Without Hearst Castle, Cambria would be just another farming town, but being next to one of the state’s top tourist attractions has turned Cambria into quite a busy little hive. Apart from a few hokey tourist-trapping souvenir shops at the north end of town, it’s a casual, walkable, and franchise-free community of arts and crafts galleries, boutiques, and good restaurants; from Hwy-1, Main Street makes a three-mile loop around to the east, running through the heart of town.

Hearty breakfasts are available at the Redwood Café (2094 Main St., 805/927