Choose Your Own Adventure: The Cambria Story

By: Jordan Carson

If you haven’t already discovered it, San Luis Obispo County is a unique territory. You can easily traverse from open sandy beaches, to rows upon rows of vineyards dotted with oak trees, to coastal cliffs scattered with pines, all in a short 30 minute drive. San Luis Obispo County can and should be your personal “choose your own adventure” story.

For our adventure today, we are choosing to take you through the beautiful coastal beach town of Cambria. If you have ever driven up, or down, the Highway 1 Discovery Route then you’ve driven right through this picturesque artists’ village. Take a detour with us and find out where to go, what to do, where to eat and, most importantly, where to stay because you won’t want to leave after just one day.

What to do: Shop 'till you Drop on Day 1

Whether you are traveling with kids, on a weekend getaway with friends, or indulging in a romantic trip with your significant other, Cambria has plenty of things to do and see.

Make day 1 about soaking up the culture of Cambria: take a stroll down Main Street.

You could spend hours wandering through Cambria’s unique art galleries, boutiques, and antique stores. With everything from handmade jewelry, glass-blown art, paintings, clothing, and other artisanal products you will definitely be able to find that special something to take home for yourself or as a gift for someone else.

Take a break from all the shopping and stop into one of Cambria’s tasting rooms. Dotting Main Street, both beer and wine connoisseurs will find some of the region's tastiest varietals and brews.

Have you worked up an appetite yet? Stop in for a snack at Allocco’s Italian Bakery located right on Main Street or head over to Robin’s Restaurant for lunch on their vine-covered patio located on Burton Drive, just off Main St.

A few blocks up from Main Street you will find Cambria’s other castle, Nitt Witt Ridge. Nestled into the hill, Nitt Witt Ridge is a folk-art attraction like you’ve never seen before. Built from found objects, if you look closely you will see a blend of native materials and modern elements, including old beer cans, washer drums, car rims and car parts, among other things. Building began in 1928 when Arthur “Art” Harold Beal purchased the 2.5 acre lot and used his job as a garbage collector to construct this quirky treasure. To take a tour of the property, just call owner and caretaker Mike O’Malley at (805) 927-2690 to schedule an appointment.

(Photo: Flickr user Cory Pina)

Where to rest your head: Cambria Pines Lodge

After an artful day in the town of Cambria, relax at the Cambria Pines Lodge. With 152 rooms and suites on 25 acres of Monterey pine forest and world-class landscaped gardens, Cambria Pines Lodge is your perfect home base for exploring California’s Central Coast. Here you can discover a wondrous collection of lawn areas, secluded pathways, rare Monterey pine trees, and outdoor dining. Sit on a rustic wooden bench and gaze upon a lovely collection of flowering plants, formal hedges, and beautiful fountains. Not relaxing enough? Schedule a therapeutic body treatment or massage at the Sojourn Healing Arts Center.

After you get settled, head down to the Fireside Lounge for happy hour and experience live musical entertainment nightly. You heard me right. The Cambria Pines Lodge offers live music every night of the week! Then for dinner, explore the delicious menu at the Cambria Pines Lodge Restaurant featuring dishes made with organic, hand-picked herbs and produce from their organic kitchen garden.

Fun Fact: The Cambria Pines Lodge has two Tesla charging stations on the property, as well as one Clipper Creek charging station for other electric vehicles. So while you recharge your batteries, so can your car.

What To Do: Getting in Touch with Nature on Day 2

On day 2, drive over to Moonstone Beach and take a walk along the scenic one mile boardwalk. Comb the beach and you may just find out why Moonstone Beach got its name. Hint: look for shiny, colorful stones hidden on the sand. Don’t forget to look up occasionally because you might miss a passing whale or dolphin.

If the one mile walk wasn’t enough, pack a picnic and head out into the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve for more exploring. Call ahead and reserve a docent-led tour, or venture out on your own. This preserve covers 430 acres and spans nearly a mile along the coastline offering hiking, horseback riding, dog walking, and biking. From the bluff you can view passing whales and dolphins and may even get a glimpse of some playful sea otters. Or, come in the spring to view the beautifully vibrant wildflower displays in the meadows.

Head out on Highway 1 for more of what Cambria and neighboring city San Simeon have to offer. Head north to the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery and view thousands of elephant seals basking in the sun on the beach. These elephant seals stop in San Simeon to breed, birth, molt, and rest between trips with the best times to view them being late January, late April, and late October. Have questions? Ask one of the friendly docents who know anything and everything about these behemoth beach goers.

Head back into Cambria and enjoy dinner at the Cambria Pub & Steakhouse where you will enjoy fresh and seasonal cuisine. Choose from Harris Ranch steaks, fish and chips battered with Firestone DBA, or traditional pub-fare.

What to do: Day 3 explore more of the Central Coast

If you’re heading South, take Highway 1 to Harmony, Cayucos and Morro Bay before heading back to the 101. Harmony has a population of 18 but boasts big artistic character and flare for local artisans and craftsmen. Cayucos is a sleepy surf town with classic California character. Stop by to hang out on the beach or grab some of the Central Coast’s best cookies from Brown Butter Cookie Company. Then, stop in Morro Bay for the freshest seafood you can find on the Central Coast like oysters raised right in the bay.

Heading North? Explore more of the Highway 1 Discovery Route including iconic Hearst Castle. If you’re lucky you might get to see the zebras that roam the property.

Head East and you’ll hit Paso Robles wine country with plenty of options to satisfy your palate before heading back out onto Highway 101.

With so much to do in San Luis Obispo County you might as well come back next weekend too, because we have plenty more where this came from. See you next time!