There are plenty of great things to do very near to the Hearst Castle Visitor Center, at the Hearst State Beach and the area along Slo San Simeon Road I call San Simeon Village or the old town of San Simeon. At least sightseeing the area is a must; if you are really pressed for time or limited physically there is much you can see just driving around in your car but ideally you can park your car either up by Sebastian's General Store and Cafe or at Hearst State Beach and get out to walk around. You can grab refreshing drinks and lunch at the Hearst Castle Visitors Center or (All Restaurants near Hearst Castle San Simeon List) just a short drive a little hill and across Pacific Coast Highway One is San Simeon where you can find Old Spanish architecture from the William Randolph Hearst days, the sandy beaches and San Simeon Pier at William Randolph Hearst State Beach, historic Sebastian's General Store and Cafe which is sells souvenir gifts and general merchandise the Sebastian's Cafe features delicious entrees prepared with pasture raised 100% grass fed beef from the Hearst Ranch serving up a great lunch with beer, local wines and espressos; the newest amenity of San Simeon's Sebastian's General Store and Café is the addition of a wine tasting room for Hearst Ranch Wines (805-927-4100) Hearst Ranch Wines.
One of the main draws for visitors to this area is the beach and Pacific Ocean; it has something to offer to every age and variety of persons and the recreational opportunities to be had run the gamut from simple sightseeing and photography to wind-surfing and deep sea scuba diving.
If you are just looking to play on the beach or have a nice romantic stroll the only big white fine sand beaches are William Randolph Hearst State Beach the next beach north Arroyo Laguna Beach. Most of the coast beaches here are gravel separated by rocky sections, the gravel is ok beachcombing and the rocky areas at low tide are great for tide-pooling; its all good for photography especially at sunset.
There is no "back country" hiking right around Hearst Castle or in the San Simeon area because all the land is private, most of it Hearst Corporation cattle ranch property. Although all the inland property which surrounds Hearst Castle California State Monument itself is private Hearst Corporation Property with no hiking there is great hiking although mostly on undeveloped trails along the coast on the bluffs. If you don't mind a short excursion take the scenic Pacific Coast Highway 1 just 15 beautiful miles north of Hearst Castle is Ragged Point Inn and Resort that has provide a trailhead for inland hikes to the Silver Peak Wilderness area of the Los Padres Forest and if you are physically fit the resort has its own rugged nature trail leading down to a beautiful private cove with a small isolated beach additionally Ragged Point Resort has picnic tables and everything else that make it a great spot to picnic. Find out more about hiking near San Simeon Hearst Castle on this on the Camp, Picnic, and Hike near Hearst Castle San Simeon Page: UNIMPROVED COASTAL BLUFFS: Hikes, Hiking and Unimproved Hiking Trails near Hearst Castle San Simeon. You will find information about camping and picnicking near San Simeon Hearst on this same page also. If you have been touring Hearst Castle you will find the closest and very best picnicking and beach strolling right down the hill from the Hearst Castle Visitors Center at William Randolph Hearst State Beach.
Piedras Blancas elephant seal rookery is about six miles north of San Simeon. There is a parking lot boardwalks and vista points with seal educational and interpretive signs. Look for the Friends of the Elephant Seals docents in blue windbreakers, they are often there to provide information and answer your questions. This winter 2010/2011, the boardwalk has been expanded, a new section of the self guided elephant seal colony tour has been added on the north end; but to the best of my knowledge the closest public restrooms besides possibly some chemical toilets at Piedras Blancas Motel are at the Ragged Point Inn and Resort about 10 scenic miles north of the elephant seal rookery.
In 1990 less than a dozen elephant seals were counted in a cove just south of the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse, since that time their population has exploded and now there are way more than a thousand. Most of the elephant seals life is spent in the open waters of the Pacific Ocean but there is always something going on the beach for you to observe and enjoy. Use the elephant seal month by month activity calendar to learn what to expect when you visit. or for an up-to-date of the goings on at the elephant seal colony go to the elephant seal blog kept by Denise Kocek see the link below the calendar.
