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9 Fun Things To Do At Balboa Island
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9 Fun Things To Do At Balboa Island

Spending a day at this artificial island can be as simple as strolling through the local shops and restaurants and admiring the beach.

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5 min read

August 09, 2021

Whimsical beach cottages, streets named after gemstones, water activities galore, and places to see, eat, and experience—Balboa Island is a fun Orange County destination you should add to your bucket list. Spending a day at this artificial island can be as simple as strolling through the local shops and restaurants and admiring the beach. But, if you’re looking for more active things to do at Balboa Island, then we have all the thrills and activities you need. Add these to your Itinerary for a fun weekend in Balboa Island, Newport Beach.

Exciting Balboa Island Activities

The Balboa Island community consists of three modified or artificial islands in Newport Harbor, accessible to the public via bridge and ferry.

1. Take the Ferry to Balboa Island

First things first, you have to get there before pulling out the list of things to do at Balboa Island. And the best way to do that is by taking the famous ferry to Balboa Island. Transporting guests to and from the island since the early 1990s, this historic ride is a must-have experience that swiftly transports you to the scenic locale, all the while treating you to awesome views of Newport Beach and the Harbor.

Since the ferry is small, the lines to go onboard can get quite long. Make sure to arrive early to avoid the crowds and waiting in line.

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2. Rent a Boat and Explore the Waters

One of the largest recreational harbors in the country—the Newport Harbor—surrounds Balboa Island in Newport Beach. Therefore, renting a boat and cruising around is simply a quintessential experience here. Finding Balboa Island boat rentals won’t be much of a problem, as there are many. Voyagers Rentals is located right next to the ferry stop and offers Duffy boat rentals, which you can operate yourself. Explore this beautiful SoCal destination and stop where you like—your exciting Balboa Island activities are just starting. 

May through November brings warmer waters and the chance to view blue whales. Throughout the year, you can observe dolphins and seals at play.

3. Go on a Whale Watching Excursion 

Do you like observing marine life in their natural habitat? Then you should definitely go on a whale-watching cruise at Balboa Island. Several companies offer cruises that depart from Newport Beach and head over to Balboa Island, and among the top-rated are Newport Whales and Davey’s Locker. Observe giant blue whales during the summer and fall, gray whales in the winter and spring, and other wonderful sea creatures like dolphins and seals year-round.

4. Catch Waves at The Edge

Located at the furthest corner of the Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach, The Wedge is an OC hidden gem you can’t miss. This Balboa Island attraction is a favorite spot among local surfers. The humongous, wedge-shaped waves can rise up to 30 feet at The Wedge and crash dramatically onto the shore, offering a challenge that’s anything but boring. 

If you don’t surf, you’ll still enjoy spending time by the shore. Lined by multimillion-dollar beach houses and unique rock formations, this Balboa Island locale is an ideal spot for a scenic yet secluded picnic. 

Originally, the island was little more than a mudflat surrounded by swampland. Today's Newport Harbor emerged after dredging millions of tons of silt.

5. Go Stand-Up Paddleboarding

Stand-up paddleboarding is a super popular thing to do at Balboa Island. Paddle along the blue waters and get the ultimate introduction to the beautiful harbors, dining spots, million-dollar homes, yachts, and people going about their daily lives in Balboa Island. If you don’t have your own board, don’t worry; you’ll find multiple rental spots on the island at your disposal. One popular paddleboard rental is Island Paddle Club, located right on Marine Avenue.

Balboa Island Things to Do

The Balboa Island Museum pays homage to the island so many people love and call home. It's a place that continues to capture people's imaginations.

6. Learn the History of the Area at the Balboa Island Museum

Despite the fact that Balboa Island is tiny, it has a rich and interesting history—learn all about it at the Balboa Island Museum. Exhibits at the small museum cover the creation of the island and ferry, celebrities that have lived there, and many more interesting facts. Visit and learn about how Shirley Temple and her family used to spend summer vacations at Balboa Island and how John Wayne sailed his famous boat in the surrounding waters. And did we mention that admission to this Balboa Island attraction is totally free?

7. Have an Unforgettable Dinner at the Balboa Island Restaurants

A delicious and satisfying dinner is definitely on the agenda of things to do at Balboa Island. Home to several excellent restaurants of varying cuisines, Balboa Island can easily capture any foodie’s heart. For a tasty and hearty dinner, hit up Village Inn or Wilma’s Patio. 

Make sure to leave room for dessert, because you don’t want to miss out on a classic Balboa bar. What’s that, you ask? Vanilla ice cream dipped in chocolate and rolled in your choice of topping(s). Sugar ‘n Spice has been serving these tasty concoctions since 1945, so make sure to pay them a visit after you’re done with your Balboa Island activities.

The Balboa Fun Zone is one of Southern California’s oldest and last great coastal amusement areas and a popular family-friendly attraction.

8. Be a Kid Again at the Balboa Island Fun Zone

Across the water from the island is the Balboa Island Fun Zone, a coastal amusement park offering rides, games, and plenty of junk food. As a popular Balboa Island attraction and a long-standing favorite recreational spot for everyone, this super fun zone is great for both family trips or evening dates for couples.

If you only have time for one ride at the Balboa Island Fun Zone, let it be the iconic Ferris wheel, which features lovely views of the harbor and the Pacific Ocean. But if you can spare a few extra hours, head into the arcade for a few rounds of old-fashioned games and try classic theme park foods like hamburgers, corn dogs, and ice cream.

9. Check out the Local Boutiques on Marine Avenue

You won’t find many large department stores and franchises at Balboa Island, but charming boutiques and local shops are aplenty here. For the best concentration of cool Balboa Island shops to check out, head straight over to Marine Avenue.

You’ll find a nice variety of clothing and home decor stores, as well as specialty food stores selling everything from candy to olive oil. If you resist the urge to pop into each and every one of these cute Balboa Island shops, it won’t take you long to explore the entirety of Marine Avenue at all. 

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