Where To Find Central California Highway 1 Scenery, Great Food, A Beautiful B&B And Wine Tasting
Standing on one of the Mediterranean-style terraces at Hearst Castle, looking down at the beautiful blue Pacific Ocean and Central California coastline, it’s tempting to wish you were an eagle so you could swoop down on the scenery.
But, as a human, you’ll need to do it in a car.
Yes, there’s more to this area than the famous tourist spot. There’s other places to see, cool places to eat, things to do and, as the many vineyards in the area suggest, a lot of wine tasting. All of these activities are along the California Highway 1 Discovery Route in coastal San Luis Obispo County.
Here’s a rundown of PubClub.com’s top picks and recommendations.
William Randolph Hearst Beach, Elephant Seal Rookery & Activities
You’re on the beautiful Central California coast – take advantage of it.
One of the most visited tourist spots on the coast is the Elephant Seal Rookery four miles north of the castle. This is a half-mile area where you can see – depending on the time of the year – huge elephant seals in the water, sleeping on the beach or even fighting for territory or mates on the sand. Several signs warn people to stay clear of the seals and there’s a fence to keep selfie-seekers away from the animals, which can really spoil your vacation should you try to interact with them. Officially known at the Piedras Blancas Rookery, it is open every day of the year and there is no admission or parking fee.
By contrast, there’s hardly anyone – or any seals – at William Randolph Hearst Beach. Look down from Hearst Castle and you can see a pier; that’s the place. The pier makes for a relaxing walk in the warm sun, the small beach is like a cove and is ideal for a stroll (dogs are allowed on the sand) and there’s even picnic tables and grills if you want to have a picnic.
At Estero Bluffs State Park just north of Cayucos you can see sea otters playing in a kelp forest (bring binoculars) and play around yourself in the tide pools. There’s lots of barnacles, mussels, sea anemones, hermit crabs and snails. Estero Bluffs State Park is located north of Cayucos and west of Highway 1 from the intersection of North Ocean Street to Villa Creek.
You can get some semblance of civilization south of Hearst Castle in the charming town of Cambria (15 minutes south on Highway 1), the “time has not affected us” five-block community of Cayucos (30 minutes) and the small fishing village of Morro Bay and its famous rock (one hour).
Where To Stay Near Hearst Castle: On The Beach B&B, Cayucos CA
If you want to wake up to the sound and site of waves coming practically up to your balcony, to a place that puts a complimentary bottle of wine in your room, which hosts a nightly Social Hour with more wine and feeds you gourmet appetizers at that Social Hour and at breakfast, then stay at the On The Beach B&B in Cayucos. This is a very nice hotel that’s a perfect place to plop down after a day at Hearst Castle with some wine, sit by the in-room or lobby fireplace (after the Social Hour, of course) and get in the hot tub – in your room or on the balcony.
Otherwise, there are a few other places in Cayucos, more than a dozen hotels and motels in and around Cambria and also accommodations in Morro Bay.
Where To Eat Near Hearst Castle
If you’re looking for a casual meal then go to Sebastian Brothers General Store. Here, you’ll find huge burgers made with Hearst Ranch beef, a tri-tip sandwich, fish tacos, a fish sandwich and hearty heaps of french fries and crispy onion rings. You won’t leave hungry. Or unsatisfied.
It’s located in a former general store that has an old-fashioned one-window post office (and a wine-tasting room, but more on that later) and you certainly won’t find any place closer to eat other than at the Visitor’s Center of the castle itself. That’s because it’s right across from the Hearst Castle entrance on Highway 1.
Prices are about $10 (sides extra). Beer is served out of a cooler in the wine tasting room. Just don’t let the horses bite you! (Check out the sign on the fencepost).
You can also go into Cambria. The traditional spot is Robin’s Restaurant. While it serves lunch, to really experience it, go for dinner. Robin’s Chow (also available at lunch) is a sensational stir fry that’s been on the menu for 20 years. Robin’s is also known for its curry dishes and the menu is varied and the food excellent enough to more than satisfy every taste. Prices: $$
In Cayucos, an excellent dinner choice is The Grill At Cass House. This place is appropriately named because it’s like an outdoor grill. The kitchen is that, most certainly, as just about everything gets placed on its oak-fired grill (prawns, chicken, beef, all outstanding) and the pizza come out of a oak-fired brick oven. Prices: $$
Food with a lot of flavored atmosphere can be found a block up the street at Schooners, a breakfast, lunch and dinner restaurant with a menu similar to that of Sebastian Brothers in a setting that brings to mind a pirate ship. There’s a sunny patio, a small bar full of character and a front dining room that features booths topped by what appears to be giant wine barrels. Best things on the menu? Could be the excellent clam chowder and fried steak calamari that’s as thick as chicken strips. Prices: $
If you’re the type that likes to start the day with a hearty breakfast, the Sea Shanty in Cayucos has been serving up eggs, sensational locally-sourced Swiss sausage and even biscuits and gravy for decades. Prices: $
Sebastian’s Address: 442 San Simeon Road, San Simeon, CA
Robin’s Restaurant Address: 4095 Burton Dr, Cambria, CA
The Grill At Cass House Address: 222 N Ocean Ave, Cayucos, CA
Schooner’s Address: 171 N Ocean Ave, Cayucos, CA
Sea Shanty Address: 296 S Ocean Ave, Cayucos, CA
Wine Tasting Near Hearst Castle
There’s enough wine in this area to not only fill up the two Hearst Castle pools but to have them overflowing like endless fountains. The fertile grape-growing area of Paso Robles is just over the hill. If you’re in Paso, instead of visiting the wineries one by one, I recommend doing a tasting room hop downtown. But you don’t have to go over the hill to go wine tasting.
There are two wine tasting rooms right along Highway 1. One is inside Sebastians, where Hearst Ranch Winery has a tasting room. A few miles south in a is-this-even-a-town place called Harmony, Harmony Cellars has excellent wines in a rustic wine tasting room with small balconies that overlook grazing cows.
This is red wine country and you’ll get Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Syrah, Tempranillo, Zinfandel and blends.