This article highlights a lot of the fantastic things to do in Cambria, California.
I can say I have been to Wales. Don’t get confused. I never said I went to the country which is part of the United Kingdom.
During my last road trip along the Californian coast, I stopped by a small town named Cambria. Excited to find a town with a name not preceded by “San” or “Santa”, I started to wonder about the origin of such a spectacular word.
Then, the speckle of town surprised me once again. Cambria is the Latinized form of the Welsh word Cymru which means Wales. No wonder why the town is exalted by its old-world appeals.
The truth is I was surprised by more than the town’s name origin. I can talk nonstop about all the little details that make this town special to me. However, I don’t want to keep you awake past midnight.
I think it is better if I give you enough reasons and a detailed guide of things to do in Cambria. Well, we can always talk about the town as long as you want!
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Things to Do in Cambria, California
My beloved Cambria! I have visited so many times that I lost count!
Here, I have made my best effort to show you the best things to do in Cambria (and the best things to see and eat too). Plus, I have added a bonus. There are more ideas on what attractions and towns to visit in the vicinity.
Walk the Moonstone Beach Boardwalk (for awesome views)
If your time in Cambria is limited, I recommend heading to Moonstone Beach and walking a section of its boardwalk. This is the main Cambria beach.
But, if you have time in your hands, walk the entire 1.5-mile path. You will find multiple entry points along Moonstone Beach Drive. If you want to do the entire thing, park close to Moonstone Beach Park (sometimes known as Santa Rosa Creek Beach) and start walking.
This is the place to go if you want to have a beach to yourself. You can get crazy playing with the wild waves, spying birds nesting on the bluffs, and trying to find moonstones. The crisp and clean air caresses your face while you take a look at the candy-colored cottages lining the beach.
It is a true pleasure to walk along such a beautiful stretch of coast!
The path is wheelchair accessible and pet-friendly (dogs on leash are welcome). Restrooms are available at both ends of the boardwalk.
Eating options are somehow limited in this part of town. Therefore, it is a good idea to bring a light lunch, snacks, and water. Restaurants such as Sea Chest and the Moonstone Beach Bar & Grill are located along the walk and have full menus.
Stop by the Leffingwell Landing
At the north of Moonstone Beach, you will find Leffingwell Landing, a verdant land promontory converted into a day-use area. This spot is a bit unknown but I see it as one of the top places to visit in Cambria.
You can reach the spot from the boardwalk or by car. It doesn’t matter how you get here, what matters is the amazing views you will be able to enjoy. Make sure to go to the northernmost part and look at the long beach ending at the mouth of the San Simeon Creek. I just love that view!
Note: Stairs provide access to the beach. You can walk all the way to the mouth of the creek (about a mile).
Hike around the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve
Moonstone Beach is a true gem of Cambria. However, the lesser-known Fiscalini Ranch Preserve is a shining jewel.
I cannot get over the beauty of this place. It is an amalgamation of waves, cliffs, coves, prairies, marshes, and mountains. There is even a Monterey pine forest on the property (one of the 5 remaining). I mean, how cool is that?
Now, there is a lot to see in 437 acres. If you are visiting for the first time, I recommend doing the Bluff Trail (1 mile, one way). Get prepared because the landscape is totally incredible. Do not miss the unique benches scattered around. You will see what I mean when you see one.
Those interested in the Monterey pines should hit the Forest Loop Trail. If you are into hiking, do not worry, there are more than a dozen trails on site. You can even cross CA-1 (using a bridge) and walk around the east side of the preserve.
Docent-guided walks are offered during the weekends. Check details on this page.
Access the beach through the Lampton Cliffs Country Park
This small park is located meters away from one of the entrances to the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve. It is a nice point to sit down, have a picnic and watch the waves crashing into the bluffs.
The beach below can be accessed through a set of stairs. This is not a place frequented by outsiders. That means you may have the beach to yourself (and a few others). Now, come during low tide. When the tide is high, the beach non-existent.
Relax at Shamel Park
Shamel Park is located next to the mouth of Santa Rosa Creek. The park offers access to the beach and tidepools. In addition, it has a grass field, picnic facilities, benches, and restrooms. During warm months, a swimming pool is open to public use.