What the Seals are Up To Now In Words and Pictures: This Seal Activities Calendar above is an abbreviated accounting of the basic goings on of the Piedras Blancas Seal rookery that has been compiled over a number of years, if you would like to see real time what is going on the elephant seal rookery now or report your personal observations the talented local nature photographer Denise Kocek maintains a elephant seal blog, ElSeals4me, which will tell in words and show you with beautiful photographs what the Piedras Blancas elephant seals are currently up to and there links to some beautiful elephant seal action photography.
Great numbers of the monarch butterflies appear on the Central California Coast starting in late October and a few are still seen as late as February. Late fall also signals the beginning of the monarch mating season. After mating they will continue their migratory journey to find the right place to lay their eggs. They will lay their eggs on milkweed because this is the caterpillars favorite food.
It is delightful the way they will fill the air fluttering all around you but what is really impressive is their habit of gathering together by the thousands to fend off the chill of the evening on Monterey Cypress and Eucalyptus trees. When they do this they can almost completely cover the trees foliage so all that can be seen is solid masses of butterflies.
The Monarchs migration can cover three countries, Mexico, the U.S., and Canada and will take three generations to complete. These most amazing creatures can travel 80 miles a day and single insects have been known to travel up to 2,000 miles. Monarch butterflies have also been seen flying up to 4,000 feet high.
Monarchs can be viewed anywhere on the Central Coast that there is a profusion of flowers; they are especially fond of Pride of Madera and Blue Sage. A great place in this area to view the monarch butterflies is at the Ragged Point Inn and Resort; they have extensive ornamental flower gardens have attracted the monarch butterflies for years and nearby trees where the butterflies will gather by the thousands almost blotting out the trees foliage; on the more northern end of the Big Sur Coast the best place to view the Monarchs is at Andrew Molera State Park, they roost in the grove of Eucalyptus trees by the Cooper Cabin along the Big Sur River. Here you can find more information about Monarch Butterflies in the San Simeon Hearst Castle area and some great Monarch Butterfly photographs.
The California Grey Whale migration is generally highest on the central Coast from December through April; although you can often see many as early as late October and November and some as late as May. December to February the Gray Whales are heading south. They are best viewed in late February when you will see them heading back north to Alaska. When they are migrating north they stay closer to shore and mothers with young will be moving slower because they are accompanied by their calves as well as traveling against the current.. All the Grey Whales migrate past the Central Coast twice a year; once in late-fall early-winter headed south to Mexico to calve, and again in the late-winter early-spring heading back to Alaska to feed.
A great way to observe the whales spouting is to cruise the scenic Pacific Coast Highway 1 up to the Ragged Point Inn and Resort which is on top of 350 foot cliff which provides some viewing advantage. Binoculars help but the very, very best way to enjoy and appreciate these amazing giants is up close and for that you need to take a boat excursion. The closest whale watching excursions are offered by Virg's Landing in Morro Bay 805-775-1222.
There is more information about the California Gray Whale (Eschrichtius robustus) on the www.big-sur-lodging.com website.
Interesting Whale Facts: Whales Migrate Further Than Any Other Mammal and Now the Hold the Distance Record, New Record 2015:
Area Attractions, other points of interest to visitors of Hearst Castle San Simeon; Area attractions list courtesy of Ragged Point Inn and Resort; most all distances and drive times are from Ragged Point location of the Ragged Point Inn and Resort, unique all inclusive cliff top ocean view resort; the best lodging and accommodations near Hearst Castle San Simeon.
In the old days lighthouses were built on coasts to help guide maritime traffic by either warning nautical navigators about coastal hazards or help guide marine traffic safely to harbors, here there are lighthouses presenting examples of both and all except the Point San Luis Lighthouse are still functioning and serving their purpose although modern technologies and maritime traffic changes have made many lighthouses obsolete. There are three superb historically significant lighthouses within reasonable driving distances from San Simeon but the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse is the only light-station which is near Hearst Castle (just 5 scenic miles north of the Castle visitors center) but if during your vacationing you are near San Luis Obispo or at the north end of the scenic Big Sur Pacific Coast Highway there are two other lighthouses you may want to consider visiting. None of the lighthouse listed are situated so that you can just pull off the highway and browse around at your convenience; you want to plan ahead and you may need reservations.
