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Newport Beach:Balboa Peninsula and Island

The six-mile-long Balboa Peninsula is a neighborhood of the city of Newport Beach, easily reached from West Balboa Boulevard where it crosses the Pacific Coast Highway. Just a few blocks south of the boulevard is a long stretch of beach with an oceanfront promenade that extends for several miles and has shops and restaurants. North of the boulevard is a harbor where you can catch a ferry to Balboa Island. Peninsula Park, adjacent to Balboa Pier, is a good place to enter the promenade because its neighboring parking lot is free. This tiny park is also a good place to picnic and catch a summertime concert at the gazebo. Young children enjoy the small playground, one section of which has accessible rubberized mats.

Two piers are reached from the promenade: Newport (1,000 feet long) and Balboa. Balboa Pier is more wheelchair-friendly than many Southern California piers because its narrow metal handrails don't obstruct the view and the concrete surface makes for a comfortable ride.

Balboa Island, between the peninsula and the mainland, was once a mudflat surrounded by marsh. Now it is a small residential community with a tourist-oriented commercial district. It can be reached from the mainland via the bridge at Jamboree Street or the Balboa Ferry (a two-minute ride from the peninsula at Palm Street); taking the ferry saves a six-mile drive and the hassle of parking on the island. You can drive your car onto the ferry, but the line can take an hour or more; pedestrians typically board within a few minutes. Depending on the tide, a step may be required to board the boat; a portable ramp is available but can be steep. From the ferry landing, you can take a trail either to the right or left to circle the island.

The Balboa Island Museum, in a small vintage cottage at 331 Marine Avenue, exhibits island memorabilia, including classic photographs that offer a glimpse into its history, founder, and influential residents. Narrow hallways may limit access.

Trail/Pathway Details

Newport Balboa Promenade

Trailhead: Western end: 36th St. and W. Oceanfront. Eastern end: E St. and Balboa Blvd.

Length: Over 4 total miles

Typical Width: 4 ft. & above

Typical Grade: Level

There's a steep incline at Newport Pier.

Terrain: Hard


The eastern end of the oceanfront promenade begins at E Street, then travels nearly three miles up the peninsula to 36th Street. The smooth concrete pathway parallels the beach; along the way you will see some shops and restaurants, but mostly houses. The ocean is not always visible from the promenade, but you can see it from the piers or from one of the numerous sidewalks that extend from the promenade toward the water.

I started at Balboa Pier and traveled east for less than .5 miles before the trail ended. Meanwhile, my companion, wanting some exercise, bicycled west from the pier for 2 miles. Highlights of the trail include the historic Balboa Pier, constructed more than 100 years ago, and the Newport Pier, which overlooks a beautiful beach. To get out onto Newport Pier, at 21st Place, you must negotiate a steep slope at its foot; you can use handrails on the eastern edge of the slope to help pull yourself up. Depending on the time of year, this popular trail can be very busy, so be prepared for slow going.

Balboa Island Promenade

Trailhead: Agate Ave. and S. Bay Front (ferry terminal)

Length: 1-2 total miles

Typical Width: 4 ft. & above

Typical Grade: Level

Terrain: Hard


A nearly two-mile-long promenade travels the perimeter of Balboa Island, although it is interrupted by stairs in a few spots, so wheelchair riders will need to navigate some side streets. If you want to go directly from the ferry to downtown (Marine Avenue), where you will find galleries, shops, restaurants, and the Balboa Island Museum, you’ll have to navigate via city sidewalks. From the ferry, I turned left onto the promenade and followed it past charming cottages and beautiful beachfront homes, some with private docks where large and small yachts were moored. It was mid-October and there appeared to be a competition underway for the best Halloween decorations; I had never seen such elaborate decorations on so many homes in one place. Every few blocks is a bench where you can pause to watch wildlife or simply enjoy the sunset. In places a low wall separates the walkway from bits of sandy shore.

About .75 miles from the ferry landing you'll encounter stairs at the Marine Avenue bridge. Turn around and take the first alley, then an immediate left to reach Marine Avenue. You can cross Marine and reconnect to the promenade, or cruise the shops and eateries that line the avenue, as I did before reconnecting to the promenade at Park Avenue. You can also stroll the length of Marine Avenue and pick up the trail where the street dead-ends, continuing along the southern side for another mile back to the ferry terminal.

Accessibility Details

The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.

Beach Wheelchair: Yes

Available on a first-come, first-served basis at the lifeguard headquarters at the foot of Newport Pier; 949-644-3177.

Accessible Parking: Yes

On the peninsula: Free accessible spaces are in the lots serving Peninsula Park at A and B Sts., and at the Balboa Pier metered lot at Palm St. Several city lots along the beachfront have accessible parking that's half-price for those with a disabled parking placard. Metered street parking is also available.On Balboa Island, a designated accessible space is at the corner of Marine and Park. List of city lots.

Accessible Restroom: Yes

Along the promenade at Balboa Pier, Newport Pier, and 15th St.; there are no stall doors.

Accessible Picnic Tables: Yes

At the south side of Newport Pier and at Peninsula Park, where you have to travel across a very firm, short stretch of grass. I had no problem reaching them in a motorized wheelchair.

Features icon key

  • Beach Wheelchairs Available
  • bicycling
  • fishing
  • hiking
  • particularly good for families
  • picnic
  • swimming

Additional Information

View Map  
Managing Agency: City of Newport Beach
Phone: (949) 718-3463
Hours: Newport and Balboa Piers: 5 am-midnight. Beach: 6 am-10 pm. Museum: Wed. and Fri.-Sun., 10 am-4 pm. Piers: 6 am-10 pm.
Fees: Parking
Dogs: In restricted areas
No dogs allowed on beaches 9 am-5 pm. Newport Beach: No dogs on beach 10 am-4:30 pm; at all other times they must be on leash. Allowed on leash on the promenade at all times.
Public Transportation: Orange County Transportation Authority
Reviewed by Jarred Evans, February 7, 2013
Access Norhtern California This web guide is a project of Access Northern California.  
California Coastal Conservancy Thanks to our partner the California Coastal Conservancy

DISCLAIMER: Although the information contained in this web-guide was believed to be correct at the time of publication, neither Access Northern California nor California Coastal Conservancy shall be held responsible or liable for any inaccuracies, errors, or omissions, nor for information that changes or becomes outdated. Neither Access Northern California nor California Coastal Conservancy assume any liability for any injury or damage arising out of, or in connection with, any use of this guide or the sites described in it.

Accessible Restrooms Icon looks like a women and men restroom signBeach Accessible
Wheelchairs Available
  Hiking icon is silhouette of a hikerHiking & Trails
Biking icon looks like person riding a bikeBicycling   Good for Familis icon is a child on a swing'Particularly Good for Families
Boating Icon is a boatBoating   Picnic Area Icon is a picnic tablePicnic
Camping icon is a tentCamping   Swimming Icon is a person swimmingSwimming
Fishing Icon is a fish biting a hookFishing   Wildlife Viewing Icon is a pair of binocularsWildlife Viewing