Find the real O.C. in Corona del Mar

This coastal Orange County neighborhood mixes a chic beach scene with a lively small town
Sharon Cohoon

Coastal Orange County is often portrayed as a haven for shopaholics, but it's not all like that. Corona del Mar is the real thing.

This mile-long section of Newport Beach is a true neighborhood, and Sherman Gardens, a botanical garden manicured to perfection by local volunteers, is its heart.

You enjoy all the benefits of a West Coast beach town ― glorious weather, gorgeous scenery, casual-chic style ― but with the intimacy of a small country town.

GETTING THERE

Corona del Mar is at the southern tip of Newport Bay, just north of Crystal Cove State Park. From Pacific Coast Hwy. (State 1), exit at Poppy Ave. and head west toward the water.

 

GO

Sherman Library & Gardens. The main attraction at this gem of a botanic garden are large beds of seasonal color. Also check out the outstanding Tropical Conservatory and the redesigned cactus garden. $3; 2647 E. Pacific Coast Hwy.; www.slgardens.org or 949/673-2261.

Big Corona Beach. A top family beach with ample facilities, like picnic tables, volleyball courts, and showers. Great boat watching too. Parking from $8; proceed south on Pacific Coast Hwy. (PCH), turn right on Marguerite Ave., then right on Ocean Blvd.

Little Corona Beach. A steep path leads down to a small patch of choice tidepools. Proceed south on PCH, then turn right on Poppy Ave. and park where it ends.

SHOP

Erica Dee. A women's boutique that covers the gamut ― day to night, jeans to lingerie. There's a men's store next door and a kids' shop a few blocks away. Lots of other boutiques are close by ― the best are Holly Sharp and Recycled Rags. 3435 E. Pacific Coast Hwy.; 949/673-9333.

Bliss Linens. Egyptian cotton towels, 1,000-thread-count sheets, aromatic candles, and other gifts for bed and bath. Mon-Sat; 3321 E. Pacific Coast Hwy.; 949/566-0380.

 

EAT

Pacific Whey Café. This airy cafe in the Crystal Cove Promenade is a pastry lover's heaven. $$; 7962 E. Pacific Coast Hwy., Newport Coast; 949/715-2200.

STAY OVERNIGHT

Hyatt Regency Newport Beach. Just off PCH and overlooking Newport Bay, the Hyatt Regency Newport Beach (formerly the Newporter; 403 rooms from $250; 800/233-1234) has always had a great location. Superb, too, is the resort's subtropical landscaping ― a palm-lover's paradise. Rooms match the setting with bright, tropical colors and splashes of contemporary art. Take advantage of swimming pools and tennis courts on the premises and a par-3 pitch-and-putt golf course a block away.