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One of the most pleasurable drives in Southern California is a southerly cruise down PCH from Newport Coast to the south end of San Clemente. Pointing the car toward Mexico from the Crystal Cove Shopping Center, the Pacific Ocean sparkles out your passenger-side window as you drive through Newport Coast past the bluffs at Crystal Cove and enter North Laguna. You’ll pass the stately homes of Irvine Cove, Emerald Bay and Smithcliff Estates as you approach the “Tree Streets” section of Laguna Beach. You’re likely to see some serious basketball and beach volleyball being played as you pass Main Beach with windows down, music blaring and the smell of the sea as you continue through town. The elegant Montage Hotel signals your entrance into South Laguna as you glide by the beautiful gated community of Three Arch Bay and enter Dana Point. You’ll pass Emerald Ridge, Monarch Bay and the Strand at Headlands, one of the newest and most exclusive communities in South County. Two world-class destinations, The Monarch Beach Resort and the Ritz-Carlton, will be calling out to as you near the “Lantern Streets” of Dana Point. Cranes mark the skyline as Dana Point reinvents it’s downtown and harbor areas with a major facelift. The surf will be crashing on your right again as you sail through Capistrano Beach past the ocean-front homes on Beach Road and the bluff homes looking down from your left. You’ll be entering the surfing zone of San Clemente as PCH temporarily changes its name to El Camino Real, a nod to the town’s Spanish roots. Passing the Amtrak train terminal at North Beach, you’ll soon come to Avenida Del Mar, the center of San Clemente’s thriving downtown area with Casa Romantica and the iconic pier to the west. T-Street, Riviera District, Cyprus Shore, Cyprus Cove and Cotton Point communities are all tucked away nearer the beach as you approach Camp Pendleton. There’s no shortage of splendid homes and spectacular areas to visit along this epic 28 mile drive.

Being easily amused, I entertained myself by mapping out some differences in the real estate offerings along this trek. Starting in Newport Coast, the average priced home is $7,669,488; in Laguna Beach the average drops to $5,659,716; Dana Point barely dips to $5,183,655; and lowly (pardon the pun) San Clemente bottoms out at $2,364,709. As you can see, the following chart shows that your vehicle wasn’t the only thing heading south…

City Average List Price Number of Listings Average Size Average $/Ft
Newport Coast $7,669,488 66 5,931 $1,293
Laguna Beach $5,659,716 196 3,179 $1,780
Dana Point $5,183,655 115 3,917 $1,323
San Clemente $2,364,709 146 3,198 $739

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