Nestled in a coastal forest of native Monterey pines lies the sleepy little village of Cambria. Located about halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, this picturesque destination is easy to get to by car along some of the most beautifully scenic roadways in the country. Not only is it the ideal location for Mom and Dad to get some much-needed rest and relaxation, but it also offers a wealth of opportunities for the whole family to have fun and enjoy nature.
The area is rich with outdoor activities such as hiking, bird watching, cycling, fishing and camping. For those who prefer indoor activities, there is an abundance of shops, galleries and museums to whittle away the hours. Evenings are cool and therefore most enjoyable spent in front of a roaring fire, relishing the peace and quiet.
Moonstone Beach is one of the main attractions in Cambria. Named for the moonstones found on its shore, it is lined with a row of hotels and quaint bed and breakfasts overlooking the water. These charming accommodations offer sea views that allow you to sit on the balcony and be lulled into a state of pure tranquility by the sounds of the crashing surf. Running the length of Moonstone Beach is Moonstone Drive, a scenic walkway that provides the perfect opportunity to enjoy the view of the sea, tide pools and local wildlife without having to navigate the sand, waves or seals. It is also a beautifully romantic spot to enjoy those stunning Pacific sunsets. Thanks to the wooden boardwalk construction, it is handicap accessible and easy for people of all ages and abilities to navigate.
Opportunities for fun abound in and outside of town in all directions. Downtown Cambria is host to numerous wine shops, art galleries, one-of-a-kind shops and unique eateries. Adults will enjoy the nearby wine country. With its gently rolling hills and award-winning wineries, this central California haven makes for a perfect day of sightseeing, wine tasting and picnicking in the great outdoors. The locals will happily recommend their favorite wineries for you to visit or you can pick your own favorites — as long as you have a designated driver, of course!
Nitt Witt Ridge is a truly unique stop for families visiting Cambria. Built single-handedly by Arthur Harold Beal, he used only trash, re-purposed items and the native landscape to construct the entire dwelling. Take a tour of this oddity to fully appreciate the ingenuity and manpower that produced it.
Fiscanelli Ranch Preserve is another Cambria gem worth checking out. Consisting of 437 acres of nature and wildlife, it is the perfect location for families that love to hike and enjoy magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean. Two ADA-approved trails on the grounds guarantee no one will be left out of the festivities. Entrance is free and the preserve is open daily.
A short distance to the north in nearby San Simeon is the Piedras Blancas (Spanish for White Rocks) Elephant Seal Rookery. These magnificent marine animals can be viewed year-round in their natural habitat, although the height of the season lies between December and March. The Coastal Discovery Center, also located in San Simeon, offers educational and interactive exhibits highlighting the marine life and local history. Both the discovery center and rookery are free to visit. Piedras Blancas Lighthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places, but is only open to guests for guided tours on certain days, so plan ahead if you enjoy visiting American lighthouses.
Hearst Castle, just north of town, further adds to the allure of the area. This awe-inspiring mansion and surrounding grounds have been open to the public as a historic monument since 1958. Built for the newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, the estate is home to an impressive collection of artwork, statues, antiques and spectacularly landscaped gardens. Tickets are $12 for kids and $25 for adults, children under 5 receive free admission.
Located just a short drive down the coast is the picturesque village of Harmony, population 18, home to amazing glassworks, pottery works and a wine cellar. A little further south lies Cayucos, where families can spend the day fishing from the pier — no license required! If your trip happens to fall on New Year’s Day, make the most of it and join in on the Polar Bear Dip, an annual event where adventurers young and old take a chilling dive into the 50-degree waters of the Pacific Ocean.
Families with fur babies will also love Cambria’s accommodating nature. Pets are welcome in most hotels (for a small fee, of course) and many of the restaurants in town have outdoor dining patios where dining with your pet is encouraged. The moderate temperatures of the region make outdoor dining possible most of the year with temperatures averaging in the 60s during the summer months. On the east side of Cambria Village is a dog park where your four-legged friend can run around leash-free, burning off any pent-up energy from traveling.
A visit to Cambria is a special treat for families of all kinds, any time of the year. There is always something to do, especially the most golden activity — spending quality time with your loved ones.