Cambria, CA is the Perfect Coastal Cali Road Trip Pit Stop
Calling all road-trippers! If you haven't already been, you need to make a pit stop in Cambria, a sleepy small town on the Central California Coast. Cambria is just four hours south of San Francisco and four hours north of Los Angeles, making it the perfect pit stop if your driving up and down the Cali coast. It's a small town, but don't let the relaxed vibe fool you, there's plenty to check out for a night, or you can use it as a base to check out other fun stuff in the area.
The gorgeous and legendary Hearst Castle is just 10 minutes up Highway 1, pro-tip: the Hearst beef jerky is the best! I'd also encourage you to try to visit during Hearst Castle's night time events.
If you'd like to gaze upon majestic animals of the sea, the Elephant Seal Rookery is just another four minutes away. It's amazing to see these sea beasts just lounging on the beach en masse without a care in the world. They spend most of the year out at sea, regularly diving thousands of feet, migrating across the ocean twice a year. When they arrive at the rookery, they use the space for birthing and breeding, molting and some R&R.
Moonstone Beach isn't quite the beach where you'd plop down a blanket since the weather is always fairly mild and rarely ever hot on the Central Coast, but you'll find tide pools and might even spot some sea otters, dolphins and whales. It has a well-kept mile-long boardwalk and benches that run along this beach. If you look closely at the sand on the beach, you'll see that it's actually tiny moonstones, hence its name. One thing to note, it's not pet friendly, but you can take your pups to the nearby Cambria Dog Park.
In town there is a (very) small strip called the West Village featuring a lighthouse fixture, a post office, and thankfully - a great place to get coffee called Cambria Coffee Roasting Company. There's also many healthy and delicious places to dine, but my favorite by far is Sebastian's. It's a casual former general store turned burger joint and wine tasting stop. Hearst Ranch holds wine tastings there and they waive the tasting fee if you buy a bottle of wine! It's positioned on a back road (just follow the signs) by a beautiful field of wildflowers and what looks to be a small chapel. Honorable mention: In case you get into town late (like I did) - you won't go wrong by ordering from JJ's pizza. I was impressed by how good it was, being the only pizza joint in town... no chain stores here!
Everything about Cambria is cute, however, most of the hotels in the area have been frozen in time, but thankfully a small motel, the Cambria Beach Lodge, has been remodeled and modernized! The regular rooms are cozy motel types, but they have three other accommodations that are bigger and have special features like two balconies, ocean views and fireplaces. What made a this place feel special were the extras: local wines, healthy snacks, a pair of binoculars and their adorable wine/hot cocoa reception by the fireplace in the lobby. There's even free beach cruisers you can borrow. It's truly the little things, and honestly, a comfortable hotel makes any trip for me, and I highly recommend Cambria Beach Lodge!
All photos by Celeste Peterson
Follow Celeste and her travels on Instagram: @helloceleste