Balboa Island in Newport Beach consists of an island, harbor and a peninsula with a long, sandy beach and park. Several charming shopping areas and a Ferris wheel are nestled here in between cute, custom houses.
Atmosphere: Balboa Island and Peninsula offer a low-key beach experience with a small tourist strip of seaside souvenir shops, chain and local restaurants. However, the whole area can get very crowded during the summer or the harbor’s Christmas Boat Parade, especially with regard to driving, parking, and walking.
Parking and Entrance: If you plan on going to the main beach/tourist area, park in one of the lots by the pier off of Palm Street or on a side street near public beach access. The ferris wheel and some other shops on the inland side of the peninsula can also be reached by driving onto the island from Marine Avenue and taking the short ferry across (by car or foot).
Nice Walks and Views: For baby’s first boat ride, take your car or stroller on the ferry for the short trip between the island and the peninsula. Keep a close watch on your toddler and stroller because the ferry has a lot of open railings. After you’ve walked along the bike path on the beach, head out to Balboa Peninsula Point, where you can get a glimpse of yachts sailing into the beautiful coves.
Activities for Toddlers: Balboa Fun Zone closed after 70 years, but look for other kid stuff to pop up soon. Some families may be brave enough to attempt the Ferris wheel for the ocean views. Don’t promise your toddler a horsey ride this trip, though, as they removed the carousel in 2011. Also, while December weekends can be extremely crowded, it’s also a great chance to revel in the decorated yachts in the harbor.
Bathrooms: Bathrooms are near the fire station on Marine Avenue, at Balboa Fun Zone, at the ferry landings and at the pier.
Perks for Parents: The Wedge, near the southern jetty, attracts body boarders looking for a powerful wave. Also, the Bluths’ famous banana stand from the Arrested Development TV series was supposed to be located here. See if you can find it.
Where to Stay with Kids: Rent a beach house on www.VRBO.com, and take the stroller around your borrowed neighborhood admiring the adorable houses. Enjoy all the amenities of a real house, including not worrying if baby cries a little. You can always stay longer and use the rental as your starting point to explore Corona Del Mar or Huntington Beach.
Baby-friendly Restaurants: Unless you need your seafood fix at one of the harbor’s restaurants, check out Mama D’s, a family-owned Italian place famous for their pink sauce.
What Else to Do: Once you’ve fed the baby enough cotton candy, drive inland to Fashion Island, an upscale indoor/outdoor mall.