State Park Escapes: Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle took 28 years to complete.

Shutterstock photo

✔Art     ✔Architecture       ✔Celebrity      ✘Restraint
The Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument is the site of the largest display of European antiquities in the state parks, thanks to William Randolph Hearst’s appreciation for European art and luxury, incorporated gloriously into the 115-room main house. With four distinct tours ($25 to $36), including the evening tour at which the staff dresses in 1930s attire, there’s something to interest everyone. Marvel at the abode’s grand scale, the nearly 30 years it took to complete, architect Julia Morgan’s skill, and the A-list celebrities who were guests, including Charlie Chaplin and Cary Grant.

Wild Words: “You must keep your mind on the objective, not on the obstacle.”—William Randolph Hearst

Getting There: Hearst Castle is in San Simeon, 45 minutes northwest of San Luis Obispo on Highway 1, about five hours from Orange County.

Eat: To savor a beautiful Pacific view and a laid-back atmosphere, have lunch at Schooners in Cayucos, where the menu features fresh fish tacos ($13 to $17), plentiful seafood options, and Hearst Ranch burgers ($11 to $14). For an elegant meal, try Madeline’s Restaurant in Cambria. Dinner highlights include lamb tenderloin ($32), Long Island duck breast ($26), or a $55 five-course chef’s tasting. A trip to San Simeon has to include a stop at the Hearst Ranch Winery tasting room at Sebastian’s, across Highway 1, after you’ve visited the castle.

Rest: The historic adobe that’s part of the Hearst Ranch Winery in Paso Robles has a luxury gourmet kitchen, four bedrooms and bathrooms, two fireplaces, Mexican tile, and original oak floors ($550). This large house makes a perfect getaway spot with friends or a big family, 45 minutes from Hearst Castle. Go for oceanside accommodations at Blue Dolphin Inn in Cambria ($125 and up). Each of the 20 rooms at this pet-friendly inn has a fireplace and includes a picnic breakfast.

McWay Falls drops right into the Pacific Ocean at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Photo: Michele Falzone
McWay Falls drops right into the Pacific Ocean at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Photo: Michele Falzone

Photo by Michele Falzone/Alamy Stock Photo

Nearby: Drive 52 miles north on rugged, winding Highway 1 to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park for some of the most beautiful views along the central coast. McWay Falls drops 80 feet over granite rocks into the ocean, and a hike to the end of Overlook Trail might yield whale sightings this month as they make their way north. Continue up Highway 1 another 11 miles to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, where you’ll see coastal redwoods along the Big Sur River. The park has more than 150 campsites and a 61-room lodge ($189 to $424). Or stop in Santa Barbara on your way to San Simeon and visit El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park, home to the oldest structures in the state parks, built in 1782.

Save money! Get a discount for Moro Cove Campground at Crystal Cove State Park until March 18. Sunday through Thursday is 40 percent off, and Friday and Saturday is 25 percent off. Go to the Reserve America page and enter the code SWEETBEACHDEAL when making your reservations.

Tips: Click here for some tips for visiting the state parks.

Parks close to home: Click here to find out about state parks in Orange County.

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