With my birthday soon approaching and a growing itch to travel, I headed a few hours south of San Francisco for the weekend to hit some of my bucket list destinations (no passport needed). I organized my trip on Roadtrippers and made my way down to Highway one and headed towards the coast. The first stop on the trip was historical Hearst Castle located at the top of a hill in scenic San Simeon.
If you would like to take my trip and plan it via the Roadtrippers app you can use this LINK to customize as you please. I’d love for your to share the photos you take along the way.
William Randolph Hearst was a media entrepreneur and politician who worked with architect Julia Morgan to create his 60,645 square foot, Spanish inspired castle in California. After he died, the location became open to the public for tours. Today, you have the option to view the magnificent castle through different types of tours. We chose the grand room option. Since we came in December, the rooms were more festive than usual. Large wreaths, lights, and even 2 enormous Christmas trees decorated the wooden rooms and marble halls.
The entire abode is a sight to behold, but a few favorite parts included the lush garden at the beginning of the property, a majestic blue-tiled indoor pool, and a breathtaking view of the ocean. The opulence of the castle was not only a result of the magnificent design and architecture, but also of the recognition that you were stepping in the same halls as some of the biggest names of the times. Renowned guests of Hearst Castle included Charlie Chaplin, Marion Davies, Edwin Hubble (yes, like Hubble telescopes) and more.
Hearst Castle is a perfect travel destination for families, solo travelers, or really anybody interested in immersing themselves in one of the most luxurious and historically relevant landmark.
Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery
In contrast to the great luxury of Hearst Castle, the nearby Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery is home to hundreds of newly shored up seals, adorably resting together. After a long journey of hunting for food in the ocean, elephant seals come to shore to sleep and feed their new-borns. We watched them twist and turn in their sleep all day! Some seals were focused on their sweet slumber while others were intent on fighting each other for the rights of the territory. Their mannerisms and facial expressions were in some ways so similar to humans. You could tell when they were annoyed from being awakened or when they were getting comfy in the warm sand.
The sublime ocean views paired with the adorable seals made this one of my favorite stops on Highway 1. The beach had plenty of parking as well as informative information spread throughout the shore fence. Would highly recommend spending at least half an hour here, just to watch the seals and feel the warm sun set.
Leffingwell Landing State Park
The last beach stop of the trip was at Leffingwell Landing State Park. You can’t go wrong with a clear ocean view and that was exactly the highlight of our stop here. The breeze was swift, cooling us down on a surprisingly warm winters day. This was a relatively mini stop, but it’s the quality of the time and location that makes a place unique, not always quantity. Picnic tables were scattered throughout the cliff and it was sweet to see families and friends sharing food together by the water, a picturesque moment.
We climbed over some rocks to get to a spot right above the water. My sister and I snagged some pictures of each other but we were mostly enjoying the sweet ocean view. Although the weekend was coming to an end and we were sad to be leaving the SLO area, we were gracious to be able to explore more of our home state of California and all it as to offer, so easily accessible by simply passing through Highway 1. As you can tell, this stop was a reflective one, and although just a memory now, we are excited to be able to share these experiences with you!
Nitt Witt Ridge
Another stop off of Highway 1 in the city of Cambria is the whimsical house of Nit Wit Ridge. The 2.5 acre house is called the “poor Hearst Castle,” due to the nature of its creation: garbage, beach debris, and materials tossed out by the real Hearst Castle. It has a folksy vibe and although made of 2nd hand material, the house omits a quirky and welcoming attraction.
You can book a tour of Nit Wit Castle with the new owner, Mike O’Malley. You’ll get to learn the history of the house while walking through the creatively curated rooms made from all salvaged materials. As they say, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
Old Edna Townsite
Love everything about Old Edna Townsite a quant little town in Edna Valley, near the mountains and the beaches and nestled amongst the grapevines where wineries surround you for miles. My sister and I did a self tour of the historical property. It was nice to see so many people having picnics around the different picnic tables situated on the property. There are a couple of vacation rentals which are great to rent if you want to extend your day trip there.
While making our way down the Highway 1, we stopped at Elfin Forest a state park with dessert vibes and wooden plank trails. We enjoyed this stop for the fact that they made the trail accessible for those on wheelchairs, something that would not be possible or done as easily if left only as sand. The location reminded us of Mexico, with lot of succulents flourishing at the starting point and dessert bushes or plants sprouting alongside our walking route. Some plants were labeled, so we were able to distinguish one from another. The view of the dock was also a plus, accompanied by large mountains on the opposite side. We walked through the trail with ease and comfort. This stop transported us. We felt like it was summer all over again and it was a cute little park that contributed to the melting away of stress that comes along with the hustle and bustle of our typical city life.
Monarch Butterfly Grove
Hanging in bunches from tall, leafy trees are some of the most graceful and stunning creatures of the bug world: the Monarch Butterfly. This stop is most definitely one you won’t want to miss.
