A Day On Balboa Island

Growing up in Orange County meant I spent a lot of time at Knott’s Berry Farm and even more time at Disneyland but those weren’t the only local landmarks that shaped my childhood. Nestled in Newport Harbor is a small Island that’s been popular with locals for decades and gained national fame in more recent years thanks to a certain TV show featuring an ubiquitous giant yellow banana. I’m talking about none other than Balboa Island.

Long before the Bluth’s got hold of it it was a popular destination for my family but in recent years I’d neglected the local landmark. Since it had been some time since my last visit my family and I decided to spend a recent Sunday afternoon on the little island.

Our first stop was the Balboa Island Museum, located right on Marine Avenue, the island’s main drag.

Housed in a historic 1947 cottage the small museum offers several exhibits devoted to the island’s history.

We specifically visited to view the the temporary exhibit, John Wayne at Home in Southern California, which was devoted to Newport’s most famous resident. Though small it featured several never before seen Wayne family photos and it was nice to the the Duke enjoying life in Orange County.

After visiting the museum we headed across the street to grab the island’s most famous treat – the Balboa Bar.

There are two legendary shops on Marine Avenue that offer the bar, Dad’s Donuts and Sugar ‘n Spice, and I really couldn’t tell you which is better .On this particular day we opted for Dad’s and it didn’t disappoint.

Wait a minute! That’s not a Balboa Bar! Obviously it’s a frozen banana. While my family opted for the delicious ice cream bar I decided to choose that afternoon to be a little healthy so I opted for a banana. It was quite good topped with chocolate and chopped almonds but next time I’m throwing the diet out the window and going back to the original.

After indulging we decided to get a little exercise and walk around the island. Home to several quaint cottages (and some unfortunate modern McMansions) it’s a lovely place to take a stroll. Plus you never know what you’ll come across.

You may find a lovely church…

an ancient bottle brush…

or a mural of Shirley Temple and Buddy Ebsen (both former residents).

Near the mural is, perhaps, Balboa’s most famous attraction – the Balboa Island Ferry.


Connecting the island to the Balboa Peninsula it’s a convenient way to get around. In operation since 1919 it offers services to both vehicles and pedestrians. I’ve ridden it countless times throughout my lifetime and it never gets old.

Even though we had no reason to visit the peninsula we still took a ride just to enjoy some time on the water.

It was a beautiful day and it was hard not to just jump over and go for a swim. The peninsula is also a historic area but it was so crowded that I only snapped a few shots before getting back on the ferry for the relative quite of the island.

After a leisurely walk back to the car it was time to depart Balboa. In all my years visiting it’s hardly changed and that’s just why I love it. A true gem of Orange County I’m lucky to have grown up with it right in my backyard.


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