Cambria & San Simeon
The pine-covered hills of Cambria provide a woodsy backdrop for this charming little town, which started as a mining center and is now in prime dairy country. The rustic architecture of Cambria seems just right for the arts community it has become over the past 40 years.
Galleries, boutiques, and wine tasting places mingle with little cafes and inns. There's an old-fashioned saloon, plus stores in which to buy provisions for day trips and picnicking in the countryside. Nearby Cayucos has a fishing pier, and sandy beaches line the coastline. Cambria and nearby San Simeon (just north) are good places to base a visit to the California central coast, including Big Sur.
Just north of Cambria is the village of San Simeon and above San Simeon, Hearst Castle shimmers in the sunlight. Newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst built the mansion and called it the "Enchanted Hill." This incredible palace, with bountiful gardens, bizarre architecture, pools and terraces, is a state historical monument, which is open to the public except on major holidays. A special feature is the evening tour program, offered in spring and fall months. Hearst Castle is on Highway 1, about 35 miles north of San Luis Obispo and just a few miles north of Cambria.
Evenings in the Castle
Beginning March 4, 2005, the Hearst Castle Evening Tour Program will be scheduled on most Friday and Saturday evenings through May. This is part of the state park's Living History Program, where guides in vintage costumes represent the castle's premiere era in the 1930s. Tours take about two hours and cost $30 ($15 for ages 6-17). For more information, call 800-444-4445 or go here.
Other Things to See & Do
This is also wine country, with tasting rooms in Cambria, including the Central Coast Wine Center, providing tastings of a large selection of wines from the region in Moonstone Gardens, on Highway 1. Fermentations, on Burton in East Village, also has wine tasting.
Most visitors stay at Moonstone Beach, one of three areas with stores, accommodations and restaurants. Moonstone Beach Drive is two miles of commerce along the highway. East and West Villages are further inland. restaurants mostly specialize in seafood dishes. Brambles Dinner House -- on Burton Drive in East Village -- is the town's most famous restaurant. Other places to eat include the Sea Chest Oyster Bar and Restaurant, and Moonstone Beach Bar and Grill. For a different atmosphere, there is Robins, in an old home in East Village.
Constructed in 2001 b y the California Conservation Corps, the boardwalk runs nearly a mile along the sandstone bluffs overlooking the ocean. It's a great place for an evening stroll and viewing the Pacific sunset.
Looking at Elephant Seals
One of the largest of California's elephant seal rookeries is found seven miles north of Cambria on Highway 1. This is the southern end of Big Sur, the magnificent combination of mountains (Santa Lucia), the ocean, small rugged bays, and small beaches. Stop at the Wildlife Viewing area along the highway. During winter months, huge elephant seals gather, mate, and give birth to about 2000 seal pups that nurse and lie on the beach for several months before taking their first long swim. The adult males are fierce, weighing more than 4,500 pounds. Females are much smaller. The other major elephant seal rookery on the central coast is north of Santa Cruz at Aña Nuevo State Reserve.
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