals: Available at all three airports, providing flexibility to explore at your own pace.
  • Public Transit: Connect from the airports to Newport Beach via bus or shuttle services.
  • Ride-Sharing: Services like Uber and Lyft offer direct travel to Balboa Island and can be more convenient than public transit for direct routes.

Driving to Balboa Island

From Los Angeles: Take the I-405 S, then merge onto CA-55 S toward Newport Beach. Continue on CA-55 S which becomes Newport Blvd., and follow signs for Balboa Peninsula. Use the Balboa Island Ferry for direct access or continue to Bayside Dr for the bridge to Balboa Island.

From San Diego: Head north on I-5, then take exit 85 for CA-73 N toward Long Beach. Exit onto Jamboree Road in Newport Beach, and follow signs to Balboa Island.

Parking Tips: Parking on Balboa Island is limited, especially during peak summer months. It’s advisable to arrive early to find parking. Consider parking in the larger lots on Balboa Peninsula and taking the ferry over to the island.

Public Transportation Options

Reaching Balboa Island via public transportation requires some planning:

  • From Los Angeles or San Diego: Utilize Amtrak or Metrolink services to get to Irvine or Santa Ana, then transfer to the OCTA bus line that services Newport Beach.
  • Local Buses: The OCTA bus network provides routes that connect to Newport Beach from various parts of Orange County.

Navigational Tips: Always check the latest schedules and routes on the OCTA website or app. Be prepared for transfers and possibly walking short distances.

Boating to Balboa Island

For a scenic approach, consider reaching Balboa Island by boat:

  • Public Ferry: The Balboa Island Ferry offers service for pedestrians, bicycles, and vehicles and is a charming way to reach the island from Balboa Peninsula.
  • Private Boats: Docking at Balboa Island is limited and often reserved for residents. However, nearby marinas offer short-term docking options and rentals.

Marina Information: Contact local marinas in advance to inquire about docking fees and availability, especially during the busy summer season.

Staying on Balboa Island

how to get to balboa island

Recommendations for Accommodation

Balboa Island offers a variety of accommodation options to suit different preferences and budgets.

While the island itself does not host large hotels, its charm lies in the intimate and personal lodging experiences provided by quaint bed-and-breakfasts, boutique hotels, and a wide array of vacation rentals.

  • Bed and Breakfasts: These are perfect for those looking for a cozy, home-like atmosphere. They often offer a personal touch with breakfast included, providing a unique way to experience local hospitality.
  • Vacation Rentals: For families or groups, vacation rentals are plentiful on Balboa Island. Options range from beachfront cottages to modern apartments, providing more space and amenities like kitchens and private living areas.
  • Boutique Hotels: Nearby Newport Beach features several boutique hotels which blend luxury with distinct local character. These establishments often offer shuttle services to Balboa Island and other attractions.

Tips for Booking During Peak Tourist Seasons

Balboa Island is a popular destination, especially during the summer and holiday weekends. Here are some tips to ensure you secure the best accommodation:

  • Book Early: Aim to book at least several months in advance if you plan to visit during peak seasons. Last-minute deals are rare, and rates tend to be higher as availability decreases.
  • Consider Shoulder Seasons: Visiting in the late spring or early fall can provide the dual benefits of fewer crowds and more moderate pricing, while still enjoying excellent weather.
  • Check Cancellation Policies: Especially during uncertain times, look for accommodations with flexible cancellation policies. This can save you from losing money if your plans change unexpectedly.
  • Explore Package Deals: Some hotels and rental services offer packages that include activities and dining. These can be cost-effective and enhance your stay with curated experiences.
  • Utilize Local Resources: Local tourism websites and services can be invaluable in finding hidden gems and getting current advice on where to stay based on recent guest reviews and feedback.

Staying on Balboa Island or its vicinity offers a delightful retreat with the comfort of knowing that all the island’s attractions are just a stroll or a short drive away.

Whether opting for the charm of a rented beach house or the boutique luxury of a nearby hotel, you’re sure to find the perfect base for your island adventure.

What to Do Upon Arrival

balboa island aerial

Top Attractions and Activities on Balboa Island for First-Timers

Balboa Island is packed with activities and sights that cater to both the leisurely visitor and the adventurous traveler. Here’s how to make the most of your first visit:

  • Walk the Island Perimeter: Start with a leisurely walk around the island’s perimeter. This walk offers stunning views of the harbor, beautiful homes, and the calm ocean air.
  • Marine Avenue Shopping: Explore Marine Avenue, which is the heart of Balboa Island’s commercial district. Here, you can browse through unique boutiques, art galleries, and gift shops featuring local artisans.
  • Balboa Island Museum & Historical Society: Learn about the rich history of Balboa Island at this charming museum located on Marine Avenue.
  • Balboa Island Ferry Ride: Take the iconic ferry ride between Balboa Island and the Balboa Peninsula. The short trip offers picturesque views and is a favorite among photographers.
  • Waterfront Recreation: Rent a paddleboard or kayak to explore the calm waters around the island, a perfect activity for those looking to add a bit of adventure to their trip.

