Tucked between the towering pines and shimmering Pacific Ocean of California’s Central Coast, Cambria is a picturesque seaside village with beautiful year-round weather and an array of interesting things to see and do. Cambria is best known for the myriad Monterey pines that give the area its particular character, as well as its gorgeous sandy beaches and steep rocky cliffs. Tourism is the town’s primary activity, drawing visitors from around the state to enjoy the beautiful natural scenery and local attractions, which include Hearst Castle, the Cambria Historical Museum, and Fiscalini Ranch Preserve.
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Named after the colorful, shiny moonstones that scatter the shoreline, Moonstone Beach is a beautiful, peaceful beach on the Cambria Coastline that offers a tranquil place to relax and enjoy the stunning scenery.
The beach features a one-mile boardwalk that winds along the coastline between Cambria’s north end and Leffingwell Landing with many wooden benches along the way where you can sit and soak up the magnificent ocean views. The sandy beach is full of vibrant little moonstones, which makes for excellent beachcombing, while other activities include exploring the tidal pools and whale, dolphin, and bird watching.
2.Fiscalini Ranch Preserve
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Fiscalini Ranch Preserve, otherwise known as “The Ranch,” is an untouched preserve of land that offers a rare backcountry experience for locals and visitors alike. Spanning over 430 acres of the Californian coastline, this natural gem offers an array of outdoor activities to enjoy in a beautifully tranquil environment, including hiking, biking, horseback riding, and dog walking.
Although rugged and untamed, the landscape is within close walking distance of local neighborhoods, making it an easily accessible and ideal spot for family picnics, romantic strolls, and beachcombing. The Fiscalini Ranch Preserve is open year-round from dawn to dusk and is free to enter.
3.Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery
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About five miles from the Hearst Castle State Historical Monument in San Simeon is Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery, a place where animal lovers have a rare opportunity to observe elephant seals having their babies, changing their skin, mating, fighting and just lying about. The rookery stretches for about six miles along the shore, and there are paved walkways from which visitors can observe these rare animals without disturbing them, or the delicate coastal plants.
The northern elephant seal, Miroungaangustirostris, spends up to ten months every year in the ocean, diving down 5,800 feet deep in the open ocean where they feed. Twice a year they migrate thousands of miles to one of their land-based rookeries. Piedras Blancas is one of the best places to watch seals during their life onshore.
San Simeon, California 93452, Phone: 805-924-1628
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About halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco in San Simeon is Hearst Castle, America's most famous castle. Often called The Enchanted Hill or La Cuesta Encantada, a group of spectacular mansions of mixed architectural style stand high above the ocean, surrounded by lush gardens. The castle was designed by architect Julia Morgan for the newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst and his family.
What was originally a family campsite was transformed into a spectacular 165-room castle which features 115 rooms in the main house and 50 rooms throughout three guest houses, all lavishly decorated. There are also swimming pools, a movie theater, tennis courts, an airfield, the zoo and eight acres of gardens. "La Casa Grande," or the main house, hosts Hearst's collection of European art and antiques.
750 Hearst Castle Rd, San Simeon, California 93452, Phone: 800-444-4445
5.Point Piedras Blancas Beach
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When you come to Point Piedras Blancas Beach, you will see many kite boarders and windsurfers who have adopted this lovely spot and are putting on a daily show. The beach is fenced in and can be entered through a wooden gate that leads into this state-owned property. There is a sandy footpath that leads to the edge of the bluff that can be used to go down to the back of the beach. You can also walk along the bluff to a scenic rocky point on the north side of the beach.
This is where the Boucher Trail starts, going south past the lighthouse on the way to the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery. Point Piedras Blancas Beach is part of Hearst San Simeon State Park and the use of the beach for any other purpose except to cross it to get into the water is not permitted since the beach is the habitat for northern elephant seals.
6.William Randolph Hearst Memorial Beach
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Not far from the historic and charming San Simeon, across the busy Highway One from the Hearst Castle, is the beautiful and very popular William Randolph Hearst Memorial Beach. This spacious beach is suitable for a range of activities including swimming, fishing, beachcombing and hiking.
