Cambria, California

Cambria, California

Cambria is a whimsical village tucked into a pine forest by the sea. The southern gateway to the fabled Big Sur coast has become a refuge for artists and dreamers attracted by spectacular mountain-backed seascapes. Miles of rocky ocean beaches and sheltered coves are the western border of a town still surrounded by unspoiled pine-forested hillsides and pastoral countryside.

Shortly after the Civil War, the first permanent settlement was established along Santa Rosa Creek by farmers and dairymen. They were lured by the year-round stream in a sheltered valley at the base of the Coast Range Mountains. Bucolic isolation ended in the 1950s when major improvements began on California State Highway One, and legendary Hearst Castle was finally opened to the traveling public.

After more than a century, Cambrians discovered their destiny as both a low-key tourist destination and an arts and crafts center. Today, most businesses are still clustered above the creek along the old main road in two charming town centers, the east village and west village. Numerous sophisticated galleries and specialty shops, romantic restaurants in quaint cottages or in ocean-view dinner houses, and (in lieu of motel chain complexes) distinctive small lodgings complement the serenity and natural beauty of this special place. The ocean is too cold for swimming, but beachcombing, clamming, fishing, hiking, backpacking and camping are popular during all seasons, thanks to a mild year-round climate. Visits to nearby Hearst Castle are also a draw.