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Aerial Photograph of San Simeon California showing William Randolph Memorial State Beach, the harbor, pier, the beach Hearst Castle California State Historical Monument visitors center, the old village of San Simeon and more.
Best Beaches near the
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caution icon for drought related water restrictions ATTN: be aware of drought related water restrictions now including beach shower shutoffs.

Hearst State Beach: There are many enjoyable beaches in the Hearst Castle area, each special in its own way all have different persona, benefits, and qualities to enjoy. Some beaches have state maintained facilities to aid in your enjoyment, many are still in their natural state. The closest beach to the castle is just down the bluff from the Hearst Castle Visitor Center and #1 beach of the area, the William Randolph Hearst Memorial State Beach (805-927-2020) part of the old village of San Simeon. It has an incredible expansive long sandy beach, sheltered cove, long pier, barbecue grills and public restrooms. This state day use beach area offers many picnic sites on the bluff and a few right down by the beach, loads of free parking, faucets with potable water, barbecue grill stands, restrooms and easy beach access. Visitor activities include picnicking, swimming, fishing, boating, kayaking and sunbathing, the fine white sand beach is great for sand-castle building, the fresh water creek lagoon sometimes offers a warmer alternative to the cold ocean for wading and the long white sand beach is perfect for a leisurely stroll or jog if you want. There is a kayak and boogie board concession “Kayak Outfitters” (805- 927-1787) with surf and paddle boat equipment for rent, fishing and specialty tours and vacation supplies are available at close-by Sebastian’s General Store (805-927-3307) in San Simeon village or 3 ½ miles south on PCH 1 at the north end of San Simeon Acres is San Simeon Liquors (805-927-4806).
Arroyo Laguna State Beach: Another nice close state beach is 3 miles north of the Visitors Center on PCH 1, the Arroyo Laguna Beach which is a very popular windsurfing and kite-surfing spot and it also is a white sandy beach (the majority of our Central California Coast Beaches are grey looking multi-colored gravel); this sandy beach is great for all the other usual beach activities too, like a romantic stroll, building sandcastles, beachcombing and enjoying nature. Parking is a large dirt pullout off the Pacific Coast Highway with plenty of parking; it is easy to spot and there are more often than not a few cars and wind-surfers there. Beach access is through a fence and over a small piece of property Hearst Property but the beach is now California State.

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Beaches North Beaches South 20+ Miles South
Click Map Icon to visit Custom Google Map Best CA Vacation Beaches: Top Best Beaches for tourists to visit near Hearst Castle San Simeon California. MAP: California Beach Guide: Best Hearst Castle Country Vacation Beaches

Wind-surfing Arroyo Laguna icon to highlight the Pacific Ocean water sports spots, beach recreation activities areas near Hearst Castle San Simeon section; click for a larger picture this wind surfer near Hearst Castle San Simeon. Pacific Ocean Water Sports near Hearst Castle San Simeon:

Photo promoting water sports recreation activities a surfer kite surfing Pico Creek Beach in front of the Best Western Cavalier Motel; click for a larger photo of this surfer having fun kite surfing Pico Creek Beach.
Kite Surfing Pico Creek Beach

WATER SPORTS NEAR HEARST CASTLE: This area is not a the best destination for surfing or scuba diving but you can enjoy both and on some occasions the Pacific Ocean is clear and occasionally the surf is great; the closest freshwater, Lake Nacimiento is over 50 miles drive. Kayaking as well as wind and kite surfing are often fantastic; the coastal winds sure can blow sometimes and then the Arroyo Laguna is a popular spot for the wind surfers, and Pico Creek is good for kite-surfing too. Here's Links about the few good surf spots: San Luis Obispo County at and Pico Creek Beach / San Simeon Acres beach break and to the south in Cambria Moonstoone Beach report at and also in Cambria Santa Rosa Creek beach break report.
The closest place to launch a boat of any size is Morro Bay and currently Virg's Landing (805-775-1222) of Morro Bay is the closest place to book a guided fishing or whale watching excursion. Leffingwell Landing has a small boat ramp where I have launched boats up to 16 feet many times but you can't back a trailer into the water the boat needs to be carried across the beach to the water so bring a crew to help. Kayaking is a popular sport and quite good here.
When the water clears it can be truly beautiful under the water, scuba and skin-diving is allowed anywhere but you before you do any fishing you need to contact local authorities regarding the laws, rules and regulations for exactly where you plan to go (there are sanctuaries were no fishing is allowed and other places where fishing is tightly regulated). For fishing off the San Simeon pier you don't even need a fishing license but fishing is heavily regulated in many areas so be sure and check with local authorities; some boundaries of the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary go all the way south to Cambria and overlap with the boundaries of other protected areas and fines can be large. If you are looking for good fishing you should contact the experts at Virgs Landing in Morro Bay (805-775-1222).

Photo of a monarch butterfly drinking necture from a Central California Pacific Coast flower near Hearst Castle San Simeon. NATURE: Tidepooling, Seals, Whales, Birds, Butterflies and Natural History Museums...Typical adult male elephant seal face; long trunk like nose shows why these seals at the colony at Piedras Blancas Central California coast are called Elephant seals.

Photo of a star fish and hermit crabs in a tidepool at Leffingwell Landing; click this photograph from tidepooling a central Pacific California coast tourist attraction point of interest visitor activity Photo of a Green Sea  Anemone and Purple Sea Urchin in a tidepool at Leffingwell Landing; click this photograph from tidepooling a central Pacific California coast tourist attraction point of interest visitor activity

"TIDEPOOLING": Exploring the miniature aquatic worlds of tidepools, “tidepooling” can be interesting, educational, and fun, especially if you have kids. The best tidepooling is done during low tides; you can get a tide book at any local gas station or motel lobby; some of the best tidepools can be found at Leffingwell Landing and to the south 37 miles at Montaña de Oro State Park although every rocky beach has tidepools at low tide.

Photo Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery Pacific California Coast tourist activity visitor point of interest: photograph of the new boardwalk of the self guided elephant seal colony tour with nature interpretive educational signs that has recently been added on the north end of the seal viewing scenic pullout; click for a larger picture of the central Pacific California coast tourist attraction point of interest visitor activity

ELEPHANT SEALS: Piedras Blancas elephant seal rookery is about six miles north of San Simeon. There is a parking lot boardwalks and vista points with seal educational and interpretive signs. Look for the Friends of the Elephant Seals docents in blue windbreakers, they are often there to provide information and answer your questions. This winter 2010/2011, the boardwalk has been expanded, a new section of the self guided elephant seal colony tour has been added on the north end; but to the best of my knowledge the closest public restrooms besides possibly some chemical toilets at Piedras Blancas Motel are at the Ragged Point Inn and Resort about 10 scenic miles north of the elephant seal rookery.
Most of the elephant seals life is spent in the open waters of the Pacific Ocean but there is always something going on the beach for you to observe and enjoy. Use the elephant seal month by month activity calendar below to learn what to expect when you visit and or check out the real time live action Piedras Blancas elephant seal rookery cam.

Elephant Seal Rookery Activities by the Month Calendar; What you might see when you visit the seal colony:

January Females elephant seals arrive to give birth.
February Birthing continues and mating peaks the middle of the month. Females begin to leave.
March Adult elephant seals leave and young stay and learn to swim.
April Female and young elephant seals return to molt.
May Females and young.
June Young adult males return to molt.
July Adult males begin to return.
August Male elephant seals molt.
September This years young and sub-adult elephant seals haul out on the beach to rest and can be viewed.
October This years young can be viewed.
November Young adult males can be viewed and large adult males begin to return and stake out their territory in anticipation of the females return.
December Adult males continue to return and pregnant females begin to arrive to give birth and breed.
Dynamic photograph of a gray whale breaching; amazing photo of a huge gray whale jumping out of the water.

WHALE WATCHING: The California Grey Whale migration is generally highest on the central Coast from December through April; although you can often see many as early as late October and November and some as late as May. December to February the Grey Whales are heading south. They are best viewed in late February when you will see them heading back north to Alaska. When they are migrating north they stay closer to shore and some will be moving slower because they are accompanied by their calves. All the Grey Whales migrate past the Central Coast twice a year; once in late-fall early-winter headed south to Mexico to calve, and again in the late-winter early-spring heading back to Alaska to feed.
A great way to observe the whales spouting is to cruise the scenic Pacific Coast Highway 1 up to the Ragged Point Inn and Resort which is on top of 350 foot cliff which provides some viewing advantage. Binoculars help but the very, very best way to enjoy and appreciate these amazing giants is up close and for that you need to take a boat excursion. The closest whale watching excursions are offered by Virg's Landing in Morro Bay 805-775-1222.

Photo of an Anna's Hummingbird guarding his sage plant territory at sunset on the California Central Coast, click for the whole picture of this Anna's Humming Bird, an attraction  entertaining the California tourist vistiors.

BIRDWATCHING: The Hearst Castle area environment fosters hundreds of species of birds and offers endless opportunities for birding, watching and photography. A few of the tourists favorites are the tiny agile humming birds which can be found in the ornamental flower gardens and shore birds like the unique pelican and funny Black-Crowned Night Heron with its iridescent ruby red eyes and the elegant tall long legged bright white Snowy Egrets. Morro Bay, is one of the top bird-watching sites in the USA. Morro Bay State Park has a colossal shore bird rookery in the eucalyptus trees on the edge of the bay just north of the Natural History Museum, visit there at sundown when all the birds are returning to roost for the night and you will be amazed (hint: wear a hat and you may want to visit the magnificent 18 HOLE MORRO BAY GOLF COURSE while there too).
Myself I am partial to the resident birds of prey like the Red Tailed Hawk, Peregrine Falcon and I sometimes wish I could fly so I could glide high in the sky on the thermals like the local vultures, and by the way you can view their cousins the giant condors about 40 miles north on the Pacific Coast Highway 1.

Monarch Butterfly close up photo on a Pride of Madera flower on the California coast; click for the complete photograph of this pretty migrating Monarch Butterfly in California for the winter.

MONARCH BUTTERFLIES: From late October through February Monarch butterflies can be viewed anywhere on the Central Coast that there is a profusion of flowers; they are especially fond of Pride of Madera and Blue Sage. A great place in this area to view the monarch butterflies is at the Ragged Point Inn ; they have extensive ornamental flower gardens have attracted the monarch butterflies for years and nearby trees where the butterflies will gather yearly by the thousands almost blotting out the trees foliage. Also great Monarch butterfly viewing is possible about 50 miles down PCH 1 south end of Pismo Beach there is a park dedicated to butterfly viewing where the Monarchs gather in masse, Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove ; North 67 miles up the Big Sur Coast the best place to view the Monarchs is at Andrew Molera State Park , they roost in the grove of Eucalyptus trees by the Cooper Cabin along the Big Sur River. Here you can find more information about Monarch Butterflies in the San Simeon Hearst Castle area and some great Monarch Butterfly photographs.

Natural History Museum Links:
Coastal Discovery Center at San Simeon Bay Morro Bay Natural History Museum
Dollar Rent-a-Car, Inc.

Hiking icon to highlight the Hike, Hiking Trals, Picnic Sites and Campgrounds near Hearst Castle San Simeon section. Hiking Trails near Hearst Castle San Simeon:

Ragged Point Inn and Resort nature trail down the cliff to the beach; click to enlarge this photo of the Ragged Point Inn and Resort beach access nature trail.
Moonstone Beach Boardwalk

There is no "back country" hiking right around Hearst Castle or in the San Simeon area because all the land is private, most of it Hearst Corporation cattle ranch property. Although all the inland property which surrounds Hearst Castle California State Monument itself is private Hearst Corporation Property with no hiking there is great hiking on both undeveloped and developed trails along the coast on the bluffs. If you are looking for an easy family friendly hike try the Washburn Nature Trail or you can go out on the point at San Simeon to Arroyo Laguna Beach or one of the developed boardwalks in Cambria at Moonstone Beach or the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve .
If if you are wanting more exercise and looking for something longer and more strenuous and don't mind a short road trip then drive the scenic Pacific Coast Highway 1 just 15 scenic miles north of Hearst Castle is Ragged Point Inn and Resort . Across the highway is a trailhead for inland hikes to the Silver Peak Wilderness area of the Los Padres Forest and if you are physically fit the resort has its own rugged nature trail leading down to a beautiful private cove with a small isolated beach. FOR MORE HIKING and TRAILS INFORMATION plus PICNICKING and CAMPING check out: Hiking, Camping and Picnicking near San Simeon Hearst Castle Index .

Photograph of beautiful tourist Pacific Coast point of interest visitor tour activity Piedras Blancas Lighthouse near Hearst Castle San Simeon California. Local History: visit the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse and Old San Simeon Village as well as the pier at William Randolph Hearst State Beach they are historical sightseeing musts:

The Piedras Blancas Light Station in a Pacific Sunset; click for a larger file of this lighthouse photo and see more by the same photographer.
Piedras Lighthouse
at sunset by puliarf

Piedras Blancas Lighthouse : The lightstation is about 5 1/2 mi above the Castle Visitors Center just north of the elephant seal colony; like the castle the property gates are usually locked, to visit you must take a tour.
LIGHTHOUSE TOUR INFORMATION 805-924-1807: Public tours of the Piedras Blancas Light Station are offered September 1 through June 14 on only on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday; the group meets at 9:45 a.m. at tje old Piedras Blancas Motel property 1.5 miles north of the lighthouse on PCH 1. From June 15 through August 31 tours are offered Monday - Saturday, group meets same time (9:45 a.m.) at the old Piedras Blancas Motel. Reservations are not required for small groups, for tours of 10 people or more or more, call 805-927-7361.
BLM official Brueau of Land Management (BLM) official Piedras Blancas Lighthouse Light Station website. - and Friends of the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse Friends of the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse official Piedras Blancas Lighthouse Light Station website.

Sebastian's historic General Store no longer has a Bed and Breakfast but sells unique gifts and has a Coffeehouse. Located in Hearst's village of San Simeon, California. Click to enlarge. Pier in San Simeon Cove, William Randolph Hearst State Beach. Click to enlarge. Photo Historic San Simeon CA One-Room Schoolhouse: click for the complete picture of this old one room school building in San Semion CA with Hearst Castle in the background.

Before or After Your Hearst Castle Tour, San Simeon: There are plenty of great things to do very near to the Hearst Castle Visitor Center in San Simeon, at the Hearst State Beach and the area along Slo San Simeon Road I often call San Simeon Village or the old town of San Simeon; this is "San Simeon", San Simeon Acres is the rows of roadside motels 3.5 miles south on PCH 1. If you visit Hearst Castle, sightseeing this area is a must; if you are really pressed for time or limited physically there is much you can see just driving around in your car but ideally you can park your car either up by Sebastian's General Store and Cafe or at Hearst Memorial State Beach and get out to walk around. If you are hungry or thirsty you can grab refreshing drinks and lunch at the Hearst Castle Visitors Center but Sebastian's Historic Store is close by or drive to another from this Complete Restaurants near Hearst Castle San Simeon List . Just a short drive from the Visitors Center, down a little hill and across Pacific Coast Highway 1 is the town of San Simeon where you can find Old Spanish architecture from the William Randolph Hearst days, the sandy beaches and San Simeon Pier at William Randolph Hearst State Beach, historic Sebastian's General Store and Cafe which is sells souvenir gifts and general merchandise the Sebastian's Cafe features delicious entrees prepared with pasture raised 100% grass fed beef from the Hearst Ranch serving up a great lunch with beer, local wines and espressos; the newest amenity of San Simeons Sebastians General Store and Cafe is the addition of a wine tasting room for Hearst Ranch Wines (805-927-4100) Hearst Ranch Wines.

Take the San Simeon Photo Tour Virtual San Simeon Tour: Hearst has several Spanish Style warehouses in San Simeon, a sign on one reads,1878. Click to take the San Simeon photo tour.
Photograph of the history museum and Spanish Mission San Antonio, near Jolon, California, an interesting place to visit when taking a Hearst Castle Vacation; click for a larger complete picture of this tourist attraction Spanish Mission San Antonio
California Spanish Mission San Antonio, Jolon
CALIFORNIA MISSIONS and another Hearst Historic Building: there are three historic Spanish California Missions within driving distance, San Luis Obispo de Tolosa , Mission San Miguel Arcángel, and California Mission San Antonio de Padua, once part of the Hearst Ranch itself up near Jolon. Now located on the Fort Hunter Liggett Army Base the Mission is a stones throw away from a historic Hearst Ranch headquarters where W.R. Hearst used to house cowboys, operate the east side of his vast ranch and entertain celebrity guests like Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy and Herbert Hoover. The Army now operates the old 1929 Spanish Colonial Revival structure designed by architect Julia Morgan originally called the Milpitas Ranch House as a public lodge called the Hearst Hacienda Guest Lodge (831-386-2511). You can combine a visit to the Mission and night at the Lodge with a scenic trip Across the Santa Lucia Mountains of about 60 miles across the picturesque Nacimiento-Fergusson Rd from Pacific Coast Highway 1 at Kirk Creek Campground , nice historic themed side trip for your Hearst Castle Vacation; don't neglect to stop by the historic road side motel Ragged Point Inn if you are near, doing business on the Pacific Coast Highway since the 1950s.
Historical Buildings and History Museum Links:
More Historic Buildings and Museum Info Cambria Historical Society and Museum

photo of some of the fine wine grapes grown in the vineyards of the California Central Coasts Wine Country near Paso Robles, CA. Wine Tasting Hearst Ranch Wines in San Simeon and other local wines:

Photograph of historic Sebestian's General Store Located in Hearst's village of San Simeon, California. Click to enlarge.
Sebastian's Now includes Hearst Ranch Wine Tasting!

Local Wine Tasting: Located just down the hill and across the PCH 1 from the Hearst Castle Visitors Center Sebastian's is the only wine tasting close to the Castle, they have a nice tasting room for Hearst Ranch Wines which are produced and grown near Paso Robles. There are a couple of stores that offer wine tasting down the Highway 1 in the town of Cambria (Frementations(805) 927-7141 or toll free (800) 446-7505; 4056 Burton Drive, Cambria-- Moonstone Cellars(805) 927-9466; 801 Main Street Suite C, Cambria, CA -- Black Hand Cellars (805) 927-9463 766 Main St., Ste.B, Cambria )but the next nearest "local winery" offering wine tasting is just off the Pacific Coast Highway 1 south of Cambria at the town of Harmony, Harmony Cellars (805-927-1625).
You can taste wine, shop, and have a great lunch at close-by Sebastian's General Store and Cafe (805-927-3307) located in the old village of San Simeon California, they feature delicious entrees prepared with pasture raised 100% grass fed beef from the Hearst Ranch serving up a great lunch with beer, local wines and espressos; the newest amenity of San Simeons Sebastians General Store and Cafe is the addition of a wine tasting room for Hearst Ranch Wines (805-927-4100) Hearst Ranch Wines.
Take a Wine Tasting Road Trip: If you take the Green Valley Road (HWY 46W) just south of Cambria you can embark on a beautiful scenic adventure directly into the heart of Central California Coast Wine Country. My personal favorite along the way wine tasting spot for about 45 years has been the Rotta Winery, the oldest family owned winery in San Luis Obispo County. There are many many great choices, some of the best wines in the world are brewed in this area check the following links for all the information about the local wineries and wine tasting. &
Cayucos Alternate: If you would rather stick to the coast, the wonderful little California Beachtown, Cayucos has a good tasting room for Cayucos Cellars, which is one of my personal favorites and you still have the option to take a scenic route inland, on one of my personal favorite back country roads, Old Creek Rd past Whale Rock Dam and it hooks up with Highway 46 in Wine Country too!

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