Once upon a time, the king ruled his kingdom from his enchanted castle of stately sophistication and grand opulence, perched high on the mountaintop moated by acres of lush, sprawling meadows home to cattle, zebras and dancing gazelles. Gazing do west out over the Pacific Ocean, lies a secluded harbor dotted with moored sailboats and frolicking sea lions. To the southwest, were tall hills covered with Monterey Pines that flow down to beaches sprinkled with translucent opal colored pebbles. Welcome to Central California’s town of Cambria Pines, now known as Cambria by the Sea. One of the few places on California’s coastline where the forest meets the sea.
Though time has played its hand in this coastal area, both good and bad, there are more options today to enjoy its playground of rugged beaches, forested mountains, walking trails and wandering through their two villages, East and West. Each side is brimming with bistros, shops, galleries, tasting rooms and rich in history. Let’s explore some of the options available for your own catered escape to Cambria. And yes, the castle, La Cuesta Encantada, or Hearst Castle as it is known today, still stands guard on the mountaintop with some of its former residents, free-roaming zebras can be spotted grazing, if you’re lucky.
The Great Outdoors
There are two new additions to the great outdoors for walkers, strollers, photographers and marine life voyeurisms.
The first is the Moonstone Beach Trail with an 8,000 foot-long boardwalk trail that winds along the coastal bluffs. During spring it comes alive with poppies, and wildflowers for the perfect touch of orange, yellow and reds against the might blue backdrop of the Pacific oceans whitewashed crashing waves. There are several places along the trail that will lead you down to Moonstone Beach where you can try your hand at driftwood building, kite flying, and of course, locating your own “Moonstone” gem hunt at low tide. Dogs are welcome on a leash, but no bikes are allowed on this trail.
Second is the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve. With a natural area of almost 440 acres in size that contains a vast network of trails either along the bluff edges or dotted through the forest, it is a fantastic area for hiking, strolling and biking, connecting Park Hill with Lodge Hills Marine Terrace tidal pools. It is also a captivating place to sit on one of the donated beaches, share a picnic, enjoy a glass of wine and watch the sunset. Dogs are welcome on a leash.
Maps for both trails are available at the Cambria Chamber of Commerce, at each end or via CambriaRanchWalks.com.
Located 8 miles north of Cambria is San Simeon Pier, across the highway from the Hearst Castle entrance, is perfect for walking or fishing and offers a protected bay for those who love kayaking. Sebastian general store offers wine tastings, snacks, and meals to complete your visit.
Two miles future north is the Piedras Blanca Lighthouse, which is now home to a marine preserve where a large colony of Elephant Seals has settled in after their long migration from Alaska. You can safely watch one of natures spectacles from the boardwalk as they give birth, mate, molt and play on the beach. It’s amazing how graceful these 500-pound sea creatures are!
Experience the agricultural side of this areas backbone and take an idyllic country drive out along Santa Rosa Creek Road pass acres of cattle ranches, orchards, and farms that leads you towards one of Cambria’s treasures, Linn’s Fruit Binn. If you aren’t familiar with the nectar of Olallieberries, then you are in for a scrumptious treat. Stroll their grounds of berry vines, towering greenhouses filled with organic vegetables, served in their downtown restaurant, a fantastic broad of chickens & rabbits and a babbling creek that will wash away life’s perils. Did I mention that they can arrange to have your favorite pie delivered to your home?
Exploring the villages
A bit of History
Stop by Cambria’s Historical Museum, located in the East Village on the corner of Burton Drive and Center Street, for a booklet filled with fascinating facts and family photos detailing the story behind each of the 28 most historical structures marked with bronze plaques. Docent tours are available on weekends during the summer months.
A Time to Taste
In both villages, you will find several tasting rooms that feature locally crafted beer/ales and wine. Pints by the Sea is a brewery and taproom that offers a selection of up to 5 different brews to help you choose a favorite. Samples are being poured at five various wine tasting rooms showcasing the areas award winning boutique wines. The Montello Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar tasting room is sure to inspire your creativity and increase your culinary repertoire. Don’t miss Fermentations where you’ll discover gourmet treats and accessories for entertaining in the country lifestyle at home. A Matter of Taste will introduce you to locally made cheese, truffles and chocolates.
