35.6852-121.1671Hearst Castle, 750 Hearst Castle Rd (3 miles north of town), toll-free: +1-800-444-4445 (reservations). This palatial estate built by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst is one of the most visited attractions in California. See the amazing European architecture including the Spanish cathedral-like facade, the Neptune Pool, and the Roman Baths. Think of it as a museum where many of the centuries-old pieces are built into the structure of the building. It is located at the top of a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean. A 40-minute movie about the history of the castle shows every 45 minutes from 8:15AM to 6:45PM in the five-story theater in the Visitor Center off Highway 1. There are three different daytime guided tours, each lasting 45 minutes and each costing $25 for adults. There is an additional 30 minutes of travel time from the Visitor Center and back by bus – it is no longer necessary to make the bus trip for every tour, if doing multiple tours. Reservations recommended – book online where you can see how many of the up to 52 seats are still available for each time, and be wary of seats filling quickly close to the time. $25 adults, $12 children, more for longer tours. (updated Oct 2015)
35.6633-121.25782Piedras Blancas State Marine Reserve, Highway One (north of San Simeon). In 1990 approximately two dozen elephant seals showed up at the beach at Piedras Blancas; in 2014 that number was over 20,000 and nearly 5,000 pups were born. Large males measure 14-16 feet long and weigh 3,000-5,000 pounds. Adult females measure 9-12 feet long and weigh 900-1,800 pounds. Pups are 3-4 feet long and weigh 60-80 pounds when born. Big males arrive to stake out territory in late-November, females arrive in mid-December, and most pups are born between mid-December and early February. By March the adult seals will return to the ocean, leaving the pups to teach themselves to swim. From April through August molting seals can be seen on the shore, while in September and October only a handful of resting seals visit the beach. A viewpoint along the highway provides parking, an overlook, and information about the seals. Docents may be on hand to provide additional information. (updated Oct 2015)
Piedras Blancas Lightstation. Tours Tu, Th, Sa, excluding federal holidays, 10AM. Tours begin at the former Piedras Blancas Motel, 1.5 miles north of the lightstation, on the west side of Highway 1. Visitors will be met by an escort at 9:45AM. $10.
Elephant seals and seagulls by the beach in San Simeon
35.6124-121.14531Friends of the Elephant Seal Shop, 250 San Simeon Ave, Suite 3B (Plaza del Cavalier), ☎ +1 805-924-1628. This shop sells books, t-shirts, mugs, posters and other items related to elephant seals and marine mammals. Proceeds support the group's educational efforts. (updated Apr 2016)
Cambria - Located ten miles to South along Highway One, Cambria offers visitors Moonstone Beach, home to tide pools and the semi-precious stones that give the beach its name. The town also offers an abundance of inns and hotels for those seeking a quiet weekend away.
Big Sur - The Big Sur region can be loosely defined as the stretch of coastline between Carmel and San Simeon, and the steep cliffs, rocky coast, churning waves, abundant wildlife, redwoods, and remoteness make it one of the most beautiful drives in the world. Big Sur Village lies at its heart, 81 miles north of San Simeon, and offers amenities for travelers.