Take a quick walk through wonderful and charming Balboa Island, located in Orange County, California! My family and I vacationed here for years in the 80’s and I never forgot how much fun it was and the memories that were made. I honestly can’t believe I waited so many years to bring my kids here to check out all its hidden treasures.
Balboa is a quaint city, which became a part of the City of Newport Beach in 1916. The Main Street is lined with plenty of Mom and Pop restaurants, a myriad of shops, an amazing market, a post office, a museum and its own fire house!
A bit of balboa history
Balboa is a man-made island that was filled just before World War I. The lots were sold for just $250 at that time, as people did not think the lots were worth much more than that. Now, most lots are priced in the millions.
Another fun fact is that the island was named after Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa. After some research, I found out that there are actually two islands that make up Balboa. The big island is where all the cool little shops and restaurants are located and spans about 1.7 miles. The little island consists of some very nice homes, with plenty of spots in the bay to dock some pretty nice looking boats. It is only about .9 miles around.
The big island
As I mentioned before, the big part of the island is where all the action happens. The main street onto the island, Marine Avenue, is lined with beautiful eucalyptus trees and there is a plentiful amount of gift shops, surf shops, and clothing shops. If you’re into water-sports and exploring, you have to visit SportsRents, a rental shop where you can rent e-bikes, beach cruisers, paddle boards, kayak’s and even golf clubs if you need them. The owner is so friendly, and there always seems to be a crowd of locals and visitors alike, chatting with him.
Food, food & more food
Also plentiful is the food scene on the island. Some of our favorite haunts during our stay were Crocker’s The Well Dressed Frank. They have these amazing hot dogs, and a whole list of toppings to make them extra tasty.
Then there’s The Village Inn. We had a very nice birthday dinner for my mother-in-law and stopped by for happy hour a few times during our stay. They have a great menu, strong drinks and fair prices.
I’m (almost) ashamed to admit how many days of our 14 day trip we found ourselves at Snipe Island Crafthouse. It’s a small establishment, but the food is good and they have a great selection of wines, beer on tap and best of all for me, they serve a decent, ice cold prosecco all day long. I WAS on vacation after all!
Another go-to for us on those lazy nights was Ciao Italian Restaurant. We ordered in tasty pizza and pasta for 9 people and it didn’t break the bank. They don’t deliver, but we would send the kids down to pick up our food and they delivered it to us with a smile.
I also have to mention that the Irvine Ranch Market located at 200 Marine Avenue is also amazing. They carry everything you could need, and we did most of our shopping for our Airbnb there. They have an wonderful selection of meats and cheeses, liquor and alcohol, toiletries, fresh fruits, and other staples you may need while you’re on the island. You can also order burgers, pizza, hot dogs, fries and other items that are prepared for you and their prices are ridiculously inexpensive. Less than $5 for a burger and fries is spectacular if you just want to grab and go!
Lastly, please don’t leave the island without trying a world famous Balboa Bar. The most popular place to grab one is at Dad’s Original Balboa Bar, which was established on the island in 1960. A balboa bar consists of chocolate or vanilla ice cream, dipped in chocolate and then rolled in the topping of your choice, such as nuts, chocolate sprinkles, rainbow sprinkles, coconut… you name it. Dad’s also serves tasty donuts, cookies and chocolate covered bananas.
Balboa village, Newport Beach
While you’re visiting, you should most definitely take the ferry over to the Balboa Fun Zone in Balboa Village. You can easily take a little stroll to Agate Street and catch a ferry across to the Newport Side. You can travel by foot, by car, bike and we even met a couple on a golf cart!
When you arrive in Balboa Village prepare to eat more, ride the ferris wheel and other fun rides for the kids, go to the arcade or if you have the time, rent jet skis or a boat to explore the island! The jet skis are ridden out the ocean so you can obtain maximum speed. Our kids had a blast! Read more about Balboa Village here!
You’ll also be able to take a quick walk across the street and dip your toes into the Pacific Ocean, walk to the Balboa Pier, which still has a Ruby’s Diner at the end and visit even more shops and restaurants! I’ll be writing about our Balboa Village experience in an upcoming post, coming soon!
Have you visited Balboa Island? What was your favorite part? Let me know in the comments.