Located in a quiet, protected cove, the beach is also great for fishing from the pier, which is a starting point for kayaking and deep-sea fishing from chartered boats. There are 24 picnic sites with picnic tables and barbecues, making it the perfect spot for family gatherings.
750 Hearst Castle Rd, San Simeon, California 93452, Phone: 805-927-2020
7.San Simeon Pier
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San Simeon Pier is located in the William R. Hearst Memorial State Beach, in a small secluded cove behind San Simeon Point. It is 850feetlong, 12 feet wide and only 22 feet above the shallow water. The beach park is popular among visitors to the nearby Hearst Castle as a spot to take a break, relax or have a picnic on the beach surrounded by a fragrant eucalyptus forest.
The pier is also popular among amateur fishermen and there is a bait and tackle shop at the end of the pier. Sportfishing boats also operate from there. The pier was built in 1957, and was damaged by winter storms and repaired in 1969, 1982 and 1983.
750 Hearst Castle Road, San Simeon, California 93452
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8.Things to do in Cambria: Stolo Family Winery & Vineyards
© Stolo Family Winery & Vineyards
Stolo Family Vineyards & Winery is a family owned and managed winery located on the scenic Santa Rosa Creek Road just minutes from Main Street. Surrounded by nine acres of sun-kissed vineyards is a restored farmhouse and old dairy barn that date back late 1800’s. The property also has a rustic tasting room and winery, offering guests a full wine farm experience.
Planted in 1998 and thriving from unique microclimate presented by the close proximity of the Pacific Ocean, the Stolo Family Vineyards produce a range of coastal-style varietals, including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah, each of which uniquely captures the coast’s aroma, textures, and flavors in every bottle. The Stolo Family Vineyards & Winery tasting room is open seven days a week from 11:30 am to 5:00 pm.
3776 Santa Rosa Creek Rd, Cambria, CA 93428, 805-924-3131
9.Jade Cove and Sand Dollar Beach
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The Big Sur is a wild, rugged part of the California coast, unspoiled by development, rough and dangerous. About half way between Monterey and San Luis Obispo is Jade Cove with Jade Beach. You can get to the cove and the beach by following a steep, often treacherous trail that leads down. This beach is a popular spot for jade-hunters.
About two miles along the coast is another place where you can find jade, but also have some fun - Sand Dollar Beach, a popular beach for picnicking, beachcombing, surfing and fishing. Sand Dollar is the largest beach in this area, but the waves are often rough and there is a strong rip current, so swimmers should be careful. The location is a popular place for hang gliding and paragliding.
CA-1, Big Sur, California 93920, Phone: 831-667-2315
10.Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
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Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary was established for the protection, research, education and use of marine resources off California's central coast from Marinto Cambria. This federally protected sanctuary includes 276 miles of shoreline and 4,601 nautical square miles of ocean. It extends 30 miles off shore up to 12,713 feet deep.
The sanctuary protects America's largest kelp forests, one of the largest underwater canyons and deep ocean environments closest to the shore. It includes diverse marine ecosystems such as rocky shores, sandy beaches and rich estuaries, home to a huge number of marine species. Diverse habitats contain 34 species of marine mammals, over 180 species of shorebirds and seabirds, 525 species of fish, and a huge number of algae and invertebrates. Things to Do in Monterey
Monterey Bay, California 93940, Phone: 831-647-4201
11.Hearst Castle Theater
© Hearst Castle Theater
The Hearst Castle Theater is located at the Hearst Castle Visitor Center, the first building visitors enter before starting their tour of the Hearst Castle. This five-story screen theater is showing the film Hearst Castle - Building the Dreamas part of the daytime Castle Tours.
Hearst Castle – Building the Dream was produced especially for the Hearst Castle Theater showing the history and construction of the Castle. Occasionally, the Theater shows special entertainment or educational special features. On the way to the theatre, in the lobby, visitors can enjoy the spectacular collection of 17th century tapestries, part of the impressive Hearst collection.
