Your visit to Cambria isn’t complete without a visit to Hearst Castle. The palatial estate of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, the famous Hearst Castle, is a 250,000-acre ranch overlooking the Pacific Ocean, just 6 miles north, in San Simeon. With spectacular buildings designed by San Francisco architect, Julia Morgan, the estate is a wild blend of architectural styles inspired by Hearst’s travels through Europe. Highlights include the famous Neptune pool featuring an ancient Roman temple transported from Europe and reconstructed at the site, ancient mosaic floors, 127 acres of gardens, and the world’s largest private zoo with zebras and other exotic animals still roaming the grounds.
National Geographic Theater – Located at Hearst Castle in San Simeon, the National Geographic Theater offers a movie experience you won’t soon forget. Enjoy spectacular documentary style films on the iWERKS screen that is eight times the size of traditional movie screens and includes 7-channel digital surround sound to transport you right into the movie experience.
Harmony is just a few miles south of Cambria. This very small town boasts a population of 16. There is a lovely Italian café and a quaint wedding chapel…as you can imagine, people love being married in Harmony. The town is home to Harmony Cellars tasting room and a small Italian café open for lunch. But the real fun in Harmony is being mesmerized by the Harmony Glass blowers as they create their fiery masterpieces. You might even be able to buy the very same piece you watch them create.
The scenery in Big Sur, California cannot be done justice by film or secondhand account. An eclectic populace and cosmic vibe flows through the Big Sur area and permeates local shops and restaurants. A table with a view isn’t hard to come by in Big Sur. Neither is a sense of well being. Cliffs, rocks, redwoods and effervescent surf create an epic backdrop for recreation, romance and relaxed exploration.
City of Paso Robles
Rancho El Paso de Robles was created in 1844 when brothers Daniel and James Blackburn purchased the 26,000-acre site for just $8,000. After the Civil War, Drury James (the uncle of outlaw Jesse James) purchased a half-interest in the town and, along with the Blackburns, created a resort complete with first-class amenities including a hotel, opera house and natural hot sulfur springs. Today, Paso Robles is a bustling city that is home to the Central Coast’s multi-million dollar wine industry.
If you would like to sample some local wines without leaving the coast, the Pacific Coast Wine Trail features 7 wineries from San Simeon to Cayucos and is the perfect way to sample the local and enjoy a beautiful coastal view. The Central Coast wine region is one of the top wine regions in the U.S. where some of the finest vineyards in the world are nurtured by the mild Mediterranean climate. Central Coast Wineries include; Black Hand Cellars, Hearst Ranch Winery, Moonstone Cellars, Stolo Family Winery, Cayucos Cellars, Cutruzzola Vineyards, Harmony Cellars and coming soon, Daou Ocean. There are several tasting rooms in Cambria so you can sample the county’s best while exploring the village of Cambria.
Whale and Dolphin Watching
Twice a year, the California Gray Whale migrates from its feeding grounds in the Bering straits to the breeding grounds off Baja, California and back again. The whales and dolphins are visible from Moonstone Beach but if you would like to get a little closer, Sea Life Studies Whale Watching Trips take you out into the migratory paths of these magnificent animals to unobtrusively observe them in their natural habitat. From playful otters and dolphins to birds in the sky, you’ll have a front row seat to nature’s greatest theater when you visit SubSea Tours in Morro Bay.
City of San Luis Obispo
Home to the famous Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, one of the best-preserved examples of 18th century Spanish architecture in the state, San Luis Obispo is a popular college town with a wide variety of activities and attractions like the weekly evening Farmers Market, Bubble Gum Alley, unique local shops and many fine restaurants. It was most famously known as the “Happiest City in America” when visited by the Oprah Winfrey Show.
Piedras Blancas Lighthouse
A Cambria day trip that is a step back in time is just a few miles north of Hearst Castle. The Piedras Blancas Lighthouse was completed in 1875 and included a 115-foot tower with a state-of-the-art Fresnel lens. The fog signal building and additional dwelling for the keeper were added in 1906. The lighthouse was operated by the U.S. Lighthouse Service until 1939, when the Coast Guard assumed command. Today, the Bureau of Land Management operates this fully automated light station. The Lighthouse was recently restored and returned to it’s beautiful pristine white exterior. Tours are given on Tuesday, Thursdays, and Saturdays and the views are spectacular. Be sure to book ahead as tickets are limited.
Elephant Seals at Piedras Blancas
Another great cambria day trip is located seven miles north of Hearst Castle, the Piedras Blancas elephant seal rookery offers visitors the chance to see elephant seals living and mating in their natural habitat. The breeding season runs from December through April, with elephant seals visiting the area throughout the summer and fall months. The best time to see the baby seals (pictured) is in January and February. Docents from the non-profit group known as Friends of the Elephant Seal are generally on-site to answer visitors’ questions.