A weekend in Cambria and San Simeon, Calif.

  • Clara Bosonetto
  • For the AJC
Dec 07, 2017
Newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst started to build his opulent ranch estate overlooking the village of San Simeon in 1919. CONTRIBUTED BY WWW.VISITSLO.COM

Weekend in Cambria and San Simeon, Calif., one of three ways: on a budget, spending a bit more, or when the getaway calls for a splurge.

Trip tips: It’s just a 10-mile drive up California’s Coastal Highway 1 from Cambria to San Simeon. The 15-mile route farther north to Ragged Point is the last part of the open highway as construction crews work on rock and mud damage through June 1, 2018. The town of San Simeon is roughly 245 miles north of Los Angeles and is home to the most famous castle in the country, Hearst Castle.

Coastal Cambria is a quiet and charming village that has attracted artists, designers and craftspeople. Stop at the Friday Farmers Market or at wine and beer tasting rooms after a long and fun day of exploring. The annual Cambria Art & Wine Festival, Jan. 26-28, 2018, celebrates the art and wines of the region with live entertainment; http://cambriafestival.com.

Trip planning at Visit Cambria, http://visitcambriaca.com, and Visit San Simeon, http://visitsansimeonca.com.

Getting there: Nonstop American Airlines service to Los Angeles from $85 each way through March 6. Nonstop Delta flights to Los Angeles from $138 one way (buy by Dec. 14) for travel through May 23.

From mid-November to mid-January, tens of thousands of elephant seals gather along a stretch of San Simeon State Beach to give birth, nurse babies and then return to the sea. CONTRIBUTED BY WWW.CALIFORNIABEACHES.COM Photo: For the AJC


Stay: Castle Inn was one of the original low-rise motels built along the Cambria coast when cattle still roamed on Moonstone Beach Drive. The recently renovated property has a front lawn for ocean and sunset viewing and lawn games. Walk to the beach to explore the tide pools or for a stroll at Leffingwell Landing Park. Rates from $109 (kids 16 and younger stay free), including continental breakfast. 6620 Moonstone Beach Drive, Cambria. 805-927-8605, https://cambriainns.com.

Eat: Once a general store for whalers, Sebastian’s Cafe today welcomes tourists, campers and fishermen to its waterfront store and cafe. Sample Hearst Ranch Winery wines ($10-$15) or grab a pub lunch before or after a Hearst Castle visit (it’s across the street from the Visitor’s Center). Cold and hot sandwiches, burgers and salads, $8-$13. 442 Slo San Simeon Road, San Simeon. 805-927-4100, www.facebook.com/SebastiansSanSimeon.

Experience: Just 2 miles from Cambria is the oldest park in the California State Park System, Hearst San Simeon State Park. The park offers amazing views of the craggy ocean shore and bluffs. Take the 3.3-mile trail that passes by several scenic overlooks, and panels with information on the park’s wildlife. The park also includes the San Simeon Natural Preserve and Santa Rosa Creek Natural Preserve — both wetlands and the wintering site for monarch butterfly populations. The biggest draw here through spring is to witness the massive gathering of elephant seals on a 6-mile stretch of beach. Per vehicle, $10. 500 San Simeon-Monterey Creek Road, Cambria. 805-927-2035, www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=590.


Stay: Oceanpoint Ranch sits on 9 landscaped acres and features homey guest rooms that offer patios or fireplaces and a choice of garden, golf course or coastline views. On-site are a solar-heated pool and lawn croquet. The beachfront hotel is a mile from Moonstone Beach Park and 6 miles from Hearst Castle. Rates from $160 include continental breakfast. 7200 Moonstone Beach Drive, Cambria. 805-927-4648, www.oceanpointranch.com.

Eat: Robin’s Restaurant in Cambria is housed in a historic adobe house with a cozy indoor fireplace. Weather permitting, opt to dine in the garden. Homemade dishes include a large selection of vegetarian along with curries, cioppino (fish stew) and Thai fare. Entrees, $20-$29. 4095 Burton Drive, Cambria. 805-927-5007, www.robinsrestaurant.com.

Experience: Hearst Castle sits on 127 acres and the 165-room estate is over 60,000 square feet and filled with Spanish and Italian art and antiques. Start a visit at the theater for a 40-minute story of the mansion. Several types of tours are offered (some are strenuous with hundreds of steps). The 100-minute guided Evening Tour (select dates in March, April, May, October, November and December) features docents in 1930s dress portraying Mr. Hearst’s former guests sipping martinis as they move silently through the sumptuous rooms, from $36. Best for first-time visitors is the 60-minute guided Grand Rooms Tour, from $25. Download the free visitor smartphone app and allow the Explore mode to give commentary on the art, architecture and landscape. 750 Hearst Castle Road, off Highway 1, San Simeon. 1-800-444-7275, http://hearstcastle.org.

Plan a day of winery hopping and let the region’s only door-to-door, “hop on, hop off” wine shuttle do the driving. The company partners with 30-plus wineries. CONTRIBUTED BY WWW.TRAVELPASO.COM Photo: For the AJC


Stay: The six rooms at the luxurious Dolphin Inn are just steps from Moonstone Beach and the seaside boardwalk that runs along the coast. All have fireplaces and west-facing patios (lower level) to enjoy the sunsets and full ocean views. Rates from $189 include a warm breakfast to enjoy in-room or on the beach. 6470 Moonstone Beach Drive, Cambria. 805-927-3300, https://cambriainns.com.

Eat: Get your fresh seafood fix at the Sea Chest Oyster Bar. The New England cottage-style eatery provides a wine bar and patio fire pit waiting area (no reservations and no credit cards). Start with oysters Rockefeller, steamed clams, and fresh New Zealand mussels — served daily, or choose from a full surf and turf menu, $22-$30. 6216 Moonstone Beach Drive, Cambria. 805-927-4514, www.seachestrestaurant.com.

Experience: The Wine Line is California’s only door-to-door, “hop on, hop off” wine tasting tour service. Set your own pace as you travel from winery to winery, $69.95 per person (includes Cambria hotel pickup). Vans run in a constant loop, picking up and dropping off customers approximately every 40 minutes, or stay longer and wait for the next pickup. www.hoponthewineline.com.

Clara Bosonetto is a retired travel consultant.


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