Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Crystal Cove

John and I skipped town for a couple of days over New Year's. We visited a place many people never see: the Crystal Cove Beach Cottages in Orange County, California.

At Crystal Cove the beach is pristine. The Cottages themselves are a historic district. The surrounding area is overcrowded, overbuilt, sadly spoiled California coastline so I won't show you that part.
A stretch of MacArthur Avenue heading into Corona Del Mar.

It's not easy to reserve a cottage at Crystal Cove. Rentals open up something like six months in advance and fill up in about five minutes. After that you might find a cancellation if you're lucky, but you have to think ahead. We were of the "lucky" variety. We received our stay as a gift from some very generous friends.
The view from our balcony to the southeast.

The view from our balcony to the northwest.

A few things you may notice from these shots: One, fog. Two, no crowds. The beach isn't private, it's a state park. But it was cold, and the cove isn't easy to get to. (More on that in a minute.)

You might also notice that our view looked over some shabby rooftops. Those cottages are unoccupied and awaiting renovation. The Cove has quite a story behind it, which I can't begin to tell in a short post. Briefly, the state bought the Cove a while back to save it from developers. That's good, otherwise it would look like the rest of the cheek-by-jowl pseudo-Spanish Lego that surrounds it. Some cottages have been fixed up, some haven't. Money is needed to complete the work. More on that here.

Boo Radley's beach house.

Some of the beach colony is a ghost town. On a foggy day it looks positively sad. But Crystal Cove has a sweet quality. The people who work there are dedicated to preserving it. And we liked breakfast at the casual Beachcomber restaurant. It was pricey but delicious, with good service. For dinner we went into Corona del Mar for a great meal at a more elegant place called Oysters. It was our Christmas gift from John's parents. For less than what we'd have paid at the Beachcomber we got a delicious meal including drinks, and a superb black truffle and edamame bruschetta. (Seriously. I'd never heard of it before either.)

The Beachcomber Restaurant.

Many of the cabins have kitchenettes so you can bring your own food. But they get away with charging a premium at the Beachcomber because they have a captive crowd. Remember I said it's not easy to get to Crystal Cove? In summer it's no big deal. But in winter, you may not want to bundle up and walk up the path away from the colony, through the tunnel, up the hill and across the windy parking lot all the way on the other side of Pacific Coast Highway. It's no big deal for the kids, but the retirees probably don't relish it. Or women walking alone. (Even though the cottage rental office furnishes flashlights.)

The tunnel.

Then again, you might be at Crystal Cove to escape the crowds you run into in Laguna Beach, Newport Beach and Corona Del Mar. It might be worth it to you to stay in the Cove for all your meals, where for a brief time you can forget there's a world out there.

Some gift, eh?


Cafe Observer said...

Petrea checking in from Orange County!

USelaine said...

I've never heard of it. What an adventure! I'm glad you had such a good time.

There's a similar state park on Maui, over near Hana, called Wai'anapanapa. I was able to reserve just two nights at Christmas in '93, six months in advance. The cabins have kitchenettes, and food in Hana is expensive. It was worth it.

Sharon said...

You have some great pictures here. I would love to stay in one of these cabins sometime. I was there two years ago but, stayed with friends at Newport Coast just across the road. I walked along this beach and took some photos that I think are pretty good. There is certainly a lot of history in this place. One of these days soon, I'm going to get my second site up and running so I can share pictures from around the globe.

altadenahiker said...

I think, I think, my favorite is the Boo Radley cottage. Though your tunnel shot is riveting. I'm glad they've kept this area unimproved (at least, I hope so.)

Petrea said...

Thanks for visiting over here.

Wai‘anapanapa looks beautiful, Elaine. Perhaps more remote than Crystal Cove. (If you're not careful where you point your camera, you'll photograph the condos looming across the highway.)

I'd love to see your shots, Sharon. Elaine has an overage site, too. It's useful for when I have extra things I want to show, or things that don't fit into the City Daily Photo slot. But the best thing about it is there's no obligation to post.

Karin, John named the photo but I thought of you. You and I have a soft spot in our hearts for Boo. They're raising money to preserve the cottages. Some will need improvements as now they're not livable. But the idea is to keep them as they were styled in the 20's and 30s, with updated plumbing and electricity. The cabin John and I stayed in was like a rustic dorm, with shared facilities. We were quite comfy.

Miss Havisham's Tea Party said...

That place is sort of sad to see. The last time I saw it was when it was inhabited by the beachy Bohemians who had lived there for years and years and then they were evicted.

I remember talking to a boy on a hammock on a porch. It was so beautiful, the boy, the ocean, the wind, the turquoise and curry colored California pottery that lay around busting out underwater styled ice plants of crimsom and vermillion.

I thought then, how could anyone ever stand to leave this paradise without feeling some kind of death inside? I am such a baby. I have to go cry in my cups.

Petrea said...

Miss H, you're the only person I've talked to who was there in those days. Makes me wistful.

Michael Coppess said...

"Cheek-by-jowl pseudo-Spanish Lego" That's really it, isn't it. Hilarious description, but unfortunately so true! Thanks for the photos and story. One day we will get down to Crystal Cove.

Petrea said...

Hi Michael. I think you'll find it's worth it. A rare piece of beach and history in California.

Dina said...

I'm so glad you could go to this special place.
Sorry, for a while I had forgotten that you have Overdog.

Petrea said...

Well, Dina, you can see I don't post here very often. But I like having this other place to put things.