From the old main drag, business 1 winds over a slight hill with little development and then opens up again onto a straight commercial strip. This is the new Cambria, and while there are several decent restaurants and shops along these blocks, it's much less quaint, not really human scale in terms of main street width, and quite simply easier to drive through and get back on Hwy 1. Avoid getting gas here as prices are astronomical.
As shown in the first photo, a ridge of pines and redwood trees shelters the east side of Cambria from the harsh winds and fog coming from the ocean. This is a pleasant part of town, clearly older than the part adjacent to Hwy 1. The sidewalks on the old east side are little narrow, but the traffic is slow, crosswalks many, and the cramped old buildings are human scale. There are several Mexican and vegetarian restaurants, as well as the Redwood Cafe where we ate. There are also antique and gift shops to browse. I don't recommend bringing the oversized RV down in here, but there is a free public parking lot one block off of Main Street, as shown in first photo.
Our reason for stopping in Cambria was to overnight there before tackling the Hearst Castle in nearby San Simeon, just 6 miles to the north of Cambria. I've been wanting to visit Hearst Castle for many years but it's not close to any of the major cities in California, about 4 1/2 hours north of Los Angeles, 5 hours south of San Francisco, you really have to make this a destination in itself.
We signed up for a couple of tours in advance, which is highly recommended, tour 1 which is an overview and tour 3 which is a nice contrast with the newer north wing that was completed after the Depression and is much more spartan if you can even imagine using that word to describe anything at Hearst Castle. Both tours included what I think was the highlight of the day the outdoor Neptune Pool and the indoor Roman Pool. There are 3 other tours you can take, #2 covers the upper floors of the main house, #4 covers the gardens, grounds and the largest guesthouse, Casa del Mar, and there is an evening tour on select nights.
For more tips and photos, please see my Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument page
Every year, around the end of January, the Elephant Seals come to an area near San Simeon to birth their young. It is an amazing thing to see if you are in the area around that time.
The area is about three miles north of Hearst Castle. You will know it when you reach it, as there is usually a few cars parked off to the side of the road. They line the beach for about a half a mile. Literally hundreds of these awesome creatures. The way the beach is structured, you can get pretty close without causing any disturbance to the animals or their young. If you visit, please respect the animals and give them a wide berth! This is for their sake, and yours as well. They call them Elephant Seals for a reason. The males can be up to 16 feet long and weigh up to 5000 pounds. Yeah, an elephant alright!
They are usually in the area to the middle of February (at the latest). It is defintely worth the side trip!
This is my last "tip" for this page about Cambria.
It is also to involve you in my last passion: taking pictures of tiny things! Actually I hope I'll change my mind soon...
Directions to Cambria:
heading north along the HWY 101, half the way from Santa Barbara to the HWY1 junction, there is a turn right. It is not evident so pay attention.
The road you'll take descends into a small valley for a couple of miles and directly crosses the Village.
The post office in Cambria.
Pointless is this picture, you may thik and you may be right.
The reason for I did it is personal, the reason fo I show it to you is instead to get the chance to say that nowhere in the world I have seen so many national flags waving in the wind as here in the United States.
Such a great national pride these people show!
At this point of my Cambrian story I owe people who followed me until now to be a bit honest, once in my lifetime.
This is another LANDMARK in Cambria.
A nice mexican restaurant, which I cannot obviously remember, where they served me what has remained the BEST BURGER in my USA trip.
I ate two of them
After having seen my opening picture, already used in my USA summary page to "call" this little one, you may have understood what I mostly liked in Cambria: the Signs.
Everyone of them is designed with particular attention and dedication, and they all give to the street a particular atmosphere, like I was in a village of Scandinavia or in Inverness.
Look at how nice was the architecture in this side street.
This street isthe only one having a decent size.
Snall shop are everywhere, and the place was not so crowded, even if Lonelyplanet warns to avoid the place because of large mass of vandals from abroad invading the village.
Lonely planet super USA guide sells Cambria as a must-see-place saying that inhabitants proclaimed their village as the "artists' village".
Well, we say no artists around.
Ok, an artist don't go around with a t-shirt saying "Oh yes! I'm an artist!" but also nobody around seems to be one of them.
One should have parked this car there, anyway, who else ever buy this toy?
Like many other small USA villages, Cambria is bloomed along a main road, with no particular uniquity in this.
The part that grabs your attention is the buildings architecture.
It is so nice. Everything is clean and in perfect order, like on a movie set.
Since this is Cambria, one must bring a glass of wine or champaign to observe sunsets. Oh yeah, polo shirt and wrap around cashmere sweater is suggested:}
Cambria has a beautiful and artistic downtown which is very walkable. Plenty of galleries, restaurants, and coffeehouses. All shaded with big oaks, and beautiful gardens.