Disclaimer: There are no cars or motorcycles in this post, but there is a wonderful adventure!

Around the time I started shooting for NBC in Orange County, I covered the story of Crystal Cove and fell in love. In the 1920s a group of people started “tenting” in the Irvine-family-owned cove. The “covites” struck a deal with Mr. Irvine, and eventually built their own cottages on his land, where they remained and shared with yet another generation.


But.. in 1979, the Irvine Company sold the land to the state for preservation as a state park (preservation was very important to the Irvine family), and the residents were given a twenty-two year notice to vacate. Fast forward to 2001. I was there the day the residents moved out, covering it for the news. I felt so incredibly sad for the people who had to leave and devastated by the idea of the cottages being demolished for yet another resort, but thanks to a third-generation covite, that didn’t happen. She fought the system and won, and because of her passion, the cottages are being cared for as they should. (Read more about the history, here.)

When I found out the¬†State would open the historic cottages to the public for overnight stays, I was thrilled beyond thrilled, but for years, Brian and I had no luck booking a cottage. We’d stay up until midnight on the opening day of reservations (6 months in advance), but our fingers never seemed to be fast enough.

But then we got lucky. After our motorcycle vacation got rained out, we sloshed through the tunnel under Coast Highway to the registration cottage to check for any last minute cancellations. It was cold. Raining. Off season. We figured we had a chance, and thankfully, we were right.


Night one, we stayed in cottage #38, a dormitory cottage with private rooms, but shared bathroom and kitchen. We got lucky again, because neither of the rooms next to us were booked, so we in fact had the bathroom all to ourselves. Cottage #38 is high on the cliff, and had an amazing ocean view and huge patio.

IMG_9553IMG_0327IMG_0328IMG_0110bedroomWe had so much fun the first night, we went into the office the next morning and asked John if there were any cottages available on the beach for that night… and he did! Cottage #40 right on the sand where the Los Trancos creek meets the ocean.IMG_0325


We spent most of our time in the rain on the patio, watching people jump the creek. Only one fell. IMG_9507

We saw tons of dolphins and birds…

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And of course the requisite sunsets.

IMG_9386Phase three of the Crystal Cove preservation will be starting soon, including saving the north cottages which have fallen into major disrepair over the last decade.

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It’s not really possible to describe how fantastic this place is. You feel completely cut off from the modern world, and it oozes so much history. Staying at Crystal Cove lived up to every expectation I’ve had since first seeing the place in 1999.

And I can tell you this for sure. This will not be my last stay here.

Be sure to check out Brian’s blog for more pictures. While I shot with a long lens on my Canon (and iPhone shots) he used his fixed lens Leica, which has a wider perspective.

Until next time,

Lator gators!IMG_0114

2 thoughts on “Crystal Cove Cottages”

  1. Wow…incredible pictures! The two times that we visited there was so amazing…how wonderful that you actually got to stay!

  2. I live in Orange County & have seen lots of stories about Crystal Cove but, I gotta say, yours are the best pics I’ve seen. Specially the inside views. Lovely!!! Thanks!
    ~ Penny B (Route 66 Roadie)

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