In their great migration towards warmth, eventually reaching Mexico, herds of monarch butterflies stop at the Monarch Butterfly Grove to rest. You can literally watch the butterflies huddle together on branches through the park provided telescopes. The quality is sharp and the monarch’s unique bright orange color shines. The park rangers are helpful and informative, sharing all kinds of Monarch facts and adjusting the telescopes so you can get the sharpest view. The park also has a cute gift shop where you are able to purchase monarch butterfly apparel, as well as educational materials and art activities for children. This spot is perfect for those fascinated by the beauty of nature. Bring a good camera with a good zoom if you have one, you will want to capture their bright orange colors!
Oceano Sand Dunes
The most riveting part of our trip was our ride through the Oceano sand dunes Driving in our Dune Buggy through golden, soft sand was an experience I’ll never forget. The location was wide, allowing us to move around almost aimlessly. The ride is exhilarating, driving up and down sand dunes without fear of falling. Our rental location Sun Buggy Fun Rentals equipped us with all the safety gear we needed, such as helmets and head socks to protect us from sand. The Dune Buggy we used was in great condition and the maps we were given were informative, we didn’t even get lost once.
Although winter might not seem like the prime time for riding through San Dunes, the beach fog was a beautiful backdrop to our thrilling ride. This location had amazing costumer service and we would recommend it for any first time sand dune riders (just like us) who might have any hesitations. The staff are all tremendously helpful and will give you all the tools and tips you need to have a fun and safe experience.
Driving up to our hotel, Blue Dolphin Inn, the first thing we noticed was how close we were from the beach. The waves sounded sweet and the air was fresh. When we entered, we were greeted by friendly staff that personally took us into the room to explain to us how to use all the appliances and amenities. Our room was equipped with a flat screen TV, spacious bathroom, robes and complimentary take-home slippers, a large comfy bed, coffee and tea, 1 cozy fireplace, and 2 complimentary mint-chocolate chip cookies. For this hotel, it was the little things that made the space so cozy and welcoming. There was even a notebook in our room filled with journal entries from previous guests describing their pleasurable experience.
We would recommend this hotel for those traveling solo or with families who prioritize comfort and coziness for your overnight stays. One of our favorite parts of the experience was the delicious complimentary breakfast you receive early morning. You are able to choose from a checklist of items you’d like in your entree and they custom make a dish for each guest. Their attention to detail and overall excellent customer services made our stay in San Simeon that much more special.
From delicious food to courteous staff to one of the most beautiful outdoor areas I’ve ever seen at a restaurant, Ragged Point Inn is an all around hit. This was our first foodie stop on the trip and we were HUNGRY. We started off with a couple of drinks indoors, right next to some long beautiful windows that look out into their grass area. We were able to take our drinks outside and explore the view. The grassy area paired with the ocean backdrop is so serene that there are actually weddings that are carried out there weekly.
After exploring the outdoor area, we went back inside to finish up our meal. We ordered a delicious fish pasta and a fig and cheese flat bread. The bread was extra crisp and the fish was just as soft as we liked it. After my sister let staff know it was my birthday month, they were kind enough to bring us a delicious eggnog cheesecake. All parts of our experience were here were pleasurable. Ragged Point Inn is a hidden gem right off Highway 1 and I couldn’t recommend it more!
Quaint restaurant in Cambria with excellent service and food. It was a warm sunny day so we sat in their spacious green garden. As I walked through the restaurant I thought it would make a great place to host a party. There’s live music on Sunday evenings and although we could not make it, we imagine the atmosphere would have been cozy. We had the seasonal salad with persimmons and salmon paired with a local wine. The food was outstanding. Combining that with the whimsical décor and lush garden, this place is a hit all around.
The Cookie Crock is a tiny little market in Cambria. Actually, I think this the only market in Cambria. We stopped at this market for some necessities for our room during our stay and to pack a picnic lunch for the beach. The produce selection was plentiful and fresh. We picked up some avocados, cheese, bread and fruits to enjoy by the beach.
Seven Sisters Brewing is a restaurant and brewery named after the seven sister mountains in the area. This quant little spot is a bit out of the way but is totally worth it. There are outside picnic tables, equipped with warm blankets and board games. Inside is a giant mural of the sister mountains and more seating areas. The brewery is cozy and the owners did a good job using the space efficiently. We ordered the samplers in both beer and grilled cheese, as well as a vegan chili. It did not disappoint. The grilled cheese was crunchy and melty, each sample was delicious and we only wish we ordered them individually to eat them in their larger size! The chili paired nicely with the sandwiches and the beer sampler was the cherry on top. There were light beers, darker brews, some with hints of coffee and others with rosemary or lime. This spot is ideal for those who are real foodies-valuing flavor and variety over all else. Don’t forget to bring your friends along to enjoy their games, flavors, and drinks together.
Famous for the Zinfandels, Sextant is a quaint Winery located off of Highway one. My sister and I both came wine tasting here and enjoyed a little bit of everything from red to white to, of course, Zinfandel. The spot has a very farm-esque feel to it, like a small town, country vibe. With every tasting, you get to take home a complimentary crystal glass, perfect for enjoying your drinks in the comfort of your home.