Piedras Blancas Lighthouse, the Piedras Blancas Light Station Outstanding Natural Area: The Piedras Blancas lighthouse is just north of the elephant seal colony and was finished then first lit in 1875. The Bureau of Land Management now manages and has mostly restored the Piedras Blancas Light Station and grounds; it has been designated an Outstanding Natural Area within the National Landscape Conservation System. It is a wonderful historical attraction and although the gate to the property is usually locked tours are available.
The Point San Luis Lighthouse near Avila Beach, San Luis Obispo County: The Point San Luis Lighthouse is isolated by PG&E Diablo Canyon Nuclear power plant property so to even get their you need to join an organized 3.75 mile hike up the Pecho Coast Trail or ride a regularly scheduled trolley; then once you get there some of the light-station property and out-buildings are open for free wandering and browsing around; to get in the lighthouse there is a guided tour which will take you inside the building itself. Before you can catch the trolley or reach the trailhead you will need to drive all the way to the end of Avila Beach Drive (about 5 miles off Highway 101) before you can even get started. The whole trip is a fun historic adventure and the lighthouse park also hosts public events like a Mothers Day Victorian Tea and you can even rent the property for weddings and such; for more information visit the websites or call. RESERVATIONS: (805) 540-5771.
Point Sur Lighthouse, Point Sur Lightstation State Historic Park: The last lighthouse listed here, Point Sur Lightstation is 70 miles north of San Simeon up the scenic Pacific Coast Highway 1, just 18 miles south of Carmel. The tour is a three hour walking tour with numerous restrictions like no pets, strollers, or large motor-homes but is a fun interesting diversion well worth the time and trouble. They also run seasonally run special tours like full moon tours, whale watching tours, and spooky Halloween time tours; for more information visit the websites or call (831) 625-4419 .
Leaving Ragged Point
heading south to the south through Piedras Blancas, San Simeon, San Simeon Acres,
Cambria, Harmony, Cayucos, Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo and points
south to L.A.:
Ragged Point is 10 miles north of Piedras Blancas Lighthouse; approximate drive time: 20 minutes. The beautiful Piedras Blancas Light Station just north of Hearst Castle's San Simeon was built in 1875; limited public tours are allowed; reservations are required and all tours leave from the Hearst Castle Visitor Center in San Simeon; call 888-804-8608 for information.
Ragged Point Inn is 9 miles north of Piedras Blancas elephant seal rookery. There is a parking lot a boardwalk trail with vista points including seal educational and interpretive signs. Docents in blue windbreakers are often there to provide information and answer questions. It is only a short drive from here to Hearst Castle's old village of San Simeon.
|La Casa del Sol, Hearst Castle Guest House|
RPI resort is 15 miles north of Hearst Castle and San Simeon; approximate drive time: 30 minutes. The land bought by George Hearst and the dream house built by his son William Randolph Hearst now the William Randolph Hearst State Monument open to the public. At the old village of San Simeon (this is Hearst Castle's San Simeon not to be confused with San Simeon Acres) there is a general store / cafe, pier, historic safe harbor, San Simeon California State Beach and numerous buildings of significant historic importance. Most of the north coast beaches are gravel the one at San Simeon is nice soft sand.
The Ragged Point Inn and Resort Hotel is 18 miles north of San Simeon Acres; approximate drive time: 30 minutes. San Simeon Acres is a row of hotels, motels, a few restaurants and souvenir / gift shops, there is good beach access and the San Simeon Chamber of Commerce is also there at 250 San Simeon Drive, Suite 3B, (805) 927-3500.
Ragged Point Inn is 23 miles north of Cambria; approximate drive time: 40 minutes. A quaint village with many hotels, motels, gift shops, and other tourist friendly stuff. In the Cambria area there are miles of accessible beaches and camping at a California State Park just north of town. Although there are many hotels, motels, lodges, Bed and Breakfasts scattered around Cambria the nicest ones are in a row of hotels and motels on Moonstone Beach. Cambria is about a half hour drive from Hearst Castle at San Simeon.
The Ragged Point Inn and Resort is 27 miles north of Highway 46 East (look for a blinking yellow light on highway 1 just south of Cambria); approximate drive time: 45 minutes. This is the crossover to Highway 101, wine country and destinations east. Paso Robles Chamber of Commerce This turnoff is just south of Cambria a little over a half hours drive from San Simeon.
