Crystal Cove State Park
You’ll want to see for yourself why Crystal Cove State Park is a treasured Southern California destination for families who like to have fun. Good times begin with soft, sandy beaches, accessible tide pools, and backcountry trails. The park has more than three miles of golden beaches shared and enjoyed by beachcombers, runners, swimmers, bodysurfers, and tide pooling scouts. And there’s laughter! Squeals of joyous childhood merriment fill the air as youngsters delight in the sightings of friendly sea stars, dancing sea anemones, and cranky shore crabs emerging from the park’s many tide pools. The laughter is contagious!
My daughter-in-law first introduced me to Crystal Cove’s Historic District on a parents’ weekend, and she planned our arrival just in time for a glorious California sunset and libations at the park’s Beachcomber Cafe. My husband and I were wowed! The Crystal Cove Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is managed by the Crystal Cove Alliance. Not many beaches offer an oceanside restaurant, a snack shack, an educational center, a visitor center, picnic tables, lifeguards, restrooms, ranger programs, vintage cottages, and a gift center.
If you’re able to steal away from the beach for an hour or two, take a hike on one of the park’s many ridge or canyon trails. Bring a field guide to help identify the plants and wildlife or use the park’s online plant gallery. The Visitor Center sells an inexpensive Back Pocket Field Guide, An Introduction to Orange County Wildlands, which identifies local plants and wildlife. Kids will enjoy our Crystal Cove Nature Hunt, which highlights plants you’ll find on the easy Canyon Trail.
Crystal Cove has a nostalgic hold on me. Maybe it’s the idyllic sounding name or more likely her beachfront libations, but whatever the emotional connection, I made Crystal Cove the setting for my first book, Pocketmouse at Crystal Cove. And I made sure to include those joyful, laughing children in the story. For me, it’s the laughter that makes this park such a fun and family-friendly place.