If you were a teenager in the early-mid 2000’s, chances are you tuned into the lives of Ryan, Marissa, Seth and Summer every week. I am of course, referring to The O.C! I never thought I’d actually visit Orange County and stay at Newport Beach. It is the complete opposite to my life in suburban Melbourne, Australia. My time at Newport Beach wasn’t as dramatic as the TV series but I was able to identify certain elements that were present in the show. There are definitely mansions for homes, boats and yachts floating about, country clubs and the typical SoCal good vibes.

See:

Corona Del Mar – A beautiful beach stretch with golden sand and turquoise water. Along the path, you will notice the massive mansions (probably worth millions!) overlooking the horizon. Not a bad place to retire or have a holiday home.

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Crystal Cove State Park – It is a state park, so you have to pay to enter but it’s only a small fee. It gets pretty chilly there in December though, which is when I was there, so layer up! Otherwise, it’s a great spot for a light walk with lovely coastal views.

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Balboa Island – You can catch a ferry for USD$1.00 to Balboa Fun Zone. which is like a mini amusement park, with rides, carnival food (corn dogs, ice-cream sandwiches, etc.) and souvenir stores. A short walk away, you’ll find Balboa Peninsula. A number of stores offer bike hires and there are designated bike paths to cycle on so you can explore Balboa that way. A walk along Balboa Pier will give you great views of the beach, with the famous Ruby’s Diner right at the end.

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Do:

Fashion Island – I’m not sure if outdoor shopping centres (or malls) are typical in SoCal. It rarely rains, so it makes sense. We definitely don’t have any in Melbourne, Australia! For a local, Fashion Island is probably your average mall. As a foreigner, it’s pretty cool. You have the big name stores like Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s and Barnes & Noble (my favourite!), as well as the usual suspects from Forever 21 to Victoria’s Secret. There are also plenty of eateries – my biggest guilty pleasure is The Cheesecake Factory. I’m aware that it is a normal food chain in the US but it doesn’t exist in Australia so I love going there. I have never seen so many options for cheesecake!

Eat:

Sol Cocina – I love this place! I don’t normally eat Mexican food, except for the occasional burrito at Mad Mex. Sol Cocina has excellent home-style Mexican food that’s absolutely delicious and totally affordable. If you’re lucky, you may be serenaded with a mariachi-style song.

Harborside Restaurant & Grand Ballroom – For a low-key evening, Harborside has a chilled ambiance, with dim lighting and dark wooden interior. It’s a lovely place. I ordered a pot-roast, which I’d never eaten before. I know it’s a common dish but my regular diet mostly revolves around Asian foods so dishes like pot-roasts are a rare occurrence. The verdict… it was so good I want to make it a home! The meat was so soft it was easy to cut and melted in my mouth.

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Sapori Ristorante – You can’t go wrong with Italian food and Sapori doesn’t disappoint. After a day in the sun, Sapori is a lovely way to wind down with a bowl of pasta and a glass of wine. I distinctly remember ordering the Linguine Ai Frutti Di Mare, which is a seafood pasta and it was mouth-watering! The bowl was huge too and I couldn’t finish it all so I took the left-overs home to eat the next day. Everyone loves left-overs!

I guess the next destination is Dawson’s Creek!