From pines to the sea, Cambria is one of Highway 1’s most charming coastal destinations. Pristine beaches, glittering moonstones and historic lighthouses come together to create a heavenly seaside oasis. With plenty of outdoor fun, seaside dining, wildlife viewing and cultural treasures to discover, your best Highway 1 roadtrip awaits. As if you needed any more encouragement, here are the top 10 reasons to explore the Cambria coast:
#1 Visit Hearst Castle
Pay a visit to world-famous Hearst Castle, the cultural gem of Highway 1. Built between 1919 and 1947 by famed architect Jula Morgan, this bucket-list destination nestled just north of Cambria is unlike any estate on Earth. Boasting 165 rooms, 127 acres of gardens, sun-dappled terraces, and whimsical pools, step into a world of opulent glamor and elegance. From the gothic library where William Randolph Hearst conducted his daily business to the plush theater that once ushered in famous Hollywood guests, there’s much to discover throughout the late great publishing mogul’s hilltop escape. Choose from plenty of different tours, including seasonal twilight offerings that allow visitors to observe period-accurate scenes lit by flickering candles. Oh, and don’t be surprised if you come across ancient Egyptian and Roman sculptures along the way (Hearst’s art collection remains unrivaled). Ready to knock on this famous door? Come one, come all: there’s nothing like experiencing Hearst’s lavish lifestyle first-hand.
#2 Stroll Moonstone Beach
Known for its beautiful pebbled beach, Cambria is a natural wonder in its own right. Search for colorful, shiny moonstones scattered along Moonstone Beach, which is one of the most uncrowded swaths of sand along Highway 1. Not sure what to look for? Tumbled smooth by ocean waves, these special stones pick up the sun and glow with an otherworldly sheen. Enjoy the mile-long boardwalk or stroll along the surf as the sun sinks low. Feel the sand between your toes as you pass driftwood and shells or stop for a seaside picnic with unbeatable views. Although you’d think Moonstone Beach would be overrun with visitors, this is one of the calmest places to take in Cambria’s breezy charm. Besides a few surfers—and perhaps a couple of playful dolphins—you’ll have the beach mostly to yourself. It’s no wonder that Cambria offers up some of the most protected and pristine scenery along Highway 1.
#3 Take Time to Explore
Good things come in threes. While you can certainly visit Cambria for the day or even the afternoon, you’ll need at least three days to truly savor all that this coastal playground has to offer. Trust us, there’s just too much to see and do! With getaway choices that range from cozy bed and breakfasts to spacious house rentals to luxurious inns, you’re sure to find the perfect spot to spend a few nights. Check out the Visit Cambria booking website to browse available lodging options! One of Highway 1’s most popular stops, Cambria beckons with relaxing stays, farm-fresh restaurants, and scenic outdoor adventures galore. Whether you stroll the beach with your sweetheart or horseback ride at Covell Ranch with your kiddos, you won’t want to miss a moment. What to pack on your Highway 1 road trip? Cambria days are temperate and punctuated by cool coastal breezes (temperatures tend to swing low as the sun sets). For this reason, be sure to pack for both sunny and chilly weather. A hat, SPF, and hiking boots are always a good idea (plus binoculars for wildlife sightings).
#4 Dig into the Dining Scene
Cambria serves up delicious ways to dine. But first, dessert. Grab a slice of local olallieberry pie courtesy of Linn’s Restaurant (you can thank us later). Famous for farm-to-table eats elevated by local ingredients, you won’t find a fresher meal along Highway 1. That said, you need not stick to one particular menu: From barbecue to fine dining, family style or romantic, a vast array of restaurants are ready to seat you. Seafood at the Sea Chest Oyster Bar and Restaurant, fusion cuisine at Robin’s Restaurant, Mexican at Boni’s Tacos, organic slow food at the Hidden Kitchen—the world is your oyster! Order anything, from casual custom-made picnic fare to be eaten on the sand to catering to feed your special event. Whether you consider yourself a bona fide foodie or are just looking for a place to break bread with friends and family, you’ll savor every bite. When paired with local beer and wine, not much compares to Cambria cuisine. What can we say? Around here, you come hungry and leave happy.
#5 Savor Wine and Beer Tasting
Cambria knows how to imbibe in style. From casual craft beer hangouts to elegant wine tasting rooms, one thing’s certain: In Cambria, you’ll glass is always half full. Pour up the fun when you check out Cambria’s mightiest microbreweries: Sample a rotating tap of small-batch brews sure to delight IPA and lager lovers alike. Fancy yourself a wine person? Sip and swirl along the Pacific Coast Wine Trail, home to seaside wineries and lush vineyards. Whether you take a walking tour of downtown Cambria’s wine tasting rooms, like Black Hand Cellars and Fermentations, or head to a scenic spot like Stolo Vineyards (check out the picnic-worthy meadow and happy goats), you’ll experience a whole new world of flavor. The best part? Many tasting rooms feature seasonal behind-the-scenes tours, special events, snacks, and educational offerings so you can heighten and enrich your tasting experience. Raise a glass to Cambria—you’re never far from a friendly toast.
