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Spotlight on Public Places | Community News Focus

Balboa Island

May 28, 1997|RUSS LOAR

When Balboa Island was annexed to Newport Beach in 1916, a city official said, "The island is a dump."

Back then, the island was at the mercy of high tides and unreliable sewers.

Now, a one-bedroom island cottage, described as a "yesteryear charmer" on an advertisement in the window of a local real estate office, is offered for $549,000.

Take Coast Highway to Jamboree Road, head toward the ocean, and you will soon be on Eucalyptus-lined Marine Avenue, noted for its dueling frozen banana stands and bikini shops, along with a collage of boutiques and cafes.

"We had the original frozen banana," said Tonya Dotson, a 16-year-old Balboa Island resident who works at Sugar N Spice. Frozen bananas and Balboa bars--square ice-cream bars dipped in chocolate and coated with a variety of toppings--are the specialty of the shop, which opened in 1945.

Dotson was born on the island, at her parents' Pearl Avenue home.

"I like the little shops and the smallness of the island," she said. "It's a very warm place."

Just a few stores away, Dad's Donuts also offers the "original" frozen banana and Balboa bar. Dad's dates back to 1963 and has become a morning ritual with locals whose coffee cups line a high shelf inside the store.

"Dad's Donuts is an absolute pillar of the community," said 41-year Newport Beach resident Corki Rawlings, taking an after-dinner stroll down Marine Avenue with her husband, Gary. "Come by here about 7 in the morning, and you'll really see the locals."

Away from the commercial district, amid an architecturally eclectic mix of cottages and bay-front mansions, Park Avenue leads to the Balboa Island Ferry, a shuttle service between the island and Balboa peninsula. It has operated since 1909.

"I love being out on the water," said John Bachman, a Santa Ana teacher who moonlights as a ferry captain. "People always seem happy here."

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