After a quick breakfast at the house, it was time to head back from the desert to the beach. There’s something fun about a trip which includes a desert, a mountain top and a beach all within one week. This meant either a drive down the standard highway or a winding scenic road back up another mountain to Idyllwild before heading over to Newport Beach.
We had never heard of Idyllwild being from Texas but this was another one of those hidden gems when you decide to explore an entire area. The winding road leads you from the desert floor up over 5,000 feet to a cooler, mountain town which is apparently known for bears and hiking. We did not plan to go hiking but rather explore the small town of shops and restaurants which feels like a small ski village minus the skiers. There are jewelry stores; mom-and-pop run pet stores; stone and gem shops; wood working and more. But the town is also known for it’s two rival restaurants Gastrognome and Aroma Cafe. We ended up on the patio of the Gastrognome overlooking the town centerpiece which is a large wooden statue honoring the local wildlife including a bear, mountain lion and eagle. But the cool air of the patio and people watching in the square makes for a nice outdoor meal.
After a few hours (and you cannot really check into most hotels until 3:00 anyway), it is back down the mountain to Hemet and over to the main highway. We chose to stay in Newport Beach at Pelican Hill but you can find lodging of all types in either Laguna Beach or Newport Beach. However, one very hidden place to stay are the Crystal Cove Beach Cottages. From what we gathered, these beach cottages were handed down from generation to generation for many years and exemplify the cliff side beach housing you see in so many movies. So much so, one of the houses is the actual house used in the movie, Beaches. However, the houses began to deteriorate, so the state took them over and is now fixing them up one at a time and renting them. Apparently, they are very inexpensive but rent the day they go on the website which is well in advance. If you can get one of these cottages, you have a chance to stay in a hidden beach (Crystal Cove) with a bar and restaurant all within walking distance. Something we will keep in mind when we return.
After check in, there is time to enjoy your hotel and a dinner anywhere in town. The next morning, we had breakfast at the Waffle Affair in Newport Beach. How many times can you enjoy gourmet waffle combinations and a cup of coffee with a crystal chandelier over you in a small shop? We then stopped at the grocery store in town to purchase white wine (they will not allow red wine on the boat) and lunch items for a sailing excursion. After a lot of research, we chose Newport Sailing Charters and were not disappointed. The captain was great with the kids; letting them steer the boat at times and stopping to dive into the cold water. Unfortunately, there was very little wind but even then we could travel up and down the coast using the small engine – as the Captain told us the history of the houses and area; all while spotting sea lions in the marina and dolphins swimming next to the boat. And one surprising moment when a Coast Guard ship opened fire upon a smaller boat. Even the captain was a little wary until we could determine it was a training exercise out in the ocean.
In the afternoon, we spent a few hours walking the shops of Laguna Beach where we actually bumped into Robert Wyland in his studio. Wyland is famous for painting whales and large ocean murals. And for anyone from Texas, you may have seen his mural in Dallas at 505 Akard (Texas Utilities Building) or on the South Padre Convention Center. And when I say bump, I literally mean my husband walked into him in his gallery and quickly apologized. For dinner, there are a number of options in Laguna Beach all overlooking the ocean. The Cliff was highly recommended and we had considered Driftwood as well, but ended up calling the Deck. The Deck does not normally take reservations from what we were told later by the concierge, but I guess if you call and ask nicely they will (another advantage to planning ahead). It is a small and a little bit crowded patio with live music but feels much less crowded once you have your table and you can watch the sunset over the ocean. And we like a bit of a lively atmosphere when we have dinner in town.
The next morning, you can make reservations online for the Beachcomber Cafe as it fills quickly during busy times. Our hotel ran shuttles directly to the Cove but you can also park at the top and ride the bus down for a $1 per person. The bus simply makes round trips up and down the hill all day long. The Beachcomber is especially known for its Big Bad Bloody Mary complete with Crab Claw, Jumbo Shrimp, Tito’s and what they call the Vegetable Garden. The cove is a great place to spend your morning letting the kids to play in the sand and water; enjoying some drinks in the small bar next door; or picking up some souvenirs in the small Crystal Cove shop.
We chose to spend the rest of the day by the pool and having a dinner at the hotel. The next day we had to fly home, but not before a driving tour of Los Angeles.
And for more details on surrounding areas see itineraries for Southern California and Ojai, Catalina or destination notes for San Diego, Joshua Tree/Palm Springs, Los Angeles, Ojai, Catalina Island and Disneyland.
Links – Newport Beach