Balboa Island Museum anchors in a new port

What’s old is new again.

The Balboa Island Museum & Historical Society, once housed in a cozy cottage on Marine Avenue, reopened to the public Friday a few doors away under the charm of exposed ceiling trusses in a 1927 building that was most recently the Art for the Soul boutique. The freshly remodeled space in the heart of the island’s commercial district soaks in abundant natural light and gives the museum three times as much space to work with.

“The location, I don’t think, could be better,” said curator Tiffany Pepys Hoye.

Hoye and other museum staff members and volunteers spent the past six months preparing the transition to the new location at 210 Marine Ave. from the former site at 331 Marine. Some days, the constrained cottage — the museum’s home since 2011 — would have only 10 visitors, Hoye said. On Friday, she expected to see about 200.

The story of Balboa Island and greater Newport Beach unfolds in eight nooks at the museum packed with artifacts of the hyperlocal: tributes to frozen bananas, the Balboa Island Yacht Club for youth, the irreverent Balboa Island Sculling and Punting Society, and John Wayne and other Golden Age of Hollywood celebrities who lived and frolicked on the shores. One “room” covers indigenous peoples to the Spanish explorers to the Irvines, McFaddens, Collinses and Beeks.

A 1920s paddleboard carved from a redwood plank hangs in patinaed 70-pound glory over an exhibit on surfing and lifeguards. An interactive children’s corner encourages kids to play with the toys and household essentials of their grandparents, such as a manual typewriter and rotary telephone. A booklet helpfully explains a landline phone: “If it wasn’t a phone that was stuck to the wall, then it had a l-o-n-g cord attached to the wall so you could carry it around the house and into other rooms.”

There’s also a scale model of the Balboa Pavilion twinkling with 297 tiny embedded lights.

For more information about the museum, call (949) 675-3952 or visit

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