Traveling under 1,000 feet from Balboa Island to the Balboa Peninsula and its Fun Zone area, the Balboa Island Car Ferry is a ferry service in Newport Beach. Docking approximately every 5 minutes, the ferry is capable of reaching a top speed of four miles per hour, which is just under the 5 mile per hour speed limit imposed within the harbor.
The History of the Balboa Ferry
The history of the Balboa Ferry dates back to 1919, at which time Joseph Allan Beek obtained the rights from the city of Newport Beach to provide a ferry service between Balboa Peninsula and Balboa Island. Prior to obtaining these rights, Beek was already the owner of The Ark, which was a giant rowboat with a small engine that also featured oars in case of engine failure. Beek went on to use The Ark as his first ferry vessel. At that time, the ferry service did not have regularly scheduled hours. Instead, customers telephoned Beck when in need of a ride across the harbor. Beck charged 5 cents per person for the service.
Three years after he started providing ferry services, Beck built the Fat Ferry. This vessel was capable of holding 20 passengers. He later build a small one-car barge that the Fat Ferry pushed across the harbor. In the 1950s, he added three double-ended wooden boats to his ferry service. These boats, the Admiral, the Commodore and the Captain, are still in service and have transported more than two million people. Each of the ferries is capable of holding three cars and 75 people.
While the ferry boats do require constant maintenance, the maintenance schedule generally does not interrupt service. The service continues to be a family-run operation, with Beck’s three sons currently running the business. Prices have also remained relatively low, with adult fees being $1.00, children 5 through 11 being $0.50 and children under 5 riding for free. Cars with one driver pay $2.00 to ride the ferry, while motorcycles with a driver are $1.50. Bicycles with an adult are $1.25 while bicycles with a child are $0.75. All passengers are extra.
The Balboa Peninsula
Often referred to as simply Balboa or The Peninsula, Balboa Peninsula is a primarily residential neighborhood in Newport Beach named after the Spanish explorer Vasco Nunez de Balboa. Connected from the mainland via Highway 1, also known as the Pacific Coast Highway, the west end connects via a bridge to Collins Isle while the east connects via a bridge over the Grand Canal to the Little Island.
Various parts of Balboa Peninsula are known by different names, with the center being called Balboa Village and the end being called Balboa Peninsula Point. Balboa Pier is located near the Balboa Ferry in Balboa Village, while Newport Pier at McFadden Square is located about two miles toward the Pacific Coast Highway.
Despite the short distance that is traversed by the Balboa Ferry on each of its trips, a full-time captain on the ferry will travel approximately 3,200 miles per year moving passengers back and forth across the harbor. This same captain will dock the ferry at least 22,500 times per year.