#6 Experience New Ways to Unwind
Treat yourself in peaceful Cambria. Feeling a little frazzled from your travels? This tranquil seaside village offers up fresh and inviting ways to unwind and rejuvenate. Stop by one of Cambria’s luxurious spas, maybe Coastal Massage and Wellness or VYANA Wellness Collective, for a deep tissue massage, relaxing facial, or full body scrub—it’s your time to shine. Combined with Cambria’s plush stays and oceanfront accommodations, rest assured you’ll head home with a full mind-body reset. Sometimes self-care looks like a lazy day all to yourself. Let your worries melt away as you explore Cambria’s vibrant art galleries and art studios. Strolling through these quiet, creative spaces, like Chambers Gallery and Mission Gallery, provides a feast for the eyes and a balm for the soul. Of course, you should also spend some much-needed time doing absolutely nothing (a beloved pastime of locals and visitors alike). The best way to do this? Take in a stunning sunset at the historic Piedras Blancas Lighthouse. Now isn’t that something?
#7 Enjoy Boutique Shopping
Shop Cambria’s unique stores selling items you just won’t find anywhere else. Peruse one-of-a-kind treasures—including original art, jewelry, and clothing—at the eclectic array of locally owned boutiques that make up Cambria’s convenient, walkable village. With not a chain store in sight, you’ll know that everything you purchase in Cambria is truly distinctive. That is thanks to a vibrant artist community of designers, artists, and craftspeople specializing in everything from ceramics and hand-blown glass to unusual crafts. Wander downtown to browse Antiques on Main, Slabtown Mercantile, Sea + Green, and much more. Looking for gifts that wow? Cambria is the perfect place to pick up that special wedding, anniversary, or birthday gift off the beaten path. From fine soaps and artisan food items at Spellbound Gift Shop to beautiful handmade garden art and home décor at Cinnabar, you’ll never wonder if they already have one at home. Speaking of collectibles, Cambria knows a thing or two about incredible vintage finds. Spend the day poking around the village’s quirky antique shops, sure to surprise and delight.
#8 Explore the History
Dive into Cambria’s coastal California history. From a small fishing village to a multifaceted Highway 1 destination, Cambria has evolved through the ages. With a little guidance and know-how, this hamlet’s rich heritage is magically revealed. Explore Cambria’s past, present, and future for yourself when you embark on a self-guided tour courtesy of the Cambria Historical Society. Start your journey at the Cambria Historical Museum and traverse through the Creekside Garden Preserve and Historic East Village, chock full of architectural delights and famous sites. While you stroll the well-worn streets, be sure to take note of the 1870 Guthrie-Bianchini House, one of the oldest homes in Cambria and the center of local lore. It’s not difficult to imagine the ghosts of Highway 1’s past lingering under glowing street lamps or shuffling along centuries-old corridors. After all, Cambria has its own Old West story populated by native tribes, cowboys, miners, merchants, and rugged pioneers.
#9 Seize Outdoor Fun
Cambria is known for outdoor fun, fresh air, and family-friendly activities. As a result, it’s easy to stay active along this slice of Highway 1 coastline, a real playground for hikers, cyclists, and kayakers alike. Whether you’re trekking solo or venturing out with the whole family (and perhaps Fido) in tow, awesome outdoor adventures span both land and sea. Hop into a kayak and paddle along pristine Pacific waters (you may just encounter seals, seabirds, and otters). Live to ride? Find cycling resources at Cycle Central Coast and rent equipment at VeloCambria. Then spin along scenic mountain biking and cycling trails that crisscross the verdant countryside. Hikers of all skill levels will find plenty of reasons to get up and go from sunrise till sunset. Lace up those boots and enjoy awe-inspiring views at Fiscalini Ranch Preserve as you hike coastal bluffs fit for a postcard. You can even gallop across undulating hills on the back of a massive Clydesdale horse at Covell Ranch—something you might’ve thought could only happen in fantasy novels!
#10 Spot Wildlife
Cambria’s wildlife viewing is unparalleled. Stop by the nearby Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery to view majestic Elephant Seals—one of Highway 1’s premiere attractions. Located just north of Cambria, the free, family-friendly viewing area and visitor center allows folks to observe seals tending to their pups, molting, competing for affection, and sunbathing, all depending on the season. Hoping to see a rainbow of seabirds take flight? Hike the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve, an inviting oceanfront sanctuary offering visitors a rare expanse of coastal bliss, including dramatic cliffs and picturesque forests. Home to hundreds of birds—including some very rare species—you’ll have the satisfaction of spotting a multitude of feathered friends. While traveling along the Cambria coast, be sure to keep one eye on the horizon, too. A popular stop on Highway 1’s Whale Trail, Cambria is a prime location for whale watching, especially December-February. Perhaps today is the day you’ll catch a massive fluke or spout emerge from the waves. Don’t blink, you might miss it!
Ready to hit the road?
Now that you’ve dreamed up your next Highway 1 road trip to Cambria, it’s time to pack. In preparation for your adventure, sign up for the Visit Cambria monthly newsletter, an incredible resource for all things beach, wildlife, dining, sightseeing, and more. In addition, you can easily choose your own travel itinerary based on your specific interests. With all of this exciting up-to-date info at your fingertips, there’s no excuse not to have a blast. See you in Cambria!