Back in 2012, I wrote several posts about San Simeon (hard to believe how time flies).
At that time, I emphasized this little town’s main attraction: Hearst Castle. I wrote a post containing details about the complex and another post with pictures of the property’s pools (yes, they are amazing enough to deserve an entire post).
My return to the area was no less spectacular than the first visit. I was greeted by zebras galloping the hills (remnants of a zoo on Hearst’s property). The hilltop castle, covered in fog, unveiled before my eyes like a mirage.
But this time, I also took my gaze towards the coast. The cliffs, promontories and rocks were lovely under the low morning light.
Here are the places I stopped by:
San Simeon Bay
Portuguese shore whalers were the first white persons to settle the area. By the 1800s, San Simeon Bay was an active seaport, exporting a variety of goods, including mining, whaling and dairy products.
In 1865, the land in the area (known as Rancho Piedra Blanca) was sold to George Hearst, the father of William Randolph Hearst (newspaper magnate and owner of Hearst Castle). Hearst, in partnership with the whalers, built a wharf in the bay so sailing ships could tie up and load and unload goods.
The whaling industry started to die in the late 1800s. However, in the 1900s, the bay received shipments from all over the world to build and decorate Hearst’s Castle (the hilltop estate is directly across the bay).
Today, the bay and the pier (wharf) are part of the William Randolph Hearst Memorial State Beach (Hearst’s descendants donated the coastal property to the San Luis Obispo County). The day use area offers 24 picnic sites, 150 parking spaces, restrooms, water faucets, barbecue grill stands and easy beach access. Recreational activities include picnicking, swimming, fishing, boating, kayaking and sunbathing. There is a kayak and boogie board concession in operation with equipment for rent.
The pier has signs describing the area’s history. The northern end of the bay has beautifully carved cliffs accentuated by huge roots. Scan the surroundings for the possibility to see big birds flying by.
Piedras Blancas Rookery
It was impossible not to stop at the Piedras Blancas rookery. Elephant seals give birth in winter. That is the best time of the year to visit (and to see the moms and pups). However, seals hang out in the beach the entire year. These funny creatures have some sweet movements. Go prepared to get a smile on your face.
Members of the Friends of the Elephant Seal organization are daily on site ready to answer questions. They can discuss at length several topics such as elephant seals’ behavior or the area’s geology.
Piedras Blancas Lighthouse
This lighthouse is famous for one thing: part of the upper floors and the Fresnel lens are missing. The structure suffered years of earthquake damage. In 1948, the upper part was removed to avoid a total collapse.
This peculiar lighthouse, without a light, has encouraged to all sorts of legends (ghosts, curses, monster, etc.). You can ask locals about the most popular stories.
Access to the site is by guided tours, available every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday year round. During high season, tours are offered Mondays through Saturdays. The fee is $10 for adults; $5 for ages 6 to 17; and free for ages 5 and under. The tour lasts two hours and includes the historic lighthouse and support buildings, wildlife viewing, and spectacular scenery along an easy half-mile interpretive trail. Tours do not take place on Federal holidays.
The lens is displayed in nearby Cambria.
- For more information, visit the San Simeon Chamber of Commerce website: http://sansimeonchamber.org/
- To learn more about the northern elephant seal, visit this website: http://www.elephantseal.org/
What attracts you of San Simeon?