Cambria and San Simeon
The small beach town of Cambria becomes surprisingly spacious when you start exploring it. Plenty of visitors come here to ply Moonstone Beach, peruse the charming downtown area, and just drink in the laid-back, art-town feel.
But Cambria owes much of its prosperity to the immense tourist trap on the hill that is Hearst Castle. Located about seven miles north in San Simeon, Hearst Castle, quite frankly, is San Simeon; the town grew up around it to support the overwhelming needs of its megalomaniacal owner and never-ending construction.
The town of Cambria does not boast a bricks-and-mortar visitors center, but you can do research in advance of your stay at http://cambriavisitorsbureau.com. If your primary interest is Hearst Castle, you’ll find a huge visitors center at the parking lot below the castle where all tours start.
Most Californians making a weekend getaway to Cambria from either Northern California or Southern California drive there. You can drive the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1) right into Cambria—this is the prettiest but not the fastest way to get there. For a quicker route, take U.S. 101 to the Paso Robles area and then turn west onto CA-46, which brings you right to the town of Cambria.
If you prefer to travel by rail, you can take Amtrak’s Coast Starlight (www.amtrak.com) to either the Paso Robles or the San Luis Obispo (SLO) stations, and make arrangements to rent a car (easiest from SLO) or get alternative transportation out to the coast.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition