erched above a pristine stretch of Southern California coastline, I marvelled at impressive yachts sailing across Newport Beach waves in the distance, when my six-year-old daughter, Sophia, surprised me with a hug. “I love this house, Mummy,” she beamed. “I never want to leave.” We were standing on the private terrace of our three-bedroom villa at The Resort at Pelican Hill, a 200-hectare luxury retreat with expansive ocean views, world-class golf, opulent pools, and an award-winning spa. A few steps outside the serenity of our villa were incredible resort experiences to explore, but in that moment, I was completely satisfied holding my daughter while we admired Pelican Hill’s extraordinary vista.
The Resort offers roomy bungalows and suites, but for ultimate pampering or an extended stay, nothing beats their two-, three-, or four-bedroom villas. Our 239 square metre residency had ample space for my husband David, our two wildly different daughters, 16-year-old Brenna and little Sophia, and my husband’s retired parents, Kathy and Bob. Upon arrival, Kathy eagerly inspected the villa’s stocked gourmet kitchen, great dining area with wood-beam adler ceilings, limestone fireplace, private two-car garage with laundry facilities, marble walk-in showers, and grand soaking tubs. Each villa offers its own butler, concierge and personal chef service. A fleet of chauffeured luxury vehicles including a Bentley, is available to guests 24 hours a day so I happily parked my BMW in the garage and left it there during our entire stay.
The Resort at Pelican Hill, which opened in 2008, was built to capture the graciousness of an Italian seaside village, and owes its grand
architectural design to the vision of Italy’s renowned Renaissance-style architect, Andrea Palladio. As we took a winding stroll beneath mature olive trees, replanted here with an abundance of fully grown Mediterranean landscaping, Brenna and I discussed how much we appreciated this destination for being an American original. Unlike other resorts in the area, Pelican Hill is a one-of-a-kind escape, not affiliated with an international hotel or resort conglomerate. Brenna mentioned that Pelican Hill is
“a rad place to kick back” when visiting another world-renowned first, Disneyland, located less than half an hour drive away. I countered that it’s “a cool spot” to rest after marathon shopping at nearby Fashion Island, a formidable collection of upscale stores that arguably trumps Beverly Hills’ famed Rodeo Drive. We agreed to add Newport’s beautiful outdoor mall, Fashion Island, to our weekend agenda. Shopping is Brenna’s favourite teen past time. I know I’m to blame. Luckily, there’s plenty of options nearby to satisfy our retail obsession including several lovely boutiques at the resort.
On our first evening, we enjoyed dinner at Piccolo Restaurant next to the resort’s Villa Clubhouse infinity pool. Pelican Hill features several unique five star restaurants, cafes, and lounges around the property, but reserves Piccolo exclusively for villa guests. A guitarist played Louis Armstrong standards as an auburn sunset melted into the ocean before us. Our server welcomed Sophia with bendable craft toys, crayons, and a sea-themed activity book. Piccolo’s eclectic menu of Asian and Italian small plates had enough variety of tastes for all of us. I indulged in the Asian options with crispy imperial rolls, and yellow fin tuna tartare while my husband devoured Italian whole-wheat pasta with duck ragu, and velvety grilled lamb chops. Our daughters, as well as the grandparents, were most excited by Piccolo’s deserts; coconut cheesecake pops, freshly made gelato, and double chocolate chip ice cream sandwiches.
Lead image: The blissful greens and blues of Pelican Hill.
Above top: Pool views.
Above bottom: Wendy with her daughters, Brenna and Sophia.