Cottage #33: Romantic Retreat

The blue cottage on the cliff has been nestled over the ocean for nearly eighty years, its lightly weathered wood siding blending with sea, land, and sky. Once called “Provence Cottage,” charming Cottage #33 has been restored and renamed as “Romantic Retreat,” and is now part of the year-round overnight lodging at Crystal Cove. From its clifftop setting and preserved architectural details, Cottage #33 reflects the Cove’s storied and romantic past. Floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides provide dramatic views of the ocean below, and original tile, stained glass, and decorative woodwork recall another era. In the Cove tradition of vernacular architecture, a small side deck was added to the original cottage sometime after 1938, extending its romantic charm outdoors under the sun and stars.

While the name “Romantic Retreat” is assigned to only one cottage, it could easily be a name for all of Crystal Cove. The Cove’s secluded beauty, its cliffs and shoreline, and its special light have long inspired artists, filmmakers, visitors, and romance. Nearly everyone falls in love with Crystal Cove, and many people have fallen in love at Crystal Cove, too. Cove-inspired love stories figure in two milestone events in Crystal Cove’s history and preservation: its designation on the National Register of Historic Places, and the creation of the Alliance to Rescue Crystal Cove.

Christine Shirley first started visiting the Cove with her mother’s family, and eventually acquired the lease for Cottage #23 in 1965. In 1970, she married fellow Cove resident Jack Shirley. For part of their 30 years of happily married life, Christine worked tirelessly with the Cove’s resident association and Martha Padve, former coveite to help the cottages secure their designation on the National Register of Historic Places. The Historic designation has been an invaluable protection for the entire Cove.

A few decades before the Shirleys’ marriage, in 1940, two teenagers named Bob Davick and Peggy Webb met at Crystal Cove. Like other tent campers, they returned with their families every summer to live at the beach from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Over those Cove summers, Bob and Peggy fell in love and eventually married. In 1960, they acquired Cottage #2, and their own children grew up loving the Cove as much as they did. Years later, in 1999, their daughter Laura Davick who later formed the Alliance to Rescue Crystal Cove, spearheaded efforts to stop plans for a luxury resort development.

Today, new generations of visitors can experience the same inspiring and romantic sense of place that Cove sweethearts like Christine and Jack and Peggy and Bob did decades ago. From the blue cottage on the cliff to the blue ocean and sky, from sunset beach walks to backcountry trail hikes, Crystal Cove remains a timeless Romantic Retreat for all to discover something (and sometimes someone) to love — with occasionally unexpected and lasting results.

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