This is the place to set camp for the day if you do not want to sit on the sand. Also, the trailhead to the Moonstone Beach Boardwalk is located nearby.
Keep your eyes open for wildlife
Even animals feel relaxed in this gorgeous-looking area.
A big number of squirrels (10 to 15) come off their hiding holes to greet you while you are traversing the boardwalk. Next to the beach, harbor seals sunbathe over large rocks. They seem to be in peace with curious humans who approach them to take a better look. Otters cuddle while floating in the frigid waters. Even a hawk stands over the bluffs like he is patrolling the area a la Baywatch fashion.
The point is that you have to be observant because you do not know what creature is going to cross your path. The last time we visited, we ran into deer and rabbits.
Note: Observe wildlife from a safe distance. Never feed wild animals.
Stroll the Cambria Village
The “action” in town can be found on Main Street. Tons of shops offer the best work of artisans and artists in the area. The place feels like a street in a European country.
Old Victorian houses, with flower gardens, shelter antique shops, galleries, wineries, apothecaries, and more. There is not a chain store in sight. Most of the goods sold are handmade.
The heart of the City of Cambria consists of two areas, the East Village, the oldest part, and the West Village which has an Old English village vibe.
I personally prefer the East Village because it is bigger and more varied. I love visiting stores such as Among Friends, Garden Shed, Grow, and Junk Girls. If you visit, do not miss walking down Burton Drive to discover several beautiful stores. For example, places like Spellbound Herbs, Oliver’s Twist, Amphora Galley, and A Matter of Taste are worth a visit.
If you are interested in learning more about the past of this part of California, the Cambria Historical Museum is located in Burton Drive.
In the West Village, art galleries are waiting for you. Take a look at Melanee Sylvester, Ephraim Pottery, Artifacts, and Windancer. Unique shopping opportunities are available at Teresabelle, Home Arts, Bumblebees, Granny Had One Antiques, and Paws on Main. With so many places, it is difficult to decide where to go first!
Both sides of the village offer visitors a wide selection of restaurants, bakeries, and coffee shops. I will get into more details below.
You will need a car to move between the two sides of the village.
Yes, you read that right. Linn’s (East Village) has become an institution because of its olallieberry (a cross of raspberry and blackberry) products. What started as a farm store has turned into a restaurant, cafe, and market right in Downtown Cambria.
All things olallieberry continues to be popular. You can find it in curds, jellies, sauces, baking mixes, and different baked goods. Having the fruit as a pie filling seems to be the way to go (if you want to try it at the moment).
But, do not worry. You do not have to be a fan of olallieberry or pie to enjoy Linn’s. They serve muffins, cobblers, oat bars, and pie bases on citrus fruits, apples, peaches, pears, and plums.
I have tried the olallieberry and apple pies. I liked them but I do not feel like they were over the top spectacular. Julian’s (San Diego County) pies continue to be my all-time favorites.
You can try a slice (or two) at Linn’s Easy as Pie Cafe. Remember you can visit the full restaurant and gourmet market too.
When it comes to Cambria activities, this is one of the most delicious!
Indulge in some wine tasting
Cambria has enough tasting rooms to make wine fans happy. This shouldn’t be a surprise since the town is located 30 miles from Paso Robles, one of California’s most famous wine regions.
The most acclaimed tasting room in town seems to be Cutruzzola. They specialize in Pinot Noirs and Rieslings. Their vineyards are located outside Cambria, very close to the sea. You can pair the wines with cheeses.
On the West Village, you will also found Black Hand Cellars, Moonstone Cellars, and Cayucos Cellars. I am partial to Cayucos Cellars since the owner has the best conversation topics you can think about.
On the East Village, you can visit Fermentations, a tasting room and a shop selling wine, gourmet foods, home decorations, and gift baskets. This place is full of fun and friendly people. I highly recommend a visit.
The Stolo Family Winery (Stolo Vineyard & Winery) is located in Santa Rosa Creek Road, about 2 miles from Downtown Cambria. A trip there is recommended for those who want to taste wine in a completely charming setting.
