You can now take a tour of the Piedras Blancas Light Station during the week, not just on the third Saturday of the month.Tours are currently available every Tuesday and Thursday morning at 9:45. The weekday tours are longer (1.5 - 2 hours) and more informal than the third Saturday tours. Knowledgable volunteers lead the tours and you have plenty of opportunities to take pictures and learn and ask questions. Reservations are not needed for groups of less than 10 people. Just meet at the old Piedras Blancas motel one and a half miles north of the light station on Highway 1 at 9:45 AM any Tuesday or Thursday and a Bureau of Land Management volunteer will escort the caravan through the locked gate at the station. No fee is charged, although a donation is requested to assist in the restoration of the property.
You must stop on your journey through California (Highway 1) and stop at the Hearst Castle in San Simeon. It is an amazing piece of Architecture.
You should take the guided tours through the castle. There are several and you can check them all out in detail via the website below.
The detail and elaborate decor is unbelieveable throughout the entire house(s) and the garden areas. One of my favorite tour stops includes the Neptune Pool and the Roman Pool. It is just breathtaking! Sigh!!!
You'll walk away like I did with an obsession of those early days when William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies had their secret rendezvous at the Hearst Castle.
The Hearst Castle pools are both exquisite.
The Neptune pool is an outdoor, decorated with white marbel cherubs and is breathtaking. The Roman pool is an indoor pool designed with blue and gold tile and is very mysterious and romantic. Both are extraordinary and two of the highlights of Hearst Castle.
When you're waiting for your bus to shuttle you up the hill to the castle, you'll have some time to check out the exhibit. The curators have done a very nice job detailing the history and life of William Randolf Hearst and the story of the castle. On exhibit is memorabilia, photos, and wonderful old films. A really nice walk down memory lane.
Most people go to San Simeon to visit the Hearst Castle, take a tour, and then motor on back on Hwy 1 south toward San Luis Obispo or north to Monterey. If you take the north route through Big Sur on Hwy 1, more than great ocean vistas and large redwoods are to be seen. About 8 miles north of San Simeon is the colony of elephant seals that make Piedras Blancas beaches come alive with pups every January and February. You can see seals throughout the year, but December through February is the most active time. The male bull has a very large nose that makes the males stand out. Of course being up to sixteen feet in length and weighting more that an automobile is another reason they stand out. The females are much smaller and have the seal look that most people have seen.
Parking is available to see the bulk of the elephant seals from overhead on a cliff that is about twelve feet above the sand. There are docents around in blue jackets that can answer your questions about the seals, but they are there to also protect them from humans. Please do not bother the seals and if one gets too close, back off and give them plenty of room. Be careful driving this stretch of Hwy 1, as the elephant seals can be seen along many of the beaches for miles and some drivers could be distracted. Don't let it be you. I have a Elephant Seal Travelogue with photos of males and females.
If your staying in Cambria or San Simeon, visiting the Hearst Castle, or just driving through on Highway 1, be sure to stop at the elephant seal rookery. Although the seals are most numerous during the winter, we stopped in late August and found plenty of the animals sunning on the beach. The elephant seals are huge! We arrived in late afternoon and found the seals moving up on the beach and throwing sand upon themselves. There is a large walkway above the beach from which the seals can be seen. If you can, bring binoculars to get a better look.
Visiting the rookery is free. There is plenty of parking in a large lot on the west side of the highway. There are two viewing areas -- a large beach on the south side of the parking lot and a smaller one on the north side.
We had a great day kayaking at San Simeon Cove. We took a guided kayaking tour with "Sea for Yourself" and our guide was great. He led us over the kelp beds, taught us interesting facts about the eco system, we saw otters stick their heads out and warm themselves in the sun. Then we went over to the caves and it was exciting to kayak in and out of them. We highly recommend Sea for Yourself Kayak Tours.
If you are in San Simeon, most likely it is to see Hearst Castle. It is the major draw in this part of the California coast. While in the area you may want to make a quick stop at the nearby beach, located just across the highway from the entrance road to the castle. This beach is not unlike many along the coast. It has a fairly wide beach, a pier going out to the sea, and a place to enjoy a picnic or a walk. It is free to visit.
A short drive south on highway 1 there is a great place to watch elephant seals. It is well marked and with a good parking lot. Surely worth a stop also.
If you are visiting San Simeon most likely it is to tour the Hearst Castle. Which is indeed a huge house on some of the prettiest countryside with beautiful ocean and mountain views it is easy to see why the home was built here. The Experience tour is a good overall tour of the property. You will take a bus up the long winding road to the Hearst Castle, and view the gardens, the guesthouse, the beautiful Neptune pool, the Castle and the indoor pool. The gardens are beautiful and the Neptune pool has a great view. House is kind of dark and eclectic
There are only two places in California where you can view the elephant seals: Año Nuevo State Reserve (north of Santa Cruz) and Piedras Blancas (just outside of San Simeon). We chose Piedras Blancas to see the seals because Año Nuevo is so busy you must reserve a spot weeks in advance and they charge a fee for a guided tour, with no self-guided tour option.
At Piedras Blancas the seals are visible from two main parking areas between the lighthouse and the entrance to Hearst Castle. There are also a few small pull-offs and trails north of the lighthouse that allow you to avoid the tourists and fences to view a smaller number of seals (from a safe and respectable distance of course).
Our first stop was at one of these small pull-off areas with a walking trail to the water. Here, we were the only visitors in sight, and we were , unrushed and uninterrupted as we enjoyed a view of some 20 seals, mostly females and pups. After about 30 minutes we drove south to the first of the two paved parking lots which also was the less busy of the two. From here you can see dozens of seals up close, with the bulk of the seals off in the distance maybe a half mile away and surrounded by throngs of tourists.
Elephant seals were thought to be extinct in the 1950s, but have since recovered to approximately 100,000 individuals with all of the breeding colonies in Mexico and California. The group at Piedras Blancas first arrived in the 1990s, and now numbers about 7,500 and is growing at a faster rate than the older, 5,000-member colony at Año Nuevo. These elephant seals are massive creatures, with average meals tipping the scales at 4,000 pounds.