With their many miles of untouched coastline, beaches, forests — even a castle! — San Simeon and Ragged Point offer a wealth of spectacular family-friendly destinations. The parks here are wide-open for exploring and discovery. Ascend the “enchanted hilltop” of Hearst Castle to follow the footsteps of media magnate and billionaire William Randolph Hearst. Take a tour, and watch the IMAX documentary about his life and ambitions in building his mansion. And explore the state park named after him, Hearst San Simeon State Park, with fun, family-friendly outdoor activities aplenty. Pick up picnic provisions in Cambria or downtown San Simeon, and spend the day hiking, fishing, whale watching, visiting with the Great Northern Elephant Seal, and much more. Or there’s always the simple, perfect option to spend the day lazing on the nearby beach, collecting seashells and driftwood. Bring a good book, sunscreen, sand toys, a blanket and a hat, and you have the makings of a perfect day on Highway 1.
Explore San Simeon & Ragged Point Parks
Hearst San Simeon State Park
Established in 1932, the Hearst San Simeon State Park comprises 3,409 acres between Cambria and San Simeon on the coast. It is one of the oldest state parks, boasting some of the most spellbinding scenery, from coastal promontories to Monterey Pine forests. Highway 1 cuts through the park, with Hearst Memorial State Beach serving as the westernmost boundary. Other beaches included in the park are Moonstone Beach in Cambria, and Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Beach north of San Simeon. Find a variety of activities here, for all ages, from camping and picnicking to hiking, fishing, whale watching and more. At the south end of the parking lot pull-out, find a Whale Trail sign detailing which whales migrate along the coast here. The state park contains two main camping areas, both of which lie near the Washburn Day-Use Area located directly off Highway 1. The San Simeon Creek Campground offers unique programs for kids: Junior Rangers (ages 7-12), Junior Cubs (ages 4-6) and Campfire. The Washburn Campgrounds is the more primitive and quiet of the Hearst San Simeon State Park camping options. A 3.3-mile trail travels through sections of the Washburn Campground and San Simeon Natural Preserve. A section of the path, the one-mile San Simeon Creek Trail, includes a wooden boardwalk and hard-packed dirt that is ADA-accessible.
Hearst Castle State Park
Construction began on Hearst Castle just after World War I and continued through the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, and World War II. As the home of wealthy tycoon and heir William Randolph Hearst, its 115 rooms hosted celebrities, dignitaries, and public figures during that time. Today, this uniquely American landmark is property of the state of California, and serves as “a museum like no other.” Tour the mansion and its grounds, and marvel at the luxury and opulence of days gone by. Mr. Hearst chose this hilltop site to highlight the natural beauty of San Simeon, the Pacific Ocean, and the Santa Lucia Mountain Range. Learn from experienced and interesting guides all about Mr. Hearst, his guests, his architect Julia Morgan, his art and antiquities, and his lifestyle. Tours are ADA accessible and interesting even for children. After your tour, check in at the Visitors Center where the IMAX theater shows a film about how Hearst built the estate. And don’t miss the gift shops, where souvenirs, books, DVDs, postcards, apparel, and other merchandise celebrating Hearst Castle are available.
California Coastal National Monument
With 1,000 acres of islands, rocks and onshore areas along the California shore, this might be the most-seen national monument in the country. The California Coastal Monument protects a wide variety of birds and mammals, including the elephant seals that migrate to Piedras Blancas each year. One of the monument’s six onshore areas includes the Piedras Blancas Light Station, a working lighthouse with a long history of protecting vessels. Named for the white rocks that face the ocean there, Piedras Blancas stands on Highway 1 between San Simeon and Ragged Point. The Light Station, whose light still beams atop the tower, offers guided tours of the lighthouse and outbuildings. (The light station is only viewable with a tour guide.) Walk the easy half-mile scenic trail from Highway 1 out to the lighthouse; bring your binoculars to view wildlife from the point. Note that tours are available by reservation only.