5.5 miles north of San Simeon on the ocean side of Highway One, is Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal vista point. Visitors can park and learn all about Elephant Seals and watch the 5000 pound animals sun bathing. The vista point has a number of excellent educational and interpretive signs and trained elephant seal experts are on hand to answer your questions. Look for these experts in their blue jackets when you visit. During the winter months visitors frequently encounter females giving birth to their young. Other highlights of any trip to see the elephant seals include males battling for mates and young pups playing in the surf.
How to Get There:
From Hearst Castle take Highway 1 North 4.4 miles until you reach the parking lot on the ocean side of the highway.
Taking the beautiful Hwy 1 from Carmel Valley to San Luis Obispo, one can see many interesting sights. The ocean vistas, the windswept trees, the bridges, the castle on the hill, the small towns, the cliffs, the ocean waves crashing into the rocks, and the lighthouse at Piedras Blancas. This lighthouse was built in the classic Cape Cod tall lighthouse and is only one of three in California built this way due to the high cliffs that line most of the Pacific Coast. The first light seen from the newly built 115 foot Piedras Blancas Lighthouse was on February 15, 1875. The first order fresnel lens lantern room was damaged in a storm in 1949 and the lens was removed and a rotating aerobeacon was placed on the shortened tower. You can see the lens on Main Street in Cambria stored inside a replica lantern room.
One of the most enjoyable sight, in my opinion, is watching the Elephant Seals at Piedras Blancas. You can get up close, but not too close, these are protected animals in their natural habitat. The beach is just south of the Piedras Blancas lighthouse. Parking is availible and guides are on site to help tell the story of the seal. See elephant seal pictures in my travelodge.
Very close to San Simeon is a quaint little town called Cambria. I went here in the evening for my dinner rather than eat at the Motel 6 restaurant. I would recommend a side trip to Cambria if you are planning to be in the area for a bit as it has some rather lovely shops and a good restaurant or cafe selection. I had dinner at the West End Bar and Restaurant which was very lively, good service and the steak I had was really really good!
The architectural style here was quite distinct from other parts of California that I saw. Imagine my surprise when I was walking down the street and came across the "DownUnder Trading Company" shop which stocks Aussie and Kiwi goods! I thought that was quite funny for a little town.
It's a little California hamlet on the coast. Very pretty and relaxed. Nice quaint shopping area. Great coastal location, with picuresque beaches. There is a really good restaurant called the "Sea Chest" on Moonstone drive; wonderul views and the best clam chowder I've ever had.
Safari in California? Yes, with one of the tours it is possible. This our goes around over the full estate and also holds at the private Zoo that R.W. Hearst. Here he collected (rare) animals from all over the world, which today roam around on the hills that lay around his "Castle" forming a true safaripark.
Driving north of San Simeon on your way to Monterey and you'll see some gorgeous natural scenery and the ocean meets the California shore.