100 Hearst Castle Rd, San Simeon, California 93452, Phone: 805-927-6811
12.Cambria Historical Museum, Cambria, California
© Cambria Historical Museum
Cambria's Historical Museum is located in the beautifully restored Guthrie-Bianchini House in Cambria's historic East Village. Built in 1870, the Victorian house was built from locally milled pine. It is one of the oldest homes in Cambria and is open to the public as a place of discovery and sharing of Cambria's heritage.
The museum organizes thematic exhibits and educates visitors about the people who have lived in the area, and offers popular tours of the historic house. The museum often hosts meetings, gatherings, family reunions and parties. The museum's Heirloom Garden also serves as a community park and it hosts events, festivals, and celebrations.
2251 Center St, Cambria, California 93428, Phone: 805-927-2891
13.Elephant Seal Vista Point
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When elephant seals return to the California coast from their ten month journey through the depths of the sea, it is a monumental event. At San Simeon State Beach there are at times about 18,000 elephant seals on the four mile stretch of sand, some of them up to 5,000 pounds. The best spot to observe adult elephant seals is Hearst-San Simeon State Park elephant seal vista point, about five miles north of Hearst Castle.
The best time to come to the park to watch seals is from mid-November to mid-January. Elephant seals live most of their life in the sea, where they feed. Once they come to land, they fight for females, give birth, nurse babies and return the sea. Another great place to watch this annual spectacle is at Ano Nuevo State Park south of San Francisco.
14.Hearst Ranch Winery Tasting Room at Sebastian's
© Hearst Ranch Winery Tasting Room at Sebastian's
Sebastian's General Store, built in 1852,is a San Simeon icon. While it still serves as a general store, instead of serving whalers and miners, the store today serves tourists, sport fishermen and campers. It is also a popular gathering place where people come to taste the wines of Hearst Ranch Winery.
Known for their excellent Chardonnay, Tempranillo, Rose, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and others, Hearst Ranch Winery found a perfect tasting room in the quaint historic space at Sebastian's, with the copper bar top, authentic rustic barn wood siding and hundred-year old memorabilia on the walls. Sebastian's is located across from the Hearst Castle Visitor's Center and offers not only Hearst Ranch wines but great pub-style food.
442 Slo San Simeon Rd, San Simeon, California 93452, Phone: 805-927-4100
15.Hearst San Simeon State Park
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About two miles from Cambria and 35 miles from San Luis Obispo is Hearst San Simeon State Park, the oldest park in the California State Park System. This scenic park consists mostly of promontories and coastal bluffs that offer spectacular views of the rocky shore and the expanse of the ocean.
There is a 3.3 mile long trail that winds through the Washburn Campground and the San Simeon Natural Preserve. The trail passes by several scenic overlooks, well-placed benches and panels that offer information on the habitat and wildlife that lives in it. The park also includes the San Simeon Natural Preserve, the Santa Rosa Creek Natural Preserve and the Pa-nu Cultural Preserve. The park has several campgrounds and picnic areas.
San Simeon-Monterey Creek Rd, Cambria, California 93428, Phone: 805-927-2010
16.Piedras Blancas Light Station, San Simeon, CA
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Located on the bluff of Point Piedras Blancas (meaning "white rocks" in Spanish), the Piedras Blancas Light Station is part of the Piedras Blancas Light Station Outstanding Natural Area, which features a natural park and wildlife sanctuary with the historic lighthouse at its center.
Once a working beacon that flashed every 15 seconds to warn ships of the treacherous rocks of the Point Piedras Blancas, the light station today provides a glimpse into the past when lighthouses served a vital role in maritime navigation. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the tower and surrounding buildings can be explored on guided tours on certain days of the week, which need to be booked by appointment.
