BALBOA ISLAND | HISTORY
Once a sand pit, Balboa Island is a man made island that was dredged and filled right before World War I began. Skeptics and doubters were unimpressed with developer plans to turn the newly formed land into a community mapped out with streets and houses. Many later regretted missing the chance that escaped them. Parcels which originally sold for around $250 now cost millions of dollars.
Like Corona del Mar, Balboa Island retains its own identity and character but is part of the City of Newport Beach. Cottages and castles line bejeweled streets named after stones; Agate, Emerald, Ruby and Sapphire are a few of Balboa's paved treasures. More precious than rare stones is the pavement for parking your car on the little island, especially on weekends and holidays. Hundreds of people drive to the Newport Peninsula and park, then walk to the ferry boat, climbing aboard for a 5 minute ride across the bay. Manicured lawns with colorful flowers, private boat docks, tiny sections of sand beach and stunning views of the Newport Bay await those who take the ferry and walk to downtown Balboa Island shopping district along Bayfront. Arriving at Marine Avenue, guests can browse through gift and clothing shops, dine on gourmet meals or snacks and enjoy meeting friendly people who love their island paradise. .
Marine Avenue and surrounding streets are filled with more than 70 gift shops, galleries and restaurants. Unique items seen on house fronts and sold locally are known as "cottage plates". Customized circular and oval ceramic designs are available in numerous styles and can be shipped home as souvenir remembrances of your island visit. From beachwear and fine clothing to specialty boutiques, you can spend several hours shopping or browsing.
A newly formed Balboa Island Museum and Historical Society has a goal of preserving Island history and restoring the Old Balboa Fire Station to its original glory. Efforts are underway to acquire the historic building which you can see on Marine Avenue, not far from the base of the bridge which leads to mainland Newport Beach and Pacific Coast Highway. Information: 949-675-9019.
The magnificent Christmas Boat Parade celebrated each year in December began in 1908. Ceremoniously sailing around the bay, a gondolier named John Scarpa organized eight canoes and his own gondola, all lighted with Japanese lanterns. Nearly 100 years later, the tradition continues with residents lighting their sailboats and yachts and parading them up and down the waterways. Errol Flynn, Humphrey Bogart, Dick Powell, Shirley Temple, James Cagney, Mae West and John Wayne are few of the famous celebrities who once owned yachts in the Newport Harbor.