The Shop around the Corner
With dozens of unique shops to enjoy, you can shop to you drop here. Hand-painted silk clothing, handcrafted jewelry, specially blended teas and coffee, one of a kind antiques, hand blown glass, and so much more
Art Galleries and Theatres
Cambria is replete with over 20 Art Galleries representing dozens of local and world renown artists. The former Elementary School is now a mall-like center for Cambria Center for the Arts. Its mission is to foster, encourage and promote the visual and performing arts in their community. The Cambria Performing Arts Theatre and The Pewter Plough Playhouse present live stage plays and events throughout the year.
Not to be missed is Hearst Castle. The collaboration between William Randolph Hearst and San Francisco architect Julia Morgan has become one of the worlds greatest showplaces. It’s 165 rooms and 127 acres of gardens, terraces, pools, and walkways are almost as impressive his rare European and Mediterranean architecture, Egyptian, Greek and Roman antiquities and Old Master European paintings and sculptures collection that covers its massive walls and beyond. www.hearstcastle.org to purchase tickets
A local hang out, with good reasons, is the Redwood Cafe. Rick Pfannke has owned this gem for over 20 years now, and he has perfected their cinnamon rolls and sausage biscuits and gravy. Their Eggs Florentine Benedict was a perfect blend of savory, creamy with a touch of lemon. Their food is comforting, delicious and plentiful. This place is where life is about good food, good people, and small-town folk conversations.
Robins is celebrating their 33rd anniversary. They specialize in a blend of International fare with vegetarian options available and everything in between. Making bisques is a fine art, and their Salmon Bisque was a velvety blend of tomato, onion, wedges of smoked salmon with layers of fresh basil. Accompanied by slices of cracked wheat baguette for dipping to get every drop. Try sitting in one of their two outdoor garden areas to enjoy their creations, listen to their smooth jazz music and have nature as your surroundings.
For oceanfront dining, head over to Moonstone Grill and Bar along Moonstone Beach. Whether you try one of their grand sandwich combination or a delectable Fish and Chips that are fresh, lightly breaded and gently fried, and served with crispy seasoned french fries. You won’t be disappointed with the quality of their food or service. They offer a full bar with specialty drinks like their Pacific Coast Martini amongst ten other creations. Ever try a Lynehburg Lemonaid?
The Sea Chest is an oysters lovers paradise. Shooters, BBQ, steamers or swimmers, they have you covered. This trendy restaurant is popular so plan and make your reservation ahead to ensure a table for dinner.
Are you craving a sweet treat? The French Bakery has you covered. The hard part is trying to decide on which goodie to indulge on.
Wanting to take a picnic, a bottle of wine and get a front row seat for a breathtaking sunset? The True Earth Market in the East Village is a ‘one shop stop’ choice. Cheese, fruits, loaves of bread, wines, beers/ales, olives, local nuts, and wildflower honey are a few of their treasures.
The accommodation options are vast. Recently awarded as one of the top ten Historic B&B’s in California, the Olallieberry Inn is a B&B and much more. Start your day off with a three-course breakfast and enjoy their evening wine and hor d’oeuvre hour before your evening plans. www.olallieberry.com
Cambria Pines Lodge‘s 25-acre estate puts you in the heart of this areas beauty. Roaring fires, wandering peacocks, bar, lounge, heated swimming pool and on-site restaurant will give you a taste of the Cambrian experience. www.cambriapineslodge.com
If oceanfront is your dream; then the Sea Otter Inn is a perfect choice. Let the sounds of the surf lull you to sleep. It is located directly on Moonstone Beach Drive. www.seaotter.com
For a luxury experience, the El Colibri Hotel & Spa will comfort you in style. Their finishing touches of luxury grace each room, an on-site wine bar is an individualized way to sample the areas viniculture and their spa treatments will remove any stress. www.elcolibrihotel.com
The windswept grassy rolling hills and the sparkling Pacific Ocean are the backdrops for this small town with a lot of personalities. Rich with agriculture pride, art, theatres, gourmet bistros, one-of-a-kind shops, a castle, and an outdoor playground, it’s a retreat to reconnect with natures glory. Cambria is the type of experience you’ll want to share with your friends when you return home.
Frances and John Cardilino were married at Leffingwell Park and return to Cambria every year to celebrate their anniversary.
“It’s the highlight of each year for us”