Cross the bridge to Balboa Island and you immediately notice one thing; there are no retail chain stores! In fact there are so many unique boutiques, it’s downright exhilarating.

As you stroll down Marine Avenue you will discover an array of individually-run shops each with its own charm. Often compared to Cape Code, Balboa Island has a West Coast vibe all its own. During the summer the streets are lined with sundress and trunk clad visitors, awestruck by the movie set-like perfection of the island. Although Balboa Island offers a variety of activities for visitors, one of the favorite pastimes by tourists and locals alike is shopping.

Shoppers will delight in finding a variety of unique and one-of-a kind goods ranging from casual beach to elegant with everything in between. Whether you’re shopping for a new pair of flip flops (a local staple), designer children’s clothing, candles, olive oil or upscale home furnishings, the one thing everyone can agree on is Balboa Island is a wonderful destination.

At Even Sisters you will discover fun beach apparel, jewelry and a whimsical life-size cow in front of the store that serves as its official ambassador. “I always smile when I walk past the colorful cow in front of Even Sisters,” Helen Bonn said a long-time Newport Beach resident. Keep walking and you’ll soon discover Art for the Soul, this amazing shop has endless one-of-a-kind art guaranteed to put a smile on your face and have your reaching for your wallet in record time. Finally, The Persimmon Tree has been a local favorite for decades. Here you can purchase gorgeous designer swim and resort wear, including bikinis, one piece swimsuits and separates.

The list of shops on Balboa Island is truly endless. There are 80-100 retailers on Marine Avenue at any given time ready to serve men, women, children and dogs alike. If shopping is not your sport of choice, take a walk around the entire island. You can stroll along the waterfront boardwalk and discover quaint cottages and beautiful local flowers or sit on a bench and watch as the boats drift by effortlessly.

After a long day of shopping and walking it’s always fun to head over to Dad’s Donuts or Sugar N’ Spice for a tasty Balboa Bar or frozen banana. If you’re new to the island, a Balboa Bar is a creamy rectangle of ice cream place on a stick and then dipped in rich milk chocolate and rolled in toppings. You can choose from chocolate or rainbow sprinkles, nuts, toffee bits, and coconut or chocolate shavings. Some locals like to combine two or more toppings to create their own unique confection. “My favorite topping hands down is to combine the toffee bits and chocolate shavings,” Doug Keigh said. The local man has been coming to the island his entire life and now brings his grandchildren.

As the sun begins to set, the island takes on a quite charm. Many of the shops are still open and serving customers. The evening air is crisp and filled with the fresh scent of the ocean. There are some definite advantages to visiting the island later in the day including thinning crowds and better parking. Although as any local will warn, parking is a challenge during the summer no matter what time of day you visit the island so be prepared!

When you’re visiting Southern California, Balboa Island is a “do not miss” destination. It’s charming, fun and the weather is perfect. There is something for everyone on Balboa Island.