15950 Cabrillo Highway, San Simeon, CA 93452, United States, 805-927-3719
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17.Robin's Restaurant, Cambria, CA
© Robin's Restaurant
Drawing inspiration from world cuisines, Robin and Shanny Covey began their foray into the world of food by serving wholesome fare in a small health food store in Cambria, which grew into the popular Robin’s Restaurant of today. Located in a historic adobe house on Burton Drive, Robin’s features a beautiful garden setting, and the interior has rustic nooks and crannies in which to escape and a crackling fireplace that adds cozy appeal in the winter months.
Robin’s Head chef William Ouderkirk offers a menu of homemade cuisine, ranging from curries, tempeh, cioppino, and chow, as well as the largest selection of unique vegetarian dishes on the central coast. Robin’s Restaurant also hosts special events such as rehearsal dinners, receptions, and weddings in their stunning garden.
4095 Burton Drive, Cambria, CA 93428, 805-927-5007
18.Black Hand Cellars
© Black Hand Cellars
Black Hand Cellars is a local wine label produced from the vineyards of Paso Robles. Located on the West Side of San Miguel, the Torie Ranch is owned by the Banish family whose members produce wine under the label of Black Hand Cellars.
Named after the infamous Black Hand Mafia stories told by generations of Banish family members, the winery harvests a range of rich red Syrah varietals produced under labels such as The Flapper, Deal Maker, Wiretap, and Alibi. The winery’s tasting room is located in Cambria and offers visitors the opportunity to taste the estate’s fantastic wines with daily tastings between the hours of noon and 5 pm.
766 Main Street, Ste. B, Cambria, California, 805-927-WINE
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19.Sea Chest Oyster Bar
© Sea Chest Oyster Bar
Established in 1975, the Sea Chest Oyster Bar boasts the style and cozy ambiance of a quaint New England seaside cottage and features an enticing menu of fresh seafood specialties and fish of the day.
Expect freshly steamed clams, New Zealand mussels, and Morro Bay oysters for starters, while entrées include signature dishes such as House Cioppino, Alaskan Crab Legs, Panko Crusted Calamari Steak and an excellent selection of freshly caught fish, steamed or grilled to perfection and served with crisp salads, steamed vegetables, or New England Clam Chowder. The Sea Chest features a varied selection of California wines with a focus on vintages from the Central Coast, as well as popular craft beers and Port or Sherry to complement one of the delectable desserts.
6216 Moonstone Beach Drive, Cambria, 805-927-4514 )
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20.Madeline's Restaurant, Cambria, CA
© Madeline's Restaurant
Madeline’s is a casual restaurant on Main Street that offers a daily wine tasting and dinner menu based on locally sourced and seasonally available products. Fondly known as a “little wine cellar and tasting room,” Madeline’s has been selling small production boutique wines from the central coast and around the world for more than 19 years.
Sample some of the best vintages the region has to offer before heading into the main dining room for a delicious dinner of local, organic fare. Patrons will delight in appetizers of crab and lobster cakes and lamb empanadas, entrées of filet mignon and Louisiana Seafood Gumbo, and desserts of Chocolate Truffle Mousse Cake and Banana Fosters.
788 Main Street, Cambria, CA 93428, 805-927-4175
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21.Things to Do in Cambria: Nitt Witt Ridge
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Nitt Witt Ridge is a fun and quirky house that attracts visitors from around the state who want to take in its folk-art type attractions. Resting on 2.5 acres, the idiosyncratic “castle on a hill” lies in stark contrast to the manicured design of Hearst Castle.
It has cobblestone arches and beach shell walls and offers guests an ethereal and almost magical journey into its realm. Purchased in 1928 by Arthur “Art” Harold Beal, the house was transformed into its current outlandish state with only a pick and a shovel and tons of beach debris and garbage. Today, property owner Mike O’Malley gives special guided tours of the house by appointment only and explains its unusual history.
881 Hillcrest Drive, Cambria, CA, 805-927-2690
© Moonstone Cellars
Established in 1998, Moonstone Cellars, a vineyard and wine estate owned by Todd Clift, produces a variety of wines from Central Coast grapes, ranging from lighter Grenaches and crisp Sauvignon Blancs to dry Rieslings and full-bodied Zinfandels and Cabernet Sauvignons.
