South of Los Angeles, as the famed Pacific Coast Highway winds its way past the surf-and-beach towns of Southern California, life takes on a slower rhythm. Sea gulls swoop over cascading mountains, sea lions sunbathe on rocky outcrops, and the crashing surf provides a constant, soothing soundtrack. The seaside city of Laguna Beach lays claim to seven miles of this stunning coastline, with more than 20 beaches and a thriving cultural scene that harkens back to its origins as an artist colony. Nestled on 87 acres within the Aliso and Woods Canyons, the Ranch at Laguna Beach pays homage to a rich piece of Laguna history while treating guests to a quintessential SoCal experience.
The lodge’s 97 accommodations embrace its history as a 19th-century homestead, blending both modern and rustic elements, with board-and-batten wooden walls, wrought-iron chandeliers, and distressed leather chairs. Venture out into the peaceful grounds and you'll find a sustainably operated golf course and grassy slopes where deer often roam. A few hundred yards away, Laguna’s world-class beaches beckon, as do classic California watersports like kayaking, surfing, and stand-up paddleboarding. And when you’re not enjoying the beaches or canyon trails, the lodge invites you to kick back and relax at the pool or spa, where you can soak up the postcard-worthy views.
When entrepreneur and lifetime Laguna Beach resident Mark Christy discovered that one of his beloved childhood haunts was for sale, he jumped at the chance to preserve and revitalize an iconic piece of Laguna history. Known locally as “Ben Brown’s,” the modest motel and golf course, formerly owned by Ben and Violet Brown, was where Mark learned to play golf and celebrated special family events as a child. But the history of this lush coastal property dates all the way back to 1871, when homesteaders George Thurston and his family—some of the first settlers in Laguna Beach—set their sights on the parcel. Here, they built a one-room shack and tilled the land, creating a prosperous watermelon farm that became locally known as “the ranch.”
Inspired by this history, Mark, along with his like-minded partners, set about renovating the property—a three-year project during which Mark and his engineering team rebuilt the ranch from the ground up, seeking to create a comfortable retreat that pays homage to vintage Laguna Beach. The project was both a labor of love and a family affair. Mark’s sister, Laurie Alter, with whom he co-owns the Tuvalu home furnishings store in Laguna Beach, took inspiration from the California summers of their youth, channeling an elegant yet beachy design for the lodge’s accommodations, where natural light and canyon views take center stage. The restored home of Ben and Violet Brown is now the spacious Treehouse suite, while Harvest restaurant (named for the Thurston family’s harvests) features original exposed beams and barn doors. And the legacy of the land is showcased throughout the property with commemorative plaques, historic photo displays, and an organic garden where the lodge grows its own version of the famous Thurston melons.
Each of our lodges has created a special complimentary experience offered exclusively to guests who visit through a National Geographic Expedition. At The Ranch at Laguna Beach, National Geographic guests can join a representative from the Ecology Center of Southern California for a private tour of the lodge’s half-acre organic garden, the largest in Laguna Beach. Taste as you go, sampling some of the seasonal ingredients that are incorporated into the restaurant’s dishes. Then delve into California’s storied wine tradition during an al fresco wine tasting, savoring rich varietals amid a stunning canyon backdrop.
Minimizing the lodge’s footprint on the environment has been a top priority at the Ranch at Laguna Beach since its launch. In 2015, the lodge completed a multi-year project to install a new system utilizing reclaimed water for irrigation of the resort grounds and Ben Brown’s Golf Course. According to the South Coast Water District, this project will save over 21.2 million gallons of water annually. Given the severity of California’s recent multi-year drought, this project has been key to the lodge’s efforts to maximize sustainability.
The Ranch at Laguna Beach has collaborated with the Ecology Center of Southern California to cultivate a half-acre garden, the largest organic garden in Laguna beach, where seasonal fruits, vegetables, and herbs are sourced for the restaurant. Composting and recycling initiatives are underway throughout the lodge. In addition, the lodge has worked in partnership with Chefs to End Hunger, the California Coastal Commission, the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, and other nonprofits to organize fundraisers and food collections, under-privileged youth mentorships, and cleanups of the Aliso Creek Channel.
Architectural Digest: Top 18 New Hotels of 2016 TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence, 2016 Hotels.com Loved by Guests Award, 2016 Booking.com Guest Review Award, 2016
Want to plan the trip of your dreams? Create a custom trip around this lodge.
SHARE THIS WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY