7 Charming Things to Do in San Simeon

Updated: October 20, 2021 | Has affiliate links

WR Hearst State Beach thumbnailFor over 150 years, people have flocked to San Simeon Bay. Some came in pursuit of California’s gold while others as a stopping point before heading up or down the coast. In the late 1800s, the little bay village hosted a stage depot, a telegraph line, and the Bay View Hotel which was a first-class accommodation that counted Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill, Calvin Coolidge and Cary Grant among its guests. Let’s explore together my favorite things to do in San Simeon.

Everything in San Simeon has some connection to the billionaire William Randalph Hearst and his famous Hearst Castle. From the nearby state beach bearing his name to the winery and everywhere else you turn, the tiny village of San Simeon exists because Hearst put it on the map. So, let’s put on some comfortable walking shoes and explore a few charming things to do in San Simeon.

1. Hearst Castle

The amazing view from the top floor of Hearst Castle is among the best things to do in San Simeon
The amazing view from the top floor of Hearst Castle is among the best things to do in San Simeon
See my photos from Hearst Castle

It’s worth visiting Hearst Castle but only on a sunny and clear day. If it’s cloudy or raining and you can wait, go on a different day. The castle is great, but the views from the top of the hill and from the top floor of Hearst Castle are simply amazing.

Modeled after European and Roman buildings and architecture, the Hearst Castle houses the bulk of Hearst’s art collection gathered from all over Europe during his many trips overseas.

Is the Hearst Castle Overrated?

2. Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery

Elephant seals measuring each other at San Simeon Rookery
The San Simeon Elephant Seal Rookery is one of the best things to do in San Simeon
See my photos from Cambria

Stop along Highway 1 (Pacific Coast Highway) and visit the Piedras Blancas rookery. If you visit during the winter you will get to see over one hundred Elephant Seals.

Firstly, it is located about 15 minutes drive from the middle of Cambria. Secondly, this place is super easy to access. The best way to see the Elephant Seals is to park at the official view area parking lot. Then simply walk on the boardwalk to both sides of the parking lot.

If you have more time, take the Boucher Trail that takes you by all the cliffs where you can see lots of seals in the water. The best time to visit the Las Piedras Blancas Elephant Seals Rookery is from late November through February.

3. San Simeon Pier

The San Simeon Pier at WR Hearst State Beach
The San Simeon Pier at WR Hearst State Beach
See my photos from Cambria

Across the way from the Hearst Castle entrance off Highway 1 is the San Simeon pier and beach which is very pretty as well.

The San Simeon beach and pier is also one of my favorite things to do in Cambria. This is a beautiful place to visit and simply relax. Also known as the Cove, this area served as the staging grounds and storage for Heart’s art collections as the Hearst Castle was being built.

4. William Randalph Hearst State Beach

Beautiful rocks at the WR Hearst State Beach
The beautiful and secluded WR Hearst State Beach
See my photos from San Simeon

Take your time to walk on the beach and you can also pick up the trail leading to San Simeon Point. The pier itself gives you a beautiful view of the Cove as this entire coastal area is simply gorgeous and you immediately understand why Hearst wanted to build his castle overlooking this California bay.

If you have small children especially, you will enjoy the Coastal Discovery Center located right in the parking lot at WRH State Beach. The entry is free and it has nice exhibits that highlight coastal sea and land animals.

5. Hearst Ranch Winery

People enjoying wine tasting near the beach at Hearst Ranch Winery
People enjoying wine tasting near the beach at Hearst Ranch Winery
See my photos from Cambria

With soaring ceilings, and an accompanying cafe, the San Simeon tasting room is the perfect place to stop on your way along the Pacific Coast Highway. Enjoy excellent wine and a bite to eat inside or at our dog-friendly outdoor tables with sweeping views of the bay.

6. Moonstone Beach Boardwalk

Sunset seen from the Moonstone Beach Boardwalk near Leffingwell Landing
Sunset seen from the Moonstone Beach Boardwalk near Leffingwell Landing
See my photos from Cambria

From Leffingwell Landing you can start walking along the Moonstone Beach bluffs and take in one of the most scenic parts of the California Coast.  This is California scenery at its best. Almost 3 miles round trip, the Moonstone Beach Boardwalk is a beautifully maintained coastal walk that takes you to the best vista points along Moonstone Beach.

7. Walk Through Old Cambria

Beautiful older home in Cambria
Beautiful older home in Cambria
See my photos from Cambria

Main Street in Cambria is a beautiful street to simply walk through and wonder. Lots of restaurants and cute shops line up Main Street and make it one of the best things to do in Cambria. In addition to Main Street, Burton Drive is like an extension of the main walking area of Cambria.
Charming things to do in Cambria

Is it Worth Visiting San Simeon?

Absolutely yes!  If you just drive on Highway 1 and you don’t know about San Simeon you might just miss it because it is such a small place. As you pass by the Hearst Castle sign, also pay attention to the hillside as you might very well see zebras and other African animals brought by Hearst to populate the hillsides around his castle.  Stop at the beach but most of all stop at the Elephant Seal Rookery as it is the largest California rookery and it’s just amazing to see many very large seals in their natural habitat.

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