February 27, 2024

If you want to get away to a small seaside village and just enjoy its slow pace and lovely scenery, Cambria California on the central coast is just the place. But there is more to do than just relaxing and enjoying the sunsets.

There’s no real commercial draw, except that it’s the gateway to the Big Sur coast. Many people stop here if they’re planning to visit Hearst Castle, just 6 miles up Highway One. There’s a few little motels in town, and more at Moonstone Beach, mostly with ocean views. The nearest “big” city is San Luis Obispo, about 33 miles to the southeast.

The town of Cambria is divided into the east village and the older, west village, both very walkable. On Friday afternoons there is a Farmer’s Market. It started as an artist’s colony and Victorian architecture is plentiful. There are art galleries, boutique shops and restaurants to enjoy. The Cambria Historical Society offers self-guided walking tours of the east village. You can get their brochure from The Cambrian at 2442 Main Street.

A free trolley can take you on an hour-long route, looping through both villages, Moonstone Beach Drive, Fiscalini Ranch and Cambria Pines Lodge. It leaves every half hour.

Moonstone Beach is covered with small rocks, including moonstone agate, jasper and jade. It’s fun to crunch around on them, discovering how unique each one is and how shiny they become when the sea washes over them.

Leffingwell Landing is on the north side of Moonstone Beach Drive. There, you’ll find restrooms, picnic tables and fantastic views.

There’s also tide pools to explore and a wooden boardwalk that winds along the back of the beach where you can stroll and enjoy the great views. Across the street are several motels that face the ocean.

For a spectacular walk along the bluffs of the Pacific, go to Fiscalini Ranch. You can park at the end of Windsor Boulevard. In spring time, the wildflowers are blooming as you walk out along the path overlooking the ocean with the crashing surf below.

Probably the most well known place for Cambria lodging is the Cambria Pines Lodge. It’s not by the beach, but up in the monterey pine covered hills at 2905 Burton Drive. It’s a lovely little lodge, which is situated on 26 acres. You can stroll around the gardens and eat in the casual dining restaurant there even if you are not an overnight guest. A splendid little path leads from the lodge’s grounds to the Cambria Pines Nursery, which is a delight in itself for garden lovers to explore.

Cambria is also convenient to wine tasting, as there are several wineries along Highway 46, which leads inland towards Paso Robles.

If you’re heading to Hearst Castle for the first time, you’re in for a real treat. Drive about six miles up the coast and park near the large visitor center. You can get tickets there to one of the tours and see a film about the place before boarding the bus up the mountain to William Randolph Hearst’s spectacular estate.

If you happen to like offbeat, decorative architectural relics, you can’t leave town without a quick drive up to Nit Wit Ridge. It’s actually a state historical landmark and can be found at 881 Hillcrest Drive. It took 51 years to build, and is adorned with all kinds of oddities, both natural and manmade, including toilets, abalone shells and car parts.

Other things to do in Cambria California include seasonal whale watching, going to the local theatre, or listening to live music.