This is the second instalment of our California trip, read Part 1 here.
After three days, it was time to leave San Diego and head to Orange County, where our next hotel awaited.
On the way there, we made a stop at Laguna Beach for a few hours of wandering and beach time. We also took a drive round the residential areas – one of my favourite things to do. I love having a nosey at all the different types of houses and getting a sense of what it might be like to actually live in a place. Laguna Beach did not disappoint. It’s a very aesthetically-pleasing neighbourhood with lots of lovely houses and more of a small town vibe than somewhere like Newport (which is actually rather big). I’d put Laguna in my top three places to live in Southern California, for sure.
Now, we know I love a TV series more than anything. There’s just something about the character development and length of time per story arc that hooks me way more than a film can usually do. This part of the trip, and LA, was full of TV show memories for me. I kept saying to Sam, “Remember in so-and-so series when this happened? That was here”. To which he’d respond with “Remember that bit in Grand Theft Auto? That was here”.
I didn’t do much research into the hotels we were staying in before we left, it wasn’t vitally important to me and I just thought I’d leave it as a surprise. So, when we checked into the Pelican Hill Resort, our first thoughts were “Woah. This is a bit nice”.
It’s the kind of place where you will see more chauffeurs than people driving their own cars. It is the kind of place where you can book your children into an etiquette class. The Coliseum, a breathtakingly gigantic circular pool overlooks the golf course and the ocean beyond. The food is great. Pelican Hill has a 5 star rating, and if you’re looking for a luxury stay in Orange County, you’ve found it.
Pelican Hill is situated in the hills above Newport (It’s featured in some of the establishing shots of The OC). The bungalow’s huge vaulted ceilings make the space feel airy and very light. There is a secluded balcony area with comfy cushioned sun loungers, and, the part I got most excited about, a GIANT bathtub.
Pelican Hill was right above Crystal Cove, which was one of our favourite beaches from our trip – I love a cove. It’s part of a state park, so it doesn’t have anywhere near the foot traffic of some of the town beaches, and the landscape feels a little more wild.
Our two most eagerly anticipated food experiences happened during our Orange County stay – Arlo’s first time at IHOP, and our first In-N-Out burger – an enthusiastic two thumbs up for both.
Balboa Island was another highlight from this section of our trip. It’s a great place for a potter – lots of cute little touristy shops and little blossom-lined streets with colourfully-painted houses add to the ‘holiday town’ vibe. It was fairly quiet when we were there, but I can imagine this place bustling with visitors in the summer months. Obviously, we had to try out the famous local delicacies, Balboa Bars and Frozen Bananas – glowing reviews from all family members.
Sam and I knew one thing we really wanted to do during our time in Orange County was a whale watching boat trip. There are a wealth of options available in Southern California. Sam took charge of choosing our trip, doing quite a bit of research before we left for our holiday. He decided on Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching Safari, as it is a small boat (never more than 49 people on board), and a catamaran (infinitely better for travel sick me) and had fun things that we knew the kids would like, such as underwater viewing pods and a boom net at the front of the boat. It also leaves from Dana Point, which lots of people told us was the best place for a whale cruise.
There were lots of families on board, and several groups of repeat customers, which is always a great sign. On our 2.5 hour trip, we saw bottlenose dolphins, thousands of common dolphins, sea lions, a minke whale, and the best part for me, a humpback whale. Seeing a huge whale in the sea, getting a sense of their sheer size up close, is one of my ‘life list’ things, and I’m pretty sure I can tick that off now. The humpback was surfacing every four minutes, we stayed with him or her for about 15 minutes, never sure exactly where it was going to surface. at one point everyone was on the left side of the boat except me, stuck at the back under a sleeping Rory, when the humpback surfaced and sprayed its blowhole just two metres away from where I was sitting – AMAZING. That was my second ‘best moment’ of the holiday.
Next post: Disneyland, LA, and Santa Monica.
Previous post: The flight, La Jolla, and San Diego Zoo.
For more resources on travelling in California, check out:
The ultimate California road trip itinerary with kids