26 Mar A Hidden Gem – The Ranch Laguna Beach
After graduating from UCLA, JIll traveled the world looking for unique destinations. She’s been writing about her travels for almost 30 years in various publications.
She writes a weekly restaurant review for the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News. It’s inserted into the Los Angeles Times every Thursday and delivered to subscribers from Hancock Park to Beverly Hills, Hollywood Hills to the Wilshire Corridor.
A Hidden Gem – The Ranch Laguna Beach
BY JILL WEINLEIN
Driving off Coast Highway in South Laguna Beach one will notice a wood sign displaying The Ranch. Turning onto the driveway, one can feel the coastal breeze as they enter a resort hidden from the street.
Set among the 9-hole Ben Brown golf course in Aliso and Wood Canyon, The Ranch offers 97 rooms and a multitude of outdoor experiences. From golfing to swimming in the heated pool, dining outside near a fire pit while listening to live music on The Porch or relaxing on a patio in a rocking chair, The Ranch offers a memorable slice of Laguna.
There is a lot of local history at this resort. In the 1940s, when William Bill Bryant purchased the 87-acre site within Aliso Canyon, he built a 9-hole golf course and named it the Laguna Beach Country Club. Then in 1956, Ben and Violet Brown purchased the golf course and soon built a destination resort, naming it Laguna Beach Country Club and Village. In the village Brown opened Ben Brown’s restaurant and a new golf shop.
Later in the 1970s, it was renamed Ben Brown’s Motel and Golf Course and the Browns built themselves a wood Pentagon shaped house above the resort’s golf course. In 1978, it became the Aliso Creek Inn and Golf Course and then in 2003, locals who formed Aliso Creek Properties purchased the property. In 2014, these locals introduced The Ranch, and one of the owners, Mark Christy, a lifetime Laguna Beach resident and owner of Hobie Sports, had a vision for The Ranch in decor and feel. Inspired by Crystal Cove Cottages and the Laguna Beach community, he shared, “There is something genuinely magical and timeless about this natural setting, Mark says. I really don’t believe that there is anything comparable in Southern California. With that in mind, we plan to preserve its integrity while embracing the future.”
When I was invited to take a tour of the resort, I met with Caitlin Curry, Director of Marketing for The Ranch. She shared that four years ago, the owners took the property down to the studs, and hired local Interior Designer, Laurie Alter to enhance each room with a coastal-centric design. Alter founded Tuvalu Home, a decor destination and design studio located in downtown Laguna Beach. Her vision for The Ranch was to intertwine the history of the iconic property and the comforts of a modern day beach cottage living.
Throughout the property and guest rooms, there are a variety of Laguna Beach’s famous Plein Air paintings displayed offering realistic beach and canyon scenery.
We visited one of the Canyon rooms, offering 410 square feet with a King bed or two Queen beds, nestled in nature with expansive views and plenty of indoor/outdoor space to enjoy. The beautifully Spanish influenced tiled bathroom offers lavish bath amenities with an oversized walk-in shower, dual vanities and mirror.
Curry and I jumped in a golf cart and drove through the opened private gate of the former Ben and Violet Brown home, fondly called The Treehouse. This single family home is available for bridal parties, romantic getaways, reunion groups or large families. What was once the Brown’s private 1,600 square foot home, has been renovated with modern conveniences, yet still reflects some of the 60s and 70s decor and features. There are two bedrooms, three bathrooms, a full kitchen, expansive wraparound deck, living and dining space, and floor-to-ceiling windows offering spectacular golf course and canyon views. It’s remote and away from the rest of the guest rooms.
Hopping back into the golf cart, Curry drove onto the golf course to the onsite half acre, Farmer Leo’s Garden by the Sea. It’s a huge garden that produces flowers, herbs and produce for the onsite bar, restaurant and also sells at the Laguna Beach Farmers Market.
Curry shared that The Ranch offers weekly tours of Farmer Leo’s Garden by the Sea. This area was the Elizabeth Dolph Girl Scout Camp in the 1920s to the 1950s. During the summer, The Ranch captures the adventure and spirit of summer camp under manicured eucalyptus groves. Guests can enjoy the serenity in this revitalized and environmentally preserved space for weddings or events.
We finished our tour at Sycamore Spa and peeked into the fitness center, before I checked into Cottage 1001. The two story, two bedroom suite is unique in Orange County. There are 20 of these two-level, two-bedroom cottages featuring 1,125 interior square feet and over 300 square feet of outdoor space. Besides a half bath downstairs, there is a full bath upstairs. The upstairs also has a king bed in one room with a door leading out to a balcony overlooking the golf course. The other bedroom offers a queen bed and views of the canyon. The large downstairs is beautifully appointed with a step down living area with a sofa, table and chairs, plus a dining table and bar area offering coffee and tea.
Gathering my family, we walked up to Harvest for a delicious dinner overlooking the stunning beauty of Aliso Canyon and the first and last holes of the golf course. Now open for indoor and outdoor dining, Executive chef Kyle St. John’s menu changes with each season, integrating fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables with fresh grilled fish and proteins. His swordfish was superb and vegetable dishes are layered with flavors.
The Porch next to Harvest is a social hub for golfers and guests, featuring an innovative handcrafted cocktail menu, enticing wine list and 18 craft beers on tap. On weekends Harvest offers a lovely Sunday Brunch with live music.
Other outdoor activities include complimentary yoga and fitness classes near the pool, aka The Pond, on the weekends. There is a Palapa Bar also at The Pond open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for snacks and beverages.
Waking up in the morning we heard friendly chatter as the golfers were teeing off and walking to the first hole. After a morning yoga class, we took a walk along the resort’s designated walking trail to Aliso Beach, and dined under turquoise umbrellas at The Ranch’s beachside cafe Lost Pier. Afterwards, we walked along the sand to Treasure Island Beach and back to The Ranch before checking out and heading home.
The Ranch allows guests to press pause, and enjoy the beauty of Laguna Beach from sunrise to sunset.
Specials include stay two nights and save 15%, stay three or four nights, save 20% and stay five nights and save 25%. Valid for select stay dates through May 27, 2021. To reserve a table at Harvest, call (949) 715-1376. The Ranch is located at 31106 S. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA 92651. (888)316-0959.