The best way to experience Balboa Island is by foot. And since traffic and parking are cramped on the small island, it’s wise to park along PCH or in the parking lot next to the bridge on the mainland side and walk over. Start your tour by heading straight down Marine Avenue, the main business district and heart of the island, to check out the many interesting specialty shops and restaurants this thriving community offers.
When you reach the 4-way stop at the end of the main drag, just before the fire station, head left and take the bridge over to little island. It’s always less crowded and has some beautiful homes and a great view of the inlet to Newport Bay. You also tend to see more sea lions from that island as they cruise by or camp out on boats along the channel. You will often see seagulls searching for fish and scraps, small children building sand castles and adventurers swimming and kayaking in the bay. Have your camera ready because there’s a lot to take in.
When you reach the end of little island walk across the bridge to Balboa again and follow it around to the left. This will have you walking along the Grand Canal and then onto the side of the island where you will see the Balboa Island Ferry and just across from it the Balboa Fun Zone which is on the Balboa Peninsula.
Along the way you’ll see many public docs where locals and vacationers go to sit and fish or launch their boats. There’s a great fruit stand on the right just past the ferry that sells amazing local fresh produce and Ghirardelli dipped chocolate strawberries – delicious! Stop by and say hi to ‘Dre, owner of Balboa Island Berries.
As you continue around the bend, enjoying your chocolaty treat, you will pass Collins Island. This is a private island for the residents that live there only and the homes there are amazing!
On your final stretch around the island you’re looking out across to homes and condos that are along Pacific Coast Highway. There are more sandy beaches on this side so sun bathers and swimmers will be plentiful if it’s warm day. There are also several vacation rentals on this side so make friends with your fellow travelers if you’re staying nearby and get their tips on where to eat and what to do for the rest of your stay.
Now that you’ve made it all the way around, an approximately 2.6 mile hike, head back down Marine Avenue and grab some lunch or a Balboa Bar- you’ve earned it!