Cambria Invites Visitors to Disappear From the World for Awhile
Call it the “Cambria Effect,” a condition one can’t help but acquire when visiting this central California village. Drawn to the natural beauty, easy living and abundant culture, many a visitor has considered dropping everything, buying a potter’s wheel and relocating here. Judging from Main Street’s artisans row, more than a few folks have done just this. Lifestyle can be infectious, and there’s no better place on either coast to catch the aesthetic epidemic than Cambria.
You won’t be surprised to learn Cambria was named after Wales after spending a couple of days here among the windswept pine forests and getting to know the laidback community. Like Wales (Cambria is Latin for Wales.) there’s an otherness here that’s impossible to miss, a sense that this hamlet remains a secret, an Avalon along one of the world’s most beautiful coastlines whose discovery is shared in hushed whispers to only the most intimate of friends once back home.
Like King Arthur’s Excalibur extraction, accidentally unearthing this trove is part of the Highway 1 fun, whether from Big Sur and San Simeon to the north or from the south in Morro Bay or San Luis Obispo. Located just a few minutes from Hearst Castle, Cambria is no stranger to myth making. Don’t be surprised if your first steps along Main Street elicit unexplained goose pimples, the village starred in Frank Marshall’s acclaimed 1990 thriller, Arachnophobia.
Arachnophobia is just one of many films on Cambria’s resume. Learn more lore with guides from the Cambria Historical Society and Museum who take guests on a comprehensive walking tour of the village. The curious come away with expertise about the region’s colorful Quicksilver Mining history to the fascinating construction of Highway One among other culturally important developments.
Today you’ll see many more colorful cows than creepy crawlers. The international CowParade arrived in Cambria this past fall, where one-half dozen beautiful bovines reside as part of 101 total cow sculptures exhibited in honor of the historic Highway 101. Cambria has been known for its fertile lands dating back to the indigenous Chumash and continuing as part of the Rancho Santa Rosa Mexican land grant in 1841.
Live cattle cousins appear on many of the hills surrounding the bucolic village, though most are piebald Holsteins instead of purple-hued breeds like the Vineyard Diva, Mary Clark-Camargo’s installation using glass mosaic pieces to evoke the thriving local vineyards. Vineyard Diva’s herd mates, illustrated by local painters, reflect Cambria’s beauty, such as Coastal Cow and Moo-n-Drops nature triptychs. Where’s Cowldo requires some hoofing around, as this Mini Moo moves about town.
The new Visit Cambria app gives hints about Appy Moobile Cow’s exact whereabouts. The mobile accessory also leads you to his honorary pasture mates, keeps you up-to-date with current events and provides Accuweather forecasts for your beach picnic or evening stroll. The app’s “Explore” feature uncovers panoply of amenities and outings such as trail hikes, food and drink, natural wonders, even secret spots and lodging. Cambria’s accessibility makes wingin’ it a breeze, but the über organized will appreciate the “Itinerary” feature that allows users to list must visit local destinations complete with maps and current information.
Most visitors in recent years have recorded winery visits in boldface on their Central Coast must-do’s. Cambria’s rich and diverse soils yield several fantastic vintages of the currently hottest wines on the palate, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah. True to the village’s unique arts, shopping and food scene, Cambria’s boutique wineries often offer tasting room bottles that are unavailable anywhere else.
Stolo Family Vineyards and Winery presents tastings of its award-winning Pinot Noir on its 9-acre estate in a converted farmhouse located just minutes from Main Street and less than 3 miles from the Pacific Ocean! Cutruzzola Estate Winery samples its Reislings, Pinots and Chards right as you enter Cambria’s West Village. The vineyard is located just outside town and definitely worth a drive through the rolling seaside hills.
Moonstone Cellars, renowned for Chardonnay, has moved its village tasting room on Cornwall Street just off Main. Black Hand Cellars and Twin Coyotes wineries tasting rooms can be found right on Main Street itself. No sip-centric visit to a California village is complete without stepping inside the signature craft brewery. The 927 Beer Company opens its doors to the ale crew seven days a week.
Grapes are hardly the only vintage in Cambria, as anyone familiar with the local olallieberry will tell you. Two-thirds blackberry and one-third raspberry, you’ll find olallieberry dressings and desserts in restaurants. Procure a distinctive olallieberry pie, one of the village’s most delicious souvenirs, from the legendary Linn’s Fruit Bin.
Go ahead and enjoy a third piece of olallieberry pie, as Cambria’s trails, parks and beaches provide plenty of hiking and walking territory, beginning with famous Moonstone Beach. The Moonstone Beach boardwalk skirts the ridge for 1.5 miles before stepping down into sand and surf.
Head to Leffingwell Landing or Fiscalini Ranch Preserve when the surf recedes for some of the area’s best tide pooling. If ticking off intertidal species doesn’t get your goat, you can always visit Stepladder Creamery’s LaMancha goats. Stepladder offers 1-hour tours through their 101-year old milking barn and surrounding pastures along San Simeon Creek. Naturally, this tour of the artisan farming way of life concludes with a tasting.
Back in town or out by the beach, there’s no kidding around when you consider the breadth of local accommodations and dining options. Settle into a café for a post Moonstone Beach stroll pastry, browse the fine arts galleries and craft boutiques or do a little wine tasting without a thought of the outside world. It’ll be our secret.