Balboa Island and the Balboa Peninsula area of Newport Beach is a fun destination for a day trip or weekend getaway. If you have not visited Balboa, be sure to add this historic place your calendar. If it has been years since you visited, now is a great time to plan a return trip to explore the area of Southern California.
Getting to the Balboa Peninsula is part of the fun. Today, bridges connect Balboa Island to the Peninsula and the rest of the city, but in the past, the Balboa Island Ferry was the only way to get between the island and the peninsula.
With a history of 100 years, the ferry is still taking passengers and cars on the 800-foot journey. Plan on taking the Balboa ferry at least once so you can imagine what it was like in the earlier days before the roadways were in place. The ferry only costs a few dollars and the view is amazing.
Now that you have arrived on the Balboa Peninsula, plan to have some fun. The Balboa Fun Zone is one of the last coastal amusement areas in Southern California. For over 75 years, people have visited the Fun Zone to enjoy rides, eat sweet treats and take in the lovely bay and ocean views.
The Ferris wheel is the defacto landmark of the Newport Harbor and makes for a fun daytime or nighttime ride. There is a variety of little shops and curious along the boardwalk Due to its long history, it is not uncommon to see parents and grandparents bringing little ones here to enjoy the area.
The ExplorOcean Museum is located right on the historic Balboa waterfront in the Fun Zone area. ExplorOcean is designed to educate visitors to the principles of ocean literacy through exciting hands-on activities.
The museum is open Monday through Saturday and there is a small admission fee. Youth 4 to 12 get a discount and children 3 and under are free.
The south side of the peninsula faces the ocean and includes the Balboa Pier. The pier dates back to 1906 and was constructed, along with the Balboa Pavilion, to attract local buyers to the area. Today, the pier is a popular fishing spot.
At low tide, a large number of starfish can be seen at on the pilings. At the end of the pier is Ruby’s diner, where you can tuck into a burger or thick milkshake in a nostalgic 1950’s setting with great ocean views.
Peninsula Park is a relaxing grassy area just south of the pier and provides a nice spot for picnics, flying kites or just relaxing under the beautiful Southern California sunshine. The flat, long peninsula makes it a great spot for walking and riding bicycles.
Bring your own bike, or take advantage of one of the bike rental vendors in the area. After riding the peninsula, hop the Balboa Ferry over to Balboa Island and ride the compact streets for a change of scenery. The flat topography makes it easy for everyone to enjoy the ride.
Surfers, bodyboarders, and body surfers know the area because it is home to The Wedge. This is a world-famous surf break at the extreme east end of the Balboa Peninsula. Man-made improvements to the rock jetty on the west side of the Newport Harbor entrance helped shape this famous wave.
Balboa Peninsula is home to the Catalina Flyer, the boat that takes you to Catalina Island. Based upon of the Balboa Pavilion, Catalina can be a great side trip if you are extending your stay in the Newport Harbor area.
If you want to get on a boat but are not interested in a trip to Catalina, you may enjoy a cruise around the harbor. Daytime, as well as night time dinner cruises, are available.
Whether you are looking for sun, sand, water or rides, a day trip to the Balboa Peninsula will have you’re covered.
Getting There: To access to Balboa Island Ferry take Jamboree Road to the west from I-5, I-405, or SR-73. You will cross over the Pacific Coast Highway and proceed downhill.
After you cross the Balboa Island Bridge, Jamboree becomes Marina Avenue which is lined with gift shops, galleries, and restaurants. After you pass through the shopping district Turn right on Park Avenue, left on Agate Avenue and watch for the overhead marquee for directions to the ferry.
The ferry will take you to the Balboa Peninsula. Follow the signs for parking to the parking lot by the pier. There is also plenty of metered parking, and if you don’t mind a walk you can find free parking on side streets.