Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Balboa Island, CA

  • Published 2022/06/08

Newport Beach is famous throughout California mainly because of its white-sand beaches, surfing, and majestic sunsets.

In addition, it’s one of the best upscale leisure areas in California, where you can enjoy shopping, dining, and other recreation.

If you’re looking for the best spot in Newport Beach to do all these exciting things, head to Balboa Island.

This small harborside community in Newport Beach offers top-notch beaches, natural areas, and leisure activities.

Balboa Island is a reclaimed or artificial island, originally a thin sand bar back in the early 1900s.

Today, Balboa Island is a charming holiday vacation destination known for its picturesque sunsets, vibrant marinas, and eclectic lifestyle.

A quick weekend getaway is enough to explore all the nooks and crannies of Balboa Island and its surrounding communities.

Here are the best things to do in Balboa Island, CA:

Have Extreme Fun at Balboa Fun Zone

People exploring Balboa Fun Zone

The Image Party /

One of the best things to do first on Balboa Island is visiting the Balboa Fun Zone.

This charming amusement park is an excellent family destination.

It features exciting rides like its iconic Ferris wheel, carousel, arcade games, and entertainment.

At the same time, you have a majestic view of the harbor.

Balboa Fun Zone's colorful ferris wheel

Steve Cukrov /

Historically, the Balboa Fun Zone is one of Southern California’s longest-running coastal amusement parks.

It has entertained Californians since 1936.

Much of the amusement park’s design retains its original furnishings.

Many exciting and fun-filled games and activities await you at Balboa Fun Zone.

Arcade area of Balboa Fun Zone

The Image Party /

Enjoy Retail Therapy at Fashion Island

Shops along Fashion Island

The Image Party /

Fashion Island, situated in the heart of Newport Beach, is considered the area’s premier shopping and dining center.

Besides top-notch brands and local favorites, Fashion Island boasts one of the best panoramic views of the ocean, giving you tropical vibes when visiting there.

It has more than 30 restaurants and eateries.

Tall signage of Fashion Island

KK Stock /

At the same time, it features more than a hundred shops.

In addition, Fashion Island is also where you’ll find the only Neiman Marcus store in the entire Orange County.

It also has Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom, St. John, Elie Tahari, and Rebecca Taylor stores.

People exploring Fashion Island

Chris Allan /

Learn History at the Balboa Island Museum

Exterior of Balboa Island Museum

Alan Budman /

This local museum on this tiny island is famous for its fascinating exhibits and merchandise.

Thousands of visitors drop by the museum regularly.

Balboa Island Museum features unique exhibits that detail the history of Newport Beach and Balboa Island.

Signage of Balboa Island Museum

Alan Budman /

It has a vast collection of rare memorabilia from the area’s early settlers and prominent personalities.

In contrast, it has unique merchandise which you can buy as souvenirs.

Its exhibits feature how the locals’ traditional fishing, surfing, and other daily routines back in the day.

Spending an hour or two at this local museum along Marine Avenue will give you more knowledge than you expect on vacation.

Visit the Environmental Nature Center (ENC)

Another unique attraction in Balboa Island and Newport Beach is the Environmental Nature Center (ENC).

It may sound boring, but you’ll change your mind when you get there.

The ENC is a fascinating place to visit.

You’ll discover the natural ecosystem of Newport Beach through its interactive learning experience while immersing yourself in nature.

It features a diverse ecosystem sanctuary where visitors can walk along the trails.

In addition, it has a butterfly house full of various butterfly species that is simply amazing.

Besides guided tours, ENC also offers a long-term educational program for people who want to pursue a career in environmental aspects.

Likewise, kids can join its educational program through interactive nature activities.

Trace the Horizon at Balboa Pier

Gorgeous sunset view from Balboa Pier

kan_khampanya /

Balboa Pier is the perfect place to enjoy peace with your family or friends.

You can also go there alone.