Local Dining Options—Where to Eat

Balboa Island’s dining scene offers a mix of charming cafes, seafood restaurants, and quick bites, ensuring there’s something to satisfy every palate:

  • Wilma’s Patio: A local favorite, Wilma’s Patio serves a variety of comfort food, with great options for breakfast and brunch.
  • The Village Inn: Ideal for dinner, this spot offers a range of American classics and often features live music in the evenings.
  • Dad’s Donut & Bakery Shop: Known for their famous Balboa Bars and frozen bananas, Dad’s is a must-visit for a sweet treat while strolling around the island.
  • Ciao: Enjoy Italian cuisine with a selection of pastas and pizzas at Ciao, perfect for a casual yet tasty meal.
  • The Crab Cooker: A short drive to the Balboa Peninsula brings you to The Crab Cooker, an iconic seafood restaurant known for its fresh fish and quirky decor.

Upon arrival at Balboa Island, you’re greeted with a plethora of activities and dining options that invite you to immerse yourself in the local culture and the relaxing coastal vibe.

Whether you’re shopping, learning about the island’s history, or enjoying a delicious meal, there’s no shortage of ways to make your first visit memorable.

Tips for First-Timers

balboa things to do

Best Practices for Visiting Balboa Island

Visiting Balboa Island is an exciting experience, and knowing a few local tips can enhance your trip significantly:

  • Respect Local Etiquette: Balboa Island is a close-knit community. Respect private property and maintain cleanliness by using available trash bins. Keeping noise to a minimum in residential areas is also appreciated.
  • Wear Comfortable Footwear: As most attractions are within walking distance, comfortable walking shoes are a must. Whether you’re exploring Marine Avenue or strolling along the waterfront, you’ll want footwear that can handle a day of adventure.
  • Be Prepared for Weather Changes: Even though Balboa Island enjoys a mild climate, evenings can get chilly, especially by the water. Carrying a light jacket or sweater is advisable.
  • Ferry Etiquette: When using the Balboa Island Ferry, have cash ready for tickets, and follow the crew’s instructions for boarding and disembarking.

How to Make the Most of Your Trip in Terms of Both Time and Money

Maximizing both time and resources can help you enjoy a fuller experience:

  • Plan Your Visit During Off-Peak Hours: If possible, visit during the weekday mornings when the island is less crowded. This way, you can enjoy the local shops and attractions more leisurely.
  • Look for Combo Deals: Some local businesses offer combo deals or discounts, especially if you’re looking to rent water sports equipment or dine out. Check local listings or inquire directly at businesses.
  • Eat Like a Local: While dining out is a treat, frequenting eateries where locals go can save you money and also offer a more authentic experience. Some of the best meals on the island come from less touristy spots off the main strip.
  • Utilize Public Parking: To save on parking costs, use public parking areas on the mainland and take the ferry across. Parking on the island can be scarce and expensive during peak times.
  • Self-Guided Tours: Instead of booking guided tours, consider exploring Balboa Island on your own. You can use various free online resources and maps to discover the island’s hidden gems.

By following these practical tips, first-time visitors can navigate Balboa Island like seasoned travelers, making the most of their experience in both an enjoyable and cost-effective manner.

Whether it’s adhering to local customs or optimizing your itinerary, these recommendations will ensure that your first trip to this enchanting island is as smooth and fulfilling as possible.

Additional Resources

newport beach balboa island

For those planning a trip to Balboa Island and looking for more comprehensive information, the following resources can be extremely helpful.

These links offer access to local guidelines, upcoming events, and detailed insights about the island’s attractions and amenities.

  • Visit Newport Beach: This official tourism site provides extensive information on Balboa Island attractions, accommodations, dining options, and special events. Visit Newport Beach Website
  • City of Newport Beach: For local governmental information, including public safety, transportation, and parking regulations on Balboa Island, the city’s official website is a valuable resource. City of Newport Beach Website
  • Balboa Island Museum & Historical Society: To learn more about the history and cultural heritage of Balboa Island, the museum’s website offers insights and information on visiting. Balboa Island Museum Website
  • Balboa Island Ferry: For details on operational hours, fare rates, and the history of the ferry service, visit their official site. This is especially useful for those looking to utilize the ferry as part of their travel plans. Balboa Island Ferry Information
  • Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce: For business-related inquiries, or to find out about networking opportunities and community events during your stay, the Chamber of Commerce provides relevant and up-to-date information. Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce Website


In this guide, we’ve explored various aspects of planning your first trip to Balboa Island, from understanding how to get there to discovering the top attractions and local dining spots.

