Luxurious laid-back California living
NICOLE MCCLURG gets into the Orange County way of life, where there’s plenty to fill your days
NEWPORT Beach, California, will seem familiar. It’s been the setting for many a film and television series over the years, most recently Arrested Development, The OC and the Real Housewives of Orange County.
It’s long been the des-res for Hollywood A-listers wanting to get away for a little R&R, and having just spent a short break here, it’s easy to see why people get swept up by its brand of luxurious, laid back coastal living.
Even in the depths of winter the temperatures stay in the 20s – perfect for a dose of sunshine therapy while you’re waiting for spring. Its location just 45 minutes south of LA also makes it ideally placed for exploring southern California.
If, like me, you dread long haul flights, the good news is flying with Aer Lingus makes it all stress-free. We flew via Dublin Airport and took advantage of its US pre-clearance facility, which meant skipping lengthy passport queues at LAX. Upgrade to business class as we did and you’ll arrive feeling fresh as a daisy to boot.
The harbour is the beating heart of Newport Beach and there’s plenty going on here to fill your days. The recentlyrefurbished Lido Marina Village has an exciting hub of boutique shops and restaurants. You’ll find the Gwyneth Paltrow-endorsed stationery store Sugar Paper LA rubbing shoulders with stalwarts Lido Village Books, one of the last remaining stores from the 1970s and a true gem worth seeking out.
It’s clear how much the residents care for regeneration done the right way, as shown in the new Lido House Hotel, which we were lucky to be given a sneak preview of. The first hotel to be built on the peninsula for more than 50 years, the development forms part of a signature collection for Marriott hotels.
Sitting on the site of the Old City Hall, the hotel incorporates elements of its heritage with Mayor’s Table, a restaurant which aims to be a dining hotspot for residents as well as guests. Sitting in a prime position between the harbour and beach, it opened late March 2018.
To check out the homes of the rich and famous, a tour on an electric duffy boat is a must. Hire your own and cruise along Balboa Island, taking in the celebrity real estate. It’s a veritable who’s-who from golden-era Hollywood. Check out where Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall used to hang out back in the day and pay a visit to John Wayne’s yacht Wild Goose which is docked here.
Further indulge in the nostalgia at the island’s ‘fun zone’ complete with old-school Ferris wheel. Whatever you do, make sure you try the local delicacy – the Balboa bar or frozen banana (Arrested Development fans take note). Both Dad’s and Sugar ’n’ Spice claim to have been the first to offer the treats in the Forties, but you can let them fight it out while you sample the delights of both.
Nearby Fashion Island is dubbed Southern California’s premier coastal shopping and dining destination. Here, you’ll find everything from Macy’s to Anthropologie to Kendra Scott designer jewellery. We found some superb restaurants in Fig and Olive, feasting on Mediterranean small plates in its open air bar and smart Mexican cuisine and margaritas at Javier’s cantina close by.
Nobody does brunch like the Americans and whether it’s eggs and avocado on toast or blueberry pancakes, the Beachcomber cafe at Crystal Cove is the perfect place to dine. Where else can you watch hummingbirds dart around diners’ heads and a whale basking at the shoreline? I saw both within moments of each other and it is a memory I will treasure for years to come.
Spend a few moments wandering down the beachfront to see the historic cottages on the sands, the former film set for Eighties’ film Beaches.
For coffee, it has to be a trip to Balboa Lily’s, a cafe with a cute homespun vibe. Try their flavoured coffees and signature honey lavender latte. It’s fair to say they had me hooked.
Of course it wouldn’t be right to stay in California without at least tasting some wine. Select one of the 650 held at The Winery, a chic waterside restaurant which specialises in wines from Napa Valley in addition to its worldwide stock. The seafood here is delicious – if you’re feeling extravagant, go for the seafood tower and feast on lobster, king crab and oysters ‘til your heart’s content.
And where to relax from it all? There’s nowhere better than the beautiful Italian-inspired Resort at Pelican Hill.
This five-star hotel, spa and golf resort is the ultimate in luxury living. I stayed in one of their bungalow rooms, which at 847 square feet felt rather majestic indeed.
I opted for an ocean view – to have a panoramic view of the sunset over the Pacific every evening made for an unforgettable experience.
The resort prides itself on attention to detail and the service from its staff is impeccable. The Coliseum pool is one of the world’s largest circular pools, each of it’s 1.1 million glass mosaics were laid by hand. The pool uses saltwater only and is heated, meaning any time of day is perfect for a dip. Poolside dining doesn’t come any more luxurious than in a private cabana. Hidden behind elegant drapes, each cabana has sun loungers, ceiling fans and integrated music systems.
The resort’s awardwinning spa is the perfect way to end your stay here. I can tell you wholeheartedly the Amber Gold signature massage before a flight comes highly recommended and is a superb way to take home that feeling of the Newport Beach lifestyle.
●● Newport Beach, California
●● Cabana dining at The Resort at Pelican Hill