One of the Newport Coast’s “hidden jewels” is Crystal Cove beach accessed via Crystal Cove State Park. There are several beach entrance points, some which are easier to navigate than others, but as a result the beach has a more remote feel than the typical beach along the 101.
The park is an easy walking distance from the Newport Coast Villas and the nearest beach access point is along paths through scrub and down either a set of stairs to the north or more directly from a somewhat steep at times access ramp (be snake aware, stay on the paths, there be rattle snakes there!) Take my word for it and wear shoes with a good tread, I had a few hairy moments sliding while walking down the path. It looks to be a fairly gradual grade but there are points where it is sandy and it can be a bit dodgy to walk on.
An absolute must either before or after your trip down to the beach is to check out the view from the various overlooks along the cliff-side. You get a nice panoramic view of the area, it is simply gorgeous and very photogenic.
Tom and I went to the beach alone, the boys decided to have a laze around the condo kind of day on their own. We had come prepared for sun (it was a gorgeous day) because even October sunshine can be pretty harsh and though we had also brought along fleece jackets in anticipation of a cooler breeze off the ocean, we never needed them, not even Tom. ;)
In the fall there are no lifeguards on duty so water play is at your own risk.
Apparently you can see all kinds of wildlife in the park and if you’re lucky see some marine life as well. All we saw though were a few different kinds of birds and mostly the typical seagulls. There was this one gull though who had a bum leg which faced completely backwards. He spent most of the time hopping towards the ocean to eat and then flapping madly to right himself when a larger wave would roll in. It was amusing and heartbreaking at the same time because he was so plucky, but you know the poor thing was going to have a very tough time of it if he survived long-term at all.
Further down the beach where the families seem to cluster most is a collection of very beaten up looking beach cottages, most which appeared to be abandoned.
It amused me greatly that when I started snapping pictures Tom was picturing some angry owner of said rickety cottages jumping out waving a cane and yelling at us to “get off their lawn”, so he was taking more stealthy pictures until we realized none of them were actually occupied. Even by an angry cane waving squatter. =D
When we got back to the resort and looked it up we finally understood what the story was. These beach cottages are all considered historical in nature and a preservation society is slowly working their to restore them and then rent them out. When we got closer did notice there were several cottages which had already been renovated and looked strangely out of place among the more rickety ones, I’m sure as time goes by the reverse will be true.
I was reading that the area was originally developed as a movie set and a number of movies have been filmed there including some from the 1930s (like Treasure Island) and some more recent ones like Bette Midler’s “Beaches”. Some of the abandoned cottages are in a much better condition than others but until we found out about the renovations we had been wondering why the State would allow these rather ghetto looking cottages to mar an otherwise lovely beach. Once they’ve finished the job the area is going to look completely charming.
Continuing on down the beach from the cottages (and beachfront restaurant) you will find a rocky area which is perfect for tide-pool exploration. We saw a handful of families poking their way through the rocks looking for sea creatures. It is important to note though that no critters should be disturbed, it is “look but don’t touch” folks. Also, beach-combing is verboten on this beach, no shell collecting and no turning over of rocks. Just enjoy things as they are.
Being a girl from the west coast of Canada it is always a bit of a thrill to see cacti just growing there in the wild. I had a cactus or two growing up that I tried to keep going, but my black thumb guaranteed an early death. I have zero houseplants now, I know my limitations.
Having spent several hours exploring the area we finally had enough sun and the call of food had us heading back up the beach. There were more people strolling around by later in the day, but by typical Southern California beach standards it was still pretty much empty and perfect. I love this beach.
The downside to walking to the beach from the resort is the inevitable walk back up Newport Coast Drive (all uphill) and because we were staying in the newer villas meant we were at the very top of the resort. We were both pretty hot and thirsty by the time we got back to our villa not to mention HUNGRY.
We opted for pizza that night. There is a great pizza place called Z Pizza in a nearby strip-mall that we found the last time we were in town. This strip-mall is unlike any I’ve been to in my life (consider the area, even strip malls here are FAAA-AANCY!) By the way, that is real (and well tended) ivy growing around that mall facade!
We put in our order and wandered around the mall window-shopping for 15 minutes or so to kill time. There were a few clothing stores with some very expensive and very yech clothing in my opinion. Then again, I’m not exactly a housewife of Orange County and I’ve seen what those ladies wear! Bridged on either size was a Banana Republic and a Gap, nary an Old Navy to be found…I mean face it, the Gap is probably considered gauche by many of the locals.
Steaming pizzas in hand we headed to our home away from home. I used every ounce of control not to start eating in the car on the way back it smelled sooo good. I totally recommend Z pizza by the way. It is tasty and for those who need it, has vegan and gluten-free options.
Our vacation was just zipping by! I was enjoying myself so much but I was starting to get that “vacation is almost over” melancholy feeling. I made an effort to push that aside though, we still had one more full day in SoCal and I didn’t want to spoil it brooding. Besides how long can one brood while staring at palm trees?