The estate’s tasting room is located in the West Village of Cambria overlooking the famous Moonstone Beach and offers visitors an opportunity to taste and purchase some of the winery’s best vintages, as well as gifts and souvenirs and a chance to chat with the winemaker himself.
801 Main Street, Suite C, Cambria, CA 93428, 805-927-9466
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23.Cambria Art & Wine Festival
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The Cambria Art & Wine Festival is an annual event that celebrates the art and wines of the region. The festival is held in late January over a four day weekend and features demonstrations by local artists, wine tasting, shopping specials, raffle ticket opportunities, food and wine pairing, and live entertainment.
Beginning on Friday morning and running through Sunday evening, the village is filled with locals and visitors getting out and about and having a good time. Evenings are taken up with parties and various wine tastings and pairings, as well as auctions and special draws and raffles. This year, the 2016 festival will be held from January 29th – 31st.
767 Main Street, Cambria, CA, 805-927-3624
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24.Things to Do in Cambria, CA: Pewter Plough Playhouse
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The Pewter Plough Playhouse is a unique community theater that presents several live stage plays and other performances throughout the year. Established in 1976 and fondly known as “the Jewel Box of Community Theaters,” the Pewter Plough Playhouse is home to the resident theatre company, the Pewter Plough Players, who perform shows on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night on a weekly basis.
The Playhouse occasionally runs performing arts and theater-based workshops for various ages, as well as hosts special events such as this year’s “New York’s New Year’s Eve.”
824 Main St at Sheffield, Cambria, CA 93428, 805-927-3877
25 Best Things to Do in Cambria & San Simeon
- Moonstone Beach, Photo: Courtesy of randyandy101 - Fotolia.com
- Fiscalini Ranch Preserve, Photo: Courtesy of Chuck Place - Fotolia.com
- Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery, Photo: Courtesy of Impala - Fotolia.com
- Hearst Castle, Photo: Courtesy of fannyes - Fotolia.com
- Point Piedras Blancas Beach, Photo: Courtesy of lunamarina - Fotolia.com
- William Randolph Hearst Memorial Beach, Photo: Courtesy of Brent Reeves - Fotolia.com
- San Simeon Pier, Photo: Courtesy of liquid studios - Fotolia.com
- Things to do in Cambria: Stolo Family Winery & Vineyards, Photo: Stolo Family Winery & Vineyards
- Jade Cove and Sand Dollar Beach, Photo: Courtesy of mlinford - Fotolia.com
- Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Photo: Courtesy of wolterke - Fotolia.com
- Hearst Castle Theater, Photo: Hearst Castle Theater
- Cambria Historical Museum, Cambria, California, Photo: Cambria Historical Museum
- Elephant Seal Vista Point, Photo: Courtesy of brianw_45 - Fotolia.com
- Hearst Ranch Winery Tasting Room at Sebastian's, Photo: Hearst Ranch Winery Tasting Room at Sebastian's
- Hearst San Simeon State Park, Photo: Courtesy of Melastmohican - Fotolia.com
- Piedras Blancas Light Station, San Simeon, CA, Photo: Courtesy of htrnr - Fotolia.com
- Robin's Restaurant, Cambria, CA, Photo: Robin's Restaurant
- Black Hand Cellars , Photo: Black Hand Cellars
- Sea Chest Oyster Bar, Photo: Sea Chest Oyster Bar
- Madeline's Restaurant, Cambria, CA, Photo: Madeline's Restaurant
- Things to Do in Cambria: Nitt Witt Ridge, Photo: Courtesy of VICUSCHKA - Fotolia.com
- Moonstone Cellars, Photo: Moonstone Cellars
- Cambria Art & Wine Festival, Photo: Courtesy of Waldteufel - Fotolia.com
- Things to Do in Cambria, CA: Pewter Plough Playhouse, Photo: Courtesy of peych_p - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of forcdan - Fotolia.com