Pines by the Sea

Visitors can observe elephant seals lounging and jousting at the rookery in Piedras Blancas for free every day of the year.

Photo Credit: Donya Carlson

Visitors can observe elephant seals lounging and jousting at the rookery in Piedras Blancas for free every day of the year.

by Donya Carlson
November 30, 2016
Filed under Destinations

 

Cambria, located midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, is an adventurer’s delight

The community of Cambria, established 150 years ago, is a small seaside town on the central coast of California with plenty to do. Characterized by its Monterey pine forest (one of only five remaining native stands worldwide), one-of-a-kind shops and restaurants, and a 1-mile boardwalk along Moonstone Beach, Cambria is also a popular destination for wine aficionados, with nearby wineries and tasting rooms in town.

Our visit began in the heart of Cambria at Fiscalini Ranch Preserve, which protects 437 acres of forest, habitat and wildlife on land and sea. Visitors can traverse the network of trails on their own, but we followed docent Stephen Beck through pine and coast live oaks. As we emerged from the forest, the Pacific Ocean appeared in front of us, backdropped by a clear-blue sky. The footpath meandered down to the Bluff Trail, from where we watched otters bliss-­fully floating on their backs in the waves.

Cambria is part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. From the seat of a kayak or on the shore, you may spot seals, sea lions, otters, dolphins or even whales.

Cambria is part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. From the seat of a kayak or on the shore, you may spot seals, sea lions, otters, dolphins or even whales.



Next, we wandered through Cambria’s quaint shops with unique art, antiques, handmade clothing and baked goods. After downing delicious warm muffins overflowing with olallieberries while on the go, we headed back later to the source, Linn’s Restaurant, for a full meal — and ordered an olallieberry pie to go.

A stroll along Moonstone Beach’s wooden boardwalk is a must for visitors and locals alike. The beach is named for the small, white trans­lucent “rocks” mixed in with sand. Inspecting the tidepools, we discovered tiny critters moving about.

Visitors can pick up a free points-of-interest map at the Chamber of Commerce, or for $10 the Cambria Historical Museum offers a self-guided walking-tour map of 26 historic structures. An interesting juxtaposition is the tiny jailhouse situated next to the original Fresnel lens from the Piedras Blancas Light Station, located 16 miles north.

Unique boutiques like this  “wearable art” shop abound in Cambria.

Unique boutiques like this
“wearable art” shop abound in Cambria.

Ten miles north in San Simeon is Hearst Castle, an estate showcasing publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst’s impressive art collection. The property was once Hearst’s private zoo, and exotic animals still roam the hillsides. We spotted a lone Rocky Mountain elk and half a dozen zebras. Another 5 miles north is the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery, where hundreds or thousands of elephant seals (depending on the season) can be seen lounging, jousting and battling for breeding rights.

For year-end visitors, Cambria hosts a festival in the style of Ger­-many’s holiday street markets. This year’s Christmas Market runs from November 25 to December 23 (closed November 28 and 29, and December 5 and 6) with entertainment, music, vendors, food and Glühwein, Germany’s traditional hot mulled wine.

Cambria Chamber of Commerce | 805-927-3624 | www.cambriachamber.com

Two miles north of Cambria, San Simeon State Park offers dry camping for RVs up to 35 feet (no showers; chemical toilets only).
800-444-7275 | www.reserveamerica.com

Morro Dunes RV Park, 21 miles south of Cambria in Morro Bay, has full hoookups.
805-772-2722 | www.morrodunes.com

 


 

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