Travel: Coastal Cambria on Highway 1 near Hearst Castle

San Simeon zebras graze in the grass near Hearst Castle. By Jefferson Graham for the PhotowalksTV series

Steps from Moonstone Beach in Cambria, California, for the PhotowalksTV series by Jefferson Graham

For the past few weeks we’ve been telling you about our road trip up the central California Highway 1 beach cities. We started in Pismo Beach and continued to San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay and Cayucos. Today’s stop: Cambria, which is about 10 miles north of Cayucos and 9 miles south of Hearst Castle and San Simeon.

This week we pull into the charming coastal town of Cambria, which is about a 4 hour drive from the South Bay. If you take 101 to get there, you’ll need to shift over to Highway 1 from San Luis Obispo, then head north. It’s about half-hour away, and twenty miles south of Ragged Point, the un-official entry point for Big Sur for those of us from the south. 

Highlights: really nice paved walkways for hikes by the sea and overlooking it, a dramatic Big Sur like coast, fun historic downtown with two parts (west and east) and a great home base for exploring the southern section of Big Sur.

The Castle is about 9 miles up the road, and along the way you get to check out the elephant seals and some rare zebra sightings. Go a little further and you’ll catch some really striking rocky coastline at the Piedras Blancas lighthouse.

And then there are those pies! (More about them in a minute.)

The above video tells you all about Cambria, the best photo spots in town and how to get pro results on your smartphone camera.

Here’s more!


The highlight of any Cambria visit is Moonstone Beach, a 1 mile paved walkway by some amazing oceanfront scenery. They call this area “Little Sur,” because of the dramatic coastline. It’s like Big Sur without the windy drives! The other great walk in Cambria is Fiscalini Ranch, another paved walkway that overlooks the ocean.

Enjoy the coast!

Go down into the sand and enjoy the view, and make sure to return at sunset for great photo ops. My favorite spot in town is Leffingwell Landing, at the tail end of Moonstone Beach.

San Simeon zebras graze in the grass near Hearst Castle. By Jefferson Graham for the PhotowalksTV series

Elephant seal near Cambria by Jefferson Graham for the PhotowalksTV series

Seals and Zebras

The Elephant Seal Rookery is just south of Hearst Castle, and you’ll see many, many large seals in the sand. In the winter they mate here, and you’ll also see their little pups. A little further north, and there’s more: zebras grazing at the side of the road. They were brought to San Simeon by William Randolph Hearst when he built his castle in 1919, and generations of them have remained ever since.

Pies from Linn’s of Cambria, by Jefferson Graham for the PhotowalksTV series

Those Pies

Cambria only has about 6,000 residents, but there are four stores to satisfy their hunger for pies. My wife, Ruth told the story of Linn’s better than I could. Read her piece and better yet, subscribe to her Ruthtalksfood newsletter.

Tourist Office 

Finally, in the episode I recommend that everyone spend less time with Yelp and Trip Advisor and more time checking in with the people who know best when they come to town: the local tourism office.

I met a really smart, knowledge woman in Cambria that I’d love to introduce you to: her name is Lorienne Schwenk, she runs the local Chamber and she can help you with all things Cambria related.

Lorienne Schwenk, executive director of the Cambria Chamber of Commerce, by Jefferson Graham for the PhotowalksTV series

Past Highway 1 stops:


Morro Bay

San Luis Obispo

Pismo Beach




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