Besides the fresh sea breeze and the sound of crashing waves and seagulls, Balboa Pier offers a picturesque view of the Channel Islands.

Perhaps you want to do something more exciting.

Welcome sign of Balboa Pier

mikeledray /

Bring your fishing gear to Balboa Pier to catch some fish.

After spending quality time at the pier, head to nearby restaurants to treat yourself to some hearty meal before calling it a day.

Historically, the Balboa Pier has stood for more than a century after its construction in 1906.

Today, it remains one of the best places to appreciate nature’s beauty on Balboa Island.

People walking along Balboa Pier

Jon Bilous /

Reflect on Life at the Saint John Vianney Chapel

For a solemn experience in Balboa Island, head to the Saint John Vianney Chapel.

It’s a perfect place to meditate before returning home from your travel adventure on Balboa Island.

Don’t let its quaint exterior fool you.

This chapel boasts a beautifully designed interior with a lovely altar serving as its focal point.

Despite its size, the Saint John Vianney Chapel is the central place for Balboa Island’s locals to pray and worship.

If you want to visit the Saint John Vianney Chapel, go to Marine Ave. on Balboa Island.

Hang Ten at the Wedge

Body surfers riding the Wedge's wave

Jim Whisenant /

Newport Beach has a famous surfing spot where surfers can frequently catch perfect waves: “The Wedge.”

Surfers and onlookers wait for the perfect wave to form from a distance.

The waves you’ll see at The Wedge are formed through the extensive breakwater on the side.

Aerial view of the Wedge

Travelling Thilo /

These waves are called shore-breaking waves, which swell more than 30 feet as the space heading to the shore becomes narrower.

From a surfer’s perspective, it’s the best wave to showcase their skills.

Non-surfers can still watch surfers do their stuff from a safe distance.

If you’re not a fan, you can check out the charming villas and beachside houses nearby.

Big waves of the Wedge

Keith V /

Hike the Buck Gully Reserve

This natural coastal area in Newport Beach is a famous hiking destination.

It has coastal natural areas which feature the raw beauty of Newport Beach.

You can explore vast fields and coastal trails, including parts of the San Joaquin foothills.

Besides hiking, Buck Gully Reserve offers top-notch birdwatching and wildlife viewing areas.

Buck Gully Reserve is also a natural habitat for local wildlife in Newport in Orange County.

Check out the Buck Gully Reserve if you want to experience an exciting outdoor activity on Balboa Island.

This place offers an excellent activity on Balboa Island without spending a lot of money or driving too far.

Soak up the Sun at Newport Beach Pier

Scenic sunset over Newport Beach Pier

Marla Yeomans /

Don’t forget why you’re on Balboa Island in the first place.

You’re there to enjoy the beach and soak up the sun.

Thus, head to Newport Beach Pier to get that tan line or perhaps enjoy swimming with your family or friends.

View from under the Newport Beach Pier

Ric Sorgel /

Like most top-notch beach destinations, Newport Beach Pier has dozens of resort hotels, restaurants, shops, and beach houses for rent.

If you want a more relaxing experience, walk along the pier and appreciate the beautiful scenery overlooking the vast horizon.

Coin operated telescope at Newport Beach Pier

kan_khampanya /

Enjoy the Newport Beach Municipal Beach

If you want to enjoy beach activities, head to Newport Beach Municipal Beach, the top beach attraction in the area.

Newport Beach Municipal Beach features a five-mile stretch of white sand open for beach volleyball, frisbee, beach soccer, surfing, and fishing.

You can enjoy any of these activities with your loved ones or travel buddies, or perhaps with the locals who will gamely invite you to join them.

You can also rent a bicycle and conveniently tour the entire stretch while enjoying the scenery and sea breeze.

After a tiring but fun-filled time at the beach, proceed to one of Newport Beach Municipal Beach’s restaurants to wrap up your day with some delicious food.

Discover the Tiny but Charming Lido Isle

Aerial view of Lido Isle

Beach Media /

Lido Isle is between Balboa Island and Newport Beach.