Balboa Island offers a unique blend of charming seaside amenities, engaging activities, and a welcoming community atmosphere, making it a perfect destination for travelers seeking both relaxation and adventure.

We’ve covered essential travel tips, including the best times to visit and how to navigate the island efficiently.

By utilizing the transportation options discussed, from driving and public transit to the scenic ferry ride, you can tailor your journey to suit your preferences and ensure a seamless experience.

Accommodations on and around Balboa Island cater to a variety of tastes and budgets, with cozy bed and breakfasts, convenient vacation rentals, and boutique hotels all contributing to a comfortable stay.

Remember, booking early during peak seasons is crucial to securing your ideal lodging.

To truly immerse yourself in the island life, don’t miss out on walking the perimeter of the island for panoramic views, shopping on Marine Avenue, and sampling delicious local cuisine at the island’s renowned eateries.

Whether you’re enjoying a leisurely ferry ride or paddling through the calm waters, Balboa Island offers countless opportunities to create lasting memories.

We encourage you to visit Balboa Island and experience firsthand its picturesque landscapes, friendly locals, and vibrant culture.

Whether it’s a day trip or an extended stay, Balboa Island promises an escape that combines the tranquility of a beachside retreat with the charm of a small-town community.

So pack your bags, and prepare for an unforgettable adventure on Balboa Island!

balboa island houses

FAQ’s About Balboa Island:

Is it Worth Going to Balboa Island?

Absolutely, Balboa Island is worth visiting for anyone looking to experience a charming, small-town vibe with the allure of a Southern California beach community.

It offers unique shopping experiences, delightful eateries, and stunning seaside views, making it a popular destination for both locals and tourists.

What is Balboa Island Known For?

Balboa Island is famous for its beautiful beachfront, quaint shopping district on Marine Avenue, and the Balboa Island Ferry.

It is also known for its signature frozen banana and Balboa Bar treats, available at various local shops.

How Long is the Ferry Ride to Balboa Island?

The ferry ride to Balboa Island from the Balboa Peninsula is very brief, typically lasting about 5 minutes.

It provides scenic views of the harbor and is a favorite activity among visitors.

Does Anyone Famous Live on Balboa Island?

Over the years, Balboa Island has been home to various celebrities and public figures, primarily due to its beautiful location and privacy.

However, specific current residents’ details are private.

How Long Does it Take to Walk Around Balboa Island?

Walking around the entire perimeter of Balboa Island takes about 1.5 to 2 hours, depending on your pace.

The walk is about 2.6 miles long and offers beautiful views and a pleasant path along the waterfront.

Can You Swim on Balboa Island?

Yes, you can swim on Balboa Island.

There are several public access points to the beach where visitors can enjoy swimming in the calm waters of the bay.

Is Balboa Island Walkable?

Balboa Island is highly walkable, with most attractions, restaurants, and shops conveniently located within walking distance from each other.

The island’s small size and flat terrain make it ideal for walking.

Why is Balboa Island Ferry Closing?

There is no current information suggesting that the Balboa Island Ferry is closing.

The ferry is a popular and iconic service that continues to operate, providing transport between Balboa Island and the Balboa Peninsula.

How Much Does the Ferry Cost to Balboa Island?

The cost of the Balboa Island Ferry varies depending on whether you are walking, cycling, or driving a vehicle onto the ferry.

Typically, pedestrian fares are around $1.25 per adult.

Can You Drive into Balboa Island?

Yes, you can drive into Balboa Island. There is a bridge connecting the island to the mainland for vehicle access.

However, parking can be limited, especially during peak seasons, so visitors are advised to consider this when planning their trip.

Why is it Called Balboa Island?

Balboa Island was named after the Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa.

The naming was part of an effort to attract real estate interest to the area in the early 20th century.

What is the Average Income in Balboa Island?

The average income in Balboa Island is generally higher than the national average, reflecting the affluent nature of the community and the high cost of living in coastal Southern California.

Did John Wayne Live on Balboa Island?

John Wayne did not live on Balboa Island itself; he owned a home in nearby Newport Beach and was known to spend considerable time in the area, contributing to its allure and celebrity connections.

balboa island ferry

(Island Expert)

Christian is a dynamic serial entrepreneur and a licensed real estate agent with a relentless passion for unlocking the potential of island real estate. Christian's expertise extends beyond entrepreneurship and property transactions. He possesses a profound expertise in crafting captivating content and persuasive copywriting tailored exclusively to the enchanting realm of island real estate.

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