Visit the Nitt Witt Ridge
I couldn’t stop laughing when I stood in front of Nitt Witt Ridge. Starting in 1928, a man called Arthur Harold Beale collected junk, trash, and recycled goods to build his house. For 51 years, he used cans, bottles, tires, tiles, car parts, shells, driftwood, and even toilets to create an exuberant construction.
Today, the place can be described as abandoned (but it is still private property) and in a pretty helpless state of disrepair. Ironically, the site is registered as a Historic Site. Well, I don’t know if I can describe it as historic or not. I just know, I couldn’t stop laughing after seeing all those toilets in the roof.
Pay the place a visit and see how you react. The exact address: 881 Hillcrest Drive
Attend an Event
A lot of exciting events take place in Cambria during the year. It is nice to visit the town when one of these is taking place. Here is a sample of events you can attend:
- Art & Wine Festival (January)
- Easter Egg Hunt (April)
- Cambria Film Festival
- Cambria Garden Tour (May)
- 4th of July Celebrations & Fireworks
- Twilight Summer Concerts (Summer)
- Cambria Scarecrow Festival (October)
- Farmers Market – Takes place Fridays from 2:30 to 5:300 p.m. In winter, the market closes at 5:00 p.m.
Things to Do in San Simeon
As a touristic destination, Cambria is market in conjunction with San Simeon, an even smaller town located north. As a visitor, I understand why this works. The two places are adjacent and chances are you are going to include both of their attractions in a visit.
For the sake of completion, I am including in this guide the must-visit places in San Simeon, Cambria’s sister town.
Hearst Castle – Yeah, a visit to the Central Coast would not be complete if you do not tour Hearst Castle.
What we know today as the castle was formally named “La Cuesta Encantada” (The Enchanted Hill”) by its owner, William Randolph Hearst, a media mogul. The residence has 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms, and 19 sitting rooms. The property also contains guest houses, gardens, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts, a movie theater, and an airfield. It used to host the world’s largest private zoo.
As you may have noticed, this place is a big deal. Visitors can access the complex by guided tour only. You have the option to chose among 4 tours. The tickets are not cheap ($25 per person) but I believe you will get value for your money. Visit at least once!
William Randolph Hearst Memorial Beach – This beautiful place affords views of the San Simeon Bay and Santa Lucia Mountains. In addition, you can walk over the San Simeon pier. This pier was used to land the construction materials and artworks going to the castle.
Piedras Blancas Elephant Seals and Lighthouse – At a small stretch of beach, located 5 miles north of San Simeon’s Beach, you will find the largest elephant seal rookery on the West Coast. A large parking area and a boardwalk offer easy access to view them. The pupping season goes from January to May, so, expect to see hundreds of them during that time. The Piedras Blancas Lighthouse (or Light Station) is located one mile north of the rookery.
San Simeon State Park – This State Park is a great destination for walking, hiking, biking, sunbathing, swimming, and a large number of aquatic activities. Plus, it provides camping facilities that can be used as a base to travel the area.
Things to Do Near Cambria
Ragged Point (25 miles north) – Those short on time can have a taste of Big Sur by driving to Ragged Point, a spot with impressive cliff vistas, a waterfall, and some hikes.
Paso Robles (30 miles east) – Wine lovers rejoice! Paso is only a couple of miles away from Cambria. Keep in mind the vineyards located west of Paso are located very close to Cambria (the estimated distance I am providing is from Downtown to Downtown). Use scenic CA-46 to reach the wine area.
Cayucos (15 miles south) – This small, almost unknown town located north of Morro Bay, is a great place to relax and meet some friendly locals. Did I mention smoked fish tacos and brown butter cookies are sold in there? That is reason enough to go! I have an entire guide with details on Things to Do in Cayucos.
Morro Bay (20 miles south) – If you want to visit a unique place, Morro Bay should be your choice. The panorama in this town is dominated by Morro Rock, an enormous volcanic plug. It is one of the most beautiful places in California. For more info, check out my article on Things to Do in Morro Bay.
