California Diaries: Up on Pelican Hill and down on Newport Beach

{Written in collaboration with Visit California and Air New Zealand}

They say leave the best for last, and I must admit, my trip to California concluded with a destination that’s completely new to me and one that left me wanting another week to explore. This was my first visit to Newport Beach, but it wasn’t my first look at the famous location. Of course many will be familiar with the area because of the famous show The OC, or the countless reality shows that have been filmed here. It’s the playground for the rich and famous and it’s not hard to see why this slice of heaven is where some of the world’s wealthiest choose to put down their roots. Newport Beach has the small town feel we all love to envision when it comes to living the American dream. People smile, wave hello and say good morning as you pass. The locally run shops and restaurants are all filled with employees that are genuine and happy, because how could you not be when it’s 75 degrees out, sunny and the water is a few feet from where you work. And there are a plethora of eateries, bars, luxury goods stores and more to keep the locals and tourists entertained on any given night of the week. Of course, it’s hard to imagine anyone living in Newport Beach without a yacht, after touring the area and seeing more boats than people over the course of my stay, so needless to say a great deal of the local entertainment is water location based. If you don’t own a yacht, chances are you’ll be friends with someone that does. I’m still working on that. 48 hours in town wasn’t’ long enough to cozy up to someone and claim yacht visiting rights. But I digress, let’s start this journey with where I laid my head from start to finish…. at Pelican Hill Resort

Pelican Hill Resort is above and beyond how anyone, anywhere, will every be able to describe it. This is a destination to escape, whether you are looking for a place to lounge poolside quietly or are hoping for a round of golf with an unbeatable view of the ocean. At check-in, I was given a key to a bungalow and a map to drive to my room, which sat atop the hill in a gated portion of the resort. A parking space was directly in front of my room, so parking wasn’t a problem (anyone living in London will understand how much of a treat this is…not struggling to find a parking space). And I was only in town for one night, so packing was light. I opened to the door to a room that had a double vaulted ceiling and a view straight over the hill and down to the ocean. The world stretched out before me and all I could see was the great expanse of the bedroom and the bright beautiful sea before me. If I come back in another life, could this please be a glimpse of what my future apartment looks like? With a tub that shared a similar view, a bed that overlooked a working fireplace (that is turned on with a simple switch) and a balcony complete with table and a space to lay out in the sun, I quickly began to understand why I had been advised that I’d find it tough to leave the room. Dear world, I’ve discovered paradise and I’m refusing to check out. 

After spending an hour with a book and a bottle of water on the balcony, I remembered I did have somewhat of an agenda to stick to. First of all, I had a spa treatment and even this ended up being something completely original. I had a Body Gelato experience. No, they didn’t turn me into a giant strawberry ice cream cone. I was scrubbed, heated and moisturised to perfection in the most luxurious of spaces with fresh seasonal ingredients. Then, at the conclusion, I was lead to the relaxation room and given a gelato to complete the treatment. Yeah, I could get used to this.

Post spa treatment, I decided to visit the Pelican Hill Resort Pool that has been named, by some, as the best pool on the coast of Southern California. That’s a big claim, but it still didn’t prepare me for the coliseum pool that sits 136 feet in diameter overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The rumours are true… this is a pool like no other. Sadly, I had five minutes to run in, see it, and turn back around, before having to retreat and get ready for dinner.

Dinner was in Andrea, a restaurant with, you guessed it… a sea view…. that offered fine Italian cuisine. Now, when I lived in Italy, a friend of mine told me that the best measure of an Italian chef is found in tasting his spaghetti pomodoro. It looks like one of the easiest dishes to make, but in reality it is the easiest dish to get wrong. So, I’ve been trained to always order this and my goodness have I created some memories in doing so. The memory that I’ll take away from Andrea is one of complete deliciousness. The spaghetti was perfection, the brussel sprouts were other-wordly and my dining companion’s pizza looked good enough to reach across the table and steal. Don’t worry, I kept my manners in check. 

But, that wasn’t the end of my food experience at Pelican Hill. Before I arrived at the resort, they asked me if I had any food allergies, any food loves or anything I’d like to have specifically stocked in the room. I simply answered, “I love American junk food and it’s what I miss most while in the UK.” It was totally tongue in cheek, but when I got back to the room there was a basket full of everything you see laid out on the bed in the picture below. I decided to have an American junk food midnight picnic in front of the fire. Nothing to see here, folks….

The next day was all about exploring Newport Beach. So sadly, I had to check out of Pelican Hill as I was set to fly back to London later that night. I packed up all my belongings, blew a kiss to the sea from the balcony and swiftly checked out of the hotel. They made it remarkably painfree and for that I couldn’t be more appreciative. Tomorrow I’m going to talk about my morning in Crystal Cove, as there is way too much to explore and say there, to try and squeeze it in here. But, for now, I wanted to give you a look at my tour around Newport on a Duffy Boat. We were touring the houses, that all come complete with yachts that are, at times, bigger than the house itself. The names of residents rattled off read like a Vanity Fair Hollywood party guest list and the unique look and feel of every home made me feel as if I was on a movie set, not touring what is basically a very upscale neighbourhood. 

The day ended at The Lido Marina Village, which is a beautiful shopping and restaurant destination. I absolutely fell in love with every corner of this village. I couldn’t stop taking pictures. It’s as if a part of the Hamptons has merged with California cool style and the end result is found here. When the sun started shining, as we sat for lunch at Zinque, I could see how living here could be a very real possibility for my future. There’s a reason everyone is so happy here. Newport Beach is paradise! 

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To find out more about what to do in California, go to Visit California


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