It’s primarily a famous residential community, but it has more to offer than that.

Houses along a street at Lido Isle

Jon Bilous /

Lido Isle is home to some of the most scenic marinas in Newport Beach, especially its yacht club and clubhouse.

Like Balboa Beach, Lido Isle is an artificial island created in the early 1900s.

Today, it’s a charming community that features lovely houses, elegant yachts, and a laid-back environment worth checking out.

Boats docked at Lido Isle's harbor

Jon Bilous /

Treat Yourself to Fine Wine at Orange Coast Winery

If you want to taste genuine California wines, head to the Orange Coast Winery in Newport Beach.

This top-notch winery is a famous place for wine connoisseurs and average tourists who want to try excellent wines.

You can enjoy a glass of wine or order a bottle of its signature wines.

It’s not just your typical wine tasting experience because Orange Coast Winery staff provides guests with detailed information about their wines.

In addition, pair its wines with gourmet food and cheese platters.

When visiting there, you can choose from various California wines.

These wines range from chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, zinfandel, blend white, bubbly, and Lodi petite syrah.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Feel the Peace at the Sherman Library & Gardens

A small water fountain at Sherman Library & Gardens

Sandra Foyt /

This 2.2-acre garden oasis in Corona del Mar is a beautiful place to visit, especially for those who love to relax.

Sherman Library & Gardens is famous for its charming patios surrounded by lovely gardens and a conservatory interconnected through massive brick wall ways.

This place has plenty of seasonal flowers that fully bloom in spring.

In contrast, it has a picturesque fountain, perfect for those who want to update their social networks with new photos.

A otter sculpture holding a hose at Sherman Library & Gardens

Kevin Yuan /

This fantastic place you can visit nearby Balboa Island is a botanical garden that opened in 1955.

It’s eight minutes away from Balboa.

NEC’s conservatory features carefully-grown rare orchids, ferns, and heliconias.

Overall, the Sherman Library & Gardens is a must-visit place while touring Balboa Island and its nearby areas.

Succulents and plants at Sherman Library & Gardens


Smell the Sea Breeze at the Corona Del Mar State Beach Park

Scenic view of Corona Del Mar State Beach Park

Nick Fox /

The soothing smell of the sea breeze is genuinely therapeutic.

Visit Corona Del Mar State Beach Park to get this feeling.

Spanning 30 acres of white sand shorelines, this state beach is part of California’s state park system.

Houses on the cliff at Corona Del Mar State Beach Park

Jon Bilous /

This public state beach is an excellent place not just to smell the sea breeze but also for swimming and outdoor activities.

Locals love to call this place “Big Corona Beach” because of its long stretch of white sand, while rock jetties and cliffs create a beautiful contrast.

This place is also perfect for those who want to swim or perhaps surf or dive.

A bird flying over Corona Del Mar State Beach Park's water

Zereshk, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Get a Panoramic View of Balboa Island at Inspiration Point

Name sign of Inspiration Point

Steve Cukrov /

This tiny observation point along Ocean Boulevard in Corona del Mar gives you the best view of Newport Beach and Balboa Island.

It has an elevated terrain with a well-maintained pathway going to the top of the observation point, giving you the best sunsets and views of the Pacific Ocean.

If you want to have gorgeous souvenirs from your trip to Balboa Island, take photos of the view from Inspiration Point.

Besides Newport Beach’s piers, Inspiration Point is also an excellent place for a tour interlude.

Spending the golden hour at Inspiration Point is a priceless experience you shouldn’t miss.

Final Thoughts

Balboa Island is more than just a top-notch beach destination in California.

It’s full of history and fascinating places to discover.

Balboa Island may lack size, but it has a ton of attractions that make a memorable travel experience.

Which of these attractions in Balboa Island you’re visiting first?

Lastly, bookmark this post for your Balboa Island travel adventure.

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