Avila Beach (43 miles south) – This community located has hot springs, a wine trail, several piers, hiking trails, and a colorful center. This is one of my favorite places on the Central Coast! As you can imagine, I have written in detail about this place: Things to Do in Avila Beach
Pismo Beach (46 miles south) – This city, located south of Avila Beach, offers the opportunity to ride ATVs along sand dunes, see monarch butterflies, kiteboard, surf, and kayak among caves. For more info, check out my complete guide on things to do in Pismo Beach.
Restaurants in Cambria
Cambria may be small but its restaurants serve unbelievable delicious dishes. I hope you visit hungry because there is a lot to eat there. Here are my favorite places:
Robin’s – We have to start the restaurant list with Robin’s. It is by far the most talked about and recommended place in Cambria. They serve international fare prepared with fresh ingredients. For example, the menu includes hummus, prawn enchiladas, lamb burger, and curries
Madeline’s – This is another place serving top-notch food. Think along the lines of veal chops, duck breast, and seafood gumbo. Suddenly, I felt hungry! They have a wine tasting room too.
The Sow’s Ear – It is difficult not to love this place. They serve lobster pot pie, black Angus pot roast, chicken fried steak, and crusted catfish. When can I move to the Central Coast?
Cafe on Bridge Street – Last time I visited this place, I felt like licking the plate. That tells you a lot about what kind of food is served here. It is simple but full of flavor, fulfilling fare. They offer soups, salads, sandwiches, and burgers. I am a fan of their meatloaf sandwich.
If you are looking for affordable meals, you can visit the French Corner Bakery, Sandy’s Deli and Boni’s Tacos.
Remember Linn’s is a good option for eating American fare, pie, and other baked goods.
How to Reach Cambria, California
Cambria is located halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco (about 230 miles from the two cities, Los Angeles to Cambria is 222 miles, Los Angeles to San Francisco is 232 miles) in San Luis Obispo County. It is located 33 miles from the city of San Luis Obispo (head of the county), 130 miles from Santa Barbara, and 100 miles from Monterey.
The closest airport is located in San Luis Obispo. If you are considering flying, the Santa Barbara airport may be a better option. Anyway, both of these airports are small. Most visitors arrive by car (since major airports are located more than 200 miles away).
Cambria can be accessed from the Pacific Coast Highway (CA-1 or Highway One) and is a fantastic stop on any California road trip itinerary.
Weather in Cambria (and Seasonality)
For some reason, this part of the Central Coast does not get a lot of attention. I have visited during the summer and the beaches are virtually empty. During winter, the crowds are even thinner.
Do not let this deter you from a visit. This is a year-round destination. During the summer you can enjoy all sorts of water activities and winter is ideal for hiking. There is something to do at any season.
Now, some businesses may observe shorter operating hours during winter. Always check times before heading to a particular place. On the other hand, most of the businesses in town depend on tourism. This means most places are open even during holidays.
Beach Town Gear
As I spend a lot of time on beach towns, I have my gear packed and ready to throw in the car. Here is an idea of what I would take to explore Cambria attractions.
- Walking Shoes – Comfortable walking shoes are a must. My go-to brands are Clarks, Tevas, and Sketchers.
- Flip Flops – Flip flops are a must on any beach trip. I am partial to the Tevas brand. >>Take a look at these beautiful flip flops
- Water Sandals – If you want a more polished look, check out these leather-made salt water sandals.
