Whatever the weather, grab a light jacket, some comfortable shoes and head west to Balboa Island. Reach the island on California's only functioning auto ferry- a three-car ferry boat that also carries passengers- or by a short bridge off of Jamboree road. Replete with food, fun, shopping and boating activities, you can easily spend a bulk of your time here.
Enjoy dining at some of the old landmarks including Amelia’s, www.ameliasbalboaisland.com, and be sure to leave room for the locals' favorite dessert destination, Dad's Donut & Bakery Shop- where you will find the #1 frozen banana in Orange County or the infamous "Balboa Bar". If you need to work off your lunch and snacks, save some time to take to the seas by renting “Duffy” electric boats, kayaks, sleek sailboats or powerful runabouts. Hourly rentals are available for all boat rentals. Or travel down to Pacific Coast Highway, and enjoy dining in waterfront restaurants with breathtaking views of Newport Harbor, such as, Billy’s at the Beach, The Rusty Pelican, www.rustypelican.com, The Cannery, www.cannerynewport.com or Villa Nova.
If time allows, on the way back to the hotel, have a “fashion emergency” and make a quick stop at Fashion Island, www.shopfashionisland.com. This Mediterranean themed outdoor shopping mall is home to Orange County’s only Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s stores. Fashion Island is made up of 200 shops, department stores, and many restaurants. Make sure to stop by the Venetian-themed carousel if you have children.
Back Bay and Upper Newport Bay
With nearly 1,000 open acres, the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve and Ecological Reserve, www.ocparks.com/uppernewportbay/, is a true treasure in Orange County. Take a hike, walk or bike through green and quiet wilderness, as the paved trails lead you through one of the only few remaining natural estuaries in Southern California. Lose yourself in the calming nature of the wildlife that scurry around their delicate habitat. Remember to take your sunscreen, water, and a couple snacks along for the experience. If you choose, you can also educate yourself by taking numerous naturalist-guided tours or by visiting education centers about the reserve, www.newportbay.org/bbscover.htm.