Biking through Balboa Island

Spending a few days in Southern California with my 10yo daughter K-, and we had a day to spare so we indulged in one of our favorite things to do in greater Los Angeles: head down to Newport Beach and rent bikes. The Newport Beach harbor area is quite fascinating because unlike other beach areas, they’ve spent a lot of effort — and money — to create small, private islands, complex waterways and some of the most quaint housing on the coast. The peninsula juts down along the coast and nestled behind it is Balboa Island, easily one of the cutest spots on the entire coastline.

You can most appreciate the complexity from this aerial photo:

balboa island and peninsula, newport beach, ca

On the closest spot between the peninsula and the island, there’s an amusement area and a ferry that shuttles cars (3 at a time), bikes and pedestrians from side to side at $1/person.

In fact, here’s a pic of K- on the ferry, heading towards the Island, rented bikes propped up next to her:

girl and bikes on balboa island ferry

It’s hard to capture Balboa Island photographically, but it’s a lot of very upscale cottages and homes. How upscale? A peek at the local real estate listings shows that a 3-bedroom place runs about $5 million and that it’s not hard to find places that are upwards of $8 million. Gorgeous places. But that’s a lot of coin!

Here’s a view looking east on Marine Ave. Yes, very touristy!

downtown Balboa Island

More importantly, fans of the amusing TV series Arrested Development will recognize these famous confections:

frozen bananas, a newport beach treat

Most likely they don’t have cash hidden in the walls, however, which is probably too bad. Would be good for business!

Apparently Balboa Island started out as little more than a mudflat surrounded by swampland and the current harbor area didn’t emerge until millions of tons of silt were dredged and removed. It was the late 1860s, real estate speculators James and Robert McFadden purchased most of the future site of Newport, including the oceanfront of Newport Beach, much of Balboa Peninsula, and the sandbars that were to become Balboa Island and Newport Harbor’s other islands. Smart!

After our ritual stop at the Balboa Candy store, we biked back to the ferry landing and took the ferry back to the Peninsula, and the rode to the very end, where’s it’s just sooo beautiful and genteel.

fancy neighborhood on balboa peninsula, newport beach

While we were biking back along the beach walk the phone rang and it was A-, my 17yo who was making her one call from far-flung Bonaire to say Hi and report in. We stopped and were very happy to get the update on her Scuba adventures, beach time, new friends and the fact that while she’d love to stay there for a few more months, she also misses us and is looking forward to coming home.

We miss her too!

We turned in the bikes — they cost a mere $10/bike for the day — and agreed we’d had yet another lovely day at Balboa Island and Peninsula. We’ll be back. And we’ll probably have a frozen banana too!

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