One of our favorite parts of Newport Beach week is taking a short break from our Pacific Ocean rental home to spend several hours on Balboa Island. Balboa is a charming community joined to the mainland by a two-lane bridge on the north or privately operated ferryboats making the island accessible from the Balboa Peninsula–the Newport and the Pacific Ocean side.
The history of the Island is fascinating when you consider the contributing players. In the 1860s the Bay was a formidable landing, positioned to load hides, tallow and goods for export. By the turn of the century half of the Peninsula was bought by Real Estate promoter William S. Collins who took on Henry E. Huntington as a partner in the Newport Beach Company. Huntington had acquired the Pacific Electric railway system and extended the “Red Car” line to Newport, promoting the Bay as a resort and recreational area.
In 1908 and 1909, with permission of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, Collins began cutting a channel along the north side of the bay, piling the sand and silt up to eventually create Balboa Island. In short time real estate promoters began a sales campaign in Pasadena and Los Angeles–both connected by the Red Cars–and the little homes were sold, some for as little as $25.00. Homes on Balboa Island are now estimated at average values of between $2,000,000 and $3,000,000. Yes, that many zeroes. The pieces of land are very small with older bungalow-style homes nestled in among the elite. The beauty of the Island is partially found in the small town charm.
Balboa is a family favorite. My first love of the beach came as a result of our family spending time each summer on the Newport side of the Bay. By day we’d spend hours on the sand and in the water and many evenings we’d cross on the ferry and walk the Island, getting an ice cream or other treat.
The popular Frozen Banana or Balboa Bar create an irresistible draw to hop aboard the ferry and make a walk to Marine Avenue.
The Fun Zone I enjoyed as a child is still a popular feature, and the Ferris Wheel is now just as popular with Sophia and Karina. This was the first summer in 60 years that the Carousel is no longer in operation, but much of the boardwalk charm remains as I remember it as a child.
From the top of the Ferris Wheel I can see the Pacific Ocean and the strand where we spend most of our beach time. But we always make our way to Balboa for some old-fashioned, nostalgic fun.
I took several hundred photos…you may still see a few more. I may be home, but part of me is still on vacation.