- Sweatshirt – A sweatshirt is a must to keep me warm during chilly mornings and nights. >Click to see this California appropriate option here
- Sun Block – Do not leave the house (or the car) without applying sunblock. I repeat, always wear sunblock when outdoors. >Buy sunblock here
- Lip Balm with Sunscreen – Protect your lips by applying a balm with sunscreen. >Get one of the best lip balms here
- Wide Brim Hat – A wide brim hat is a great way to protect your scalp, face, and neck. The ones manufactured by FURTALK come with an anti-UV function. >Buy this amazing hat here
- Sunglasses – These are another must when it comes to protecting from the sun. A polarized, sporty pair works better outdoors. >Take a look at this wonderful pair
- Towels – This is the accessory I always forget about. WETCAT’s Turkish Towels take minimum space and dry fast. >Buy a Turkish towel here
- Foldable Chairs – Portable chairs allow you to set camp at the beach, park, winery, and even a parking lot. A classic Coleman portable chair is a solid choice. >>Buy portable camping chair
- Beach Blanket – For laying on the sand, a beach blanket is necessary. Good ones are waterproof, sandproof, and light. The blankets manufactured by Wekapo fit several adults and are durable. >Buy this nice beach blanket here
- Soft Cooler Bag – A soft cooler bag with enough capacity is great for having drinks and some food items at hand. I love my CleverMade collapsible cooler bag. >Take a look at my cooler here
- Water Bottle – Do not forget to bring water! Keep yours cold by taking a beautiful Hydro Flask water bottle. >Check out the insane options here
- THERMOS Tumblers – I have been a fan of the THERMOS brand since I received a tumbler as a gift. The tumblers keep drinks hot for hours. >>Buy THERMOS insulated tumblers here
- Dry Bag – Keep your valuables (and electronics) protected by bringing a dry bag. >These dry bag is awesome
- Beach Bag or Large Tote – Carry all your gear on an amazing beach bag. Get one with tons of pockets (I love pockets). >>>Check out my beach bag top pick
- Camera – I have never gotten used to taking pictures exclusively with my phone. I prefer to use the Sony Alpha a6000. It is compact and takes gorgeous pictures. >Buy Sony Camera here
- Tripod – A compact tripod to take your photos and videos to a different level. >>Check out this popular option here
- Portable Power Bank – It is a pain to keep phones charged on beach trips. Having a power bank is a lifesaver. The Anker portable charger can charge a phone 5 times. >Buy this incredible power bank here
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the most common questions I get with respect to what to do in Cambria.
What are some romantic things to do in Cambria?
Cambria is one of the most romantic places in California. You are going to get that vibe once you set foot there.
In terms of romantic activities, couples can walk the Moonstone Beach boardwalk, hike/picnic at the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve, taste wine next to vineyards (Stolo Vineyard & Winery), stroll around the beautiful buildings on Downtown Cambria, browse art galleries or observe the amazing views from the San Simeon Pier. All the places mentioned will work wonders for photoshoots.
Also, an oceanfront stay is a must. There are a lot of wonderful inns located across Moonstone Beach. These offer sea views, lawns with chairs, outdoor fireplaces, heated pools, manicured gardens, and cozy rooms.
What are some things to do in San Simeon and Cambria?
In this article, I have provides details on things to do in Cambria and things to do in San Simeon as well. As mentioned, the two towns are seen as a destination due to their proximity. With the ideas I have provided here, you can put together a one to three-day itinerary.
What are some things to do in Cambria with dogs?
Dogs, on a leash, are allowed on Moonstone Beach’s Boardwalk (they are not allowed on the actual beach, on the sand).
Dogs are allowed off-leash in San Simeon Cove. I am referring specifically to the stretch of sand to the right of the San Simeon Pier. The beach to the left of the pier is administered by the state (so, dogs are not allowed). You should see signs clearly stating where dogs are allowed.
Dogs on a leash are allowed at the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve.
In general, Cambria is very dog-friendly. You should not have problems taking your dog for a walk around town, bringing them wine tasting, or eating at outdoor patios.
What are some things to do in Cambria at night?
Since Cambria is a small town, expect business to close as early as 7:00 p.m. You can go for several rounds of drinks at Mozzi’s Saloon. They close at 11:00 p.m. and have live music on Saturdays.
What are some fun things to do in Big Sur?
Cambria is on the way to Big Sur. Therefore, it makes sense to explore that iconic part of California if you are in the area. Fun stops include Ragged Point, McWay Falls, Nepenthe, Pfeifer Beach, and Bixby Bridge. Of course, you will stop dozens of times since the views are incredible.
If you are staying in Carmel or Monterey, The aforementioned stops should take the entire day. If you are coming bag to Cambria, it makes sense to turn back after you see Bixby Bridge (it is about 85 miles, one way, from Cambria to Bixby Bridge).
After having visited this area more than half a dozen times, I know staying in Morro Bay (20 miles south) is cheaper than staying in Cambria. And, I am talking about substantial savings. Extend your search radius if you are heading into the budget way.
Have are your recommendations on fun things to do in Cambria? Have you been?
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