Take the FREE Balboa Peninsula Summer Trolley to Balboa Pier to enjoy your day at the beach rather than hassle with traffic and parking. I know there are trolleys in many Orange County beach cities: Laguna Beach, Dana Point, San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente.
We haven’t taken advantage of them as we should, but I’m sold now that we accidentally stumbled upon the Balboa Peninsula Trolley as we were driving down the 55 towards the peninsula.
During Summer 2017, the trolley ran from a parking lot at Hoag. But since that time, it runs from a parking lot on Coast Highway. If you scroll to the end of this post, you can get a link to the official Newport Beach website information and EXACTLY how to catch the trolley.
Did I mention the trolley is FREE? However, we did tip the driver at the end of the day because she was super-helpful.
Balboa Trolley Stops On the Way DOWN the Peninsula
These are the Balboa Trolley stops that make sense on the way down the Balboa Peninsula going towards the pier.
Lido Marina Village and Theaters
- Browse through Lido Village Books independent book store
- See a movie at the one-screen Regency Lido Theater (closed for “refreshening” in 2022)
- Stroll along the pier and eat at Ruby’s Diner
- Play at Peninsula Park and the beach playground (lots of swings!) – read my post about the playground and Balboa Pier
- Grab breakfast or a meal at restaurants along the bike path
- Try the Balboa Island Ferry to explore Balboa Island on foot
- We paid $1.50/each for the ferry crossing and then walked the sidewalk around the perimeter of Balboa Island until we turned on the main-street-style Marine Ave.
- Irvine Ranch Market has frozen treats and deli items.
- Frozen Bananas (dipped in chocolate and customized by adding nuts, sprinkles or other toppings) and Balboa Bars (same idea as bananas, but it’s ice cream blocks on a popsicle stick that are dipped in chocolate and covered in custom toppings) are everywhere on this island! I think I counted at least 5 shops offering these treats. Some swear by getting the “original” – but it seemed like you can narrow down the best by how short or long the line is!
- Visit the Balboa Island Museum on Marine Avenue. There’s a little gift shop and hands-on activities for kids.
- We didn’t try it this time, but I’d like to try Crocker’s Abundant Table / Crocker’s Hot Dog Stand (also on the main street of Marine Ave.).
- Circle around to the ferry with a different view by way of the sidewalk on the OTHER side of the island – reachable from Marine Avenue with a tiny walkway at the bridge. The ferry is on Agate Street where you’ll turn left and walk straight on.
- Rent a bike – or the trolley says it can accommodate 2 bikes or a 6ft surfboard if you want to bring your own. We saw several places renting bikes – but Balboa Beach and Bicycle caught my eye and has good reviews.
Balboa Trolley Stops On the Way Back to Your Car
These are the Balboa Trolley stops that make sense on the way back to your car.
- You can certainly stop at Marina Park on your way to the Pier, but it makes more sense to either stop on your way back or ride the trolley all the way past the Fun Zone and wait for this drop-off to come around again. If you wait until the trolley is pointed in the direction to get off the Peninsula, then you’ll be on the correct side of the street for the park. It’s a genius way to play here during the summer, because parking is especially hard at this time of year.
- There’s also a Lighthouse Cafe here where you can grab a bite by the playground.
We certainly enjoyed exploring the Peninsula with the ease of a trolley ride! And we even had the pleasure of a ferry ride on the same day.
Checklist for Balboa Peninsula Summer Trolley in Newport Beach:
- According to the City: For Summer 2022, the Balboa Peninsula Trolley is running on weekends and holidays all summer. Hours are “10am to 9:30pm on Saturdays and Sundays, as well as Memorial Day (May 30), Independence Day (July 4), and Labor Day (September 5).”
- Official Balboa Peninsula Trolley info on the City of Newport Beach website and map of trolley route – this is the best resource for official info
- Balboa Trolley Tracker website
- Load the Park Mobile app on your phone before you go and set up an account if you don’t already have one. The trolley driver will give you a code for free parking.
- Bring at least $10 cash – even though the trolley was free, we spent $4 each way on the ferry for a total of $8 and then gave our driver the last $2/tip
- The drivers we experienced were super-friendly. They helped guide us to all the trolley stops and alerted us when/where to get off the trolley.
- There were seatbelts on the shuttles we rode.
- Bring sunscreen, hats, a jacket (it can be foggy here when it’s sunny inland), and we had our trusty backpack so I didn’t have to carry a purse.
- Save money instead of paying $20-$50 for all day parking! Seriously – we saw the signs.
- Avoid parking hassles!
- You still have to sit in traffic on busy weekends, but you don’t need to be the one driving and searching for parking
- Trolley service starts at 10am, so you can get on the Peninsula fairly early in the day
- You are at the mercy of the trolley schedule, so you might need to wait up to 15 minutes for the trolley to come by
- I hear it is busy in the evenings when everyone is heading back to their cars at the end of the day (but it was almost empty for us between 10am-1pm on a Sunday)
- It’s harder to cart along all your beach items to the beach if you have to carry them on the trolley – but pack light and it’s do-able
Now you go and try it – then tell me how your day goes!
Originally published in 2017.