The Ragged Point Inn and Resort is 30 miles north of Harmony; approximate drive time: 50 minutes. One of the smallest towns in California, population 18; there is an old creamery with art galleries, arts and crafts, pottery, and fine art glass. A small winery, Harmony Cellars overlooks the town.
35 miles south is the town of Cayucos; approximate drive time: 1 hour. A true California Beach Town with all the amenities. It is about a 50 minute drive from Cayucos to Hearst Castle at San Simeon.
45 miles south is the City of Morro Bay; approximate drive time: 1.25 hours. A tourist friendly harbor and fishing village. A crossover highway, Highway 41, also cuts over here for Highway 101 and destinations east. Atascadero Chamber of Commerce It is about an hours drive from Morro Bay to Hearst Castle at San Simeon.
55 miles south is the City of San Luis Obispo; approximate drive time: 1.50 hours. The S.L.O. County seat and college town, California State Polytechnic University, with perfect weather. The closest airport to the Ragged Point Inn and Resort is also here the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport. It is over an hours drive from San Luis Obispo to Hearst Castle at San Simeon.
Between San Luis Obispo and Santa Maria is a grouping of delightful California beach towns, Shell Beach, Pismo Beach, Grover Beach, Arroyo Grande, and Oceano are among them. Located just south of San Luis Obispo off Highway 101, a person could explore the attractions in this area for a month and still have missed some hidden jewels. This is a classic California beach area that should at least be sampled; it is most famous for Pismo Clams and their monumental sand dune environments. It offers one of the few places in the U.S. where you can actually camp and ride your A.T.V. right on the beach.
Ragged Point Inn is 85 miles north of Santa Maria; approximate drive time: 2 hours. An exploding inland agricultural and retail shopping center. Santa Maria is about an hour 30 minutes from Hearst Castle at San Simeon.
155 miles south is Santa Barbara; approximate drive time: 3 hours. An old California Mission City, tourist friendly with a nice harbor and sandy beaches. The University of California Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara Municipal Airport are here.
The Ragged Point Inn and Resort Hotel is 265 mile north of
Los Angeles; approximate drive time: 5.25 hours. This is a big area you
probably heard of. The drive from Los Angeles to Hearst Castle at San
Simeon takes about 5 hours.
|Sebastian's Now includes Hearst Ranch Wine Tasting!|
|Visit Wine Country|
Just down the hill and across the PCH 1 from the Hearst Castle Sebastian's is the only wine tasting close to the Castle; there are a couple of stores that offer wine tasting in the small town of Cambria (Frementations(805) 927-7141 or toll free (800) 446-7505; 4056 Burton Drive, Cambria-- Moonstone Cellars(805) 927-9466; 801 Main Street Suite C, Cambria, CA -- Black Hand Cellars (805) 927-9463 766 Main St., Ste.B, Cambria )but the next nearest local winery offering wine tasting is just off the Pacific Coast Highway 1 south of Cambria at the town of Harmony, Harmony Cellars(805-927-1625). Sebastian's Burger Bar (805-927-3307) located in the old village of San Simeon California features delicious hamburgers prepared with pasture raised 100% grass fed beef from the Hearst Ranch serving up a great lunch with beer, or local wines if you please; the best amenity of San Simeons Sebastians is the addition of a wine tasting bar for Hearst Ranch Wines (805-927-4100) Hearst Ranch Wines.
If you take the Green Valley Road (HWY 46W) just south of Cambria you can embark on a beautiful scenic adventure directly into the heart of Central California Coast Wine Country my personal favorite local wine tasting spot for about 45 years has been the Rotta Winery, the oldest family owned winery in San Luis Obispo County. There are many many great choices, some of the best wines in the world are brewed in this area check the following links for all the information about the local wineries and wine tasting. SloCountyWineries.com & PasoWine.com
|Chambers of Commerce San Simeon,Arroyo Grande,Atascadero,Baywood Park,Big Sur,Cambria,Cayucos,Grover Beach,Los Osos,Monterey,Morro Bay,Pacific Grove,Paso Robles,Pismo Beach,San Luis Obispo,San Simeon,Templeton,California|