Coastal California towns are my favorite to explore. They have a refreshing small town feel where life is more relaxed, the people are friendly, and their streets are dotted with small businesses selling local apparel, lovely smelling soaps, art, home decor, etc. Balboa Island is no different even though it is still within the Los Angeles metropolitan area.
My favorite way to reach the island is to go to Newport and enter the Balboa Peninsula and continue driving until you reach the Balboa Pier area. There are lost of shops and restaurants to explore there as well, but today I will focus only on the island. Near the pier, but on the opposite side of the peninsula you will find the Balboa Island Ferry. There you can hop on the ferry on foot, on your bike, or in your car. Only about four cars fit on the ferry and it’s quite fun to drive onto this tiny ferry. I recommend trying to be the first car on (especially in a truck or SUV) because when you pull all the way forward you will only see the water beyond your hood. It’s quite fun when especially when you start to feel the gentle floating on the water. If you’re prone to motion sickness, don’t worry about it as it is a short ride to the island.
Once you’re on the island make your way towards the main street. It’s a small island so if you get lost, you will still end up on the main street with all the shops. Parking on the main street may be difficult so try looking for parking on the side streets as well. Everything is walking distance and you’ll want to be walking by as many stores and restaurants as possible.
As I mentioned before, in the shops on the island you can find local apparel, lovely smelling soaps, local art, and unique home decor. You’ll find only boutique shops here and I love it. I can’t comment much on apparel, but we did buy some great soaps and few unique items for our home. If you go later in the fall you will find lots of beautiful seasonal items. A part of me wanted to buy everything and turn my home into a Christmas wonderland. If you’re in the Los Angeles area, this would be a great place to buy unique gifts for friends and family instead those plastic rectangles everyone seems to exchange these days.
The island has about a dozen restaurants, and of those the list below are the ones we were most interested in trying.
- Shanghai Pine Garden Restaurant
- Basilic Restaurant
- Balboa Island Baking Company
- Picante Martin’s Mexican Restaurant
- Ciao Italian Restaurant
All of these seem pretty self explanatory in terms of what cuisine they serve except for one. Basilic turns out to be a highly-rated French-Swiss restaurant which also ends up being the most expensive restaurant on the island. The first time we were tried to eat there, but they were booked for the evening so we agreed to come back to this restaurant for my mom’s birthday and make a reservation. So I will leave you on that cliffhanger as I will write about our dinner at this restaurant in tomorrow’s post!
However, in the meantime I will leave you with a few pictures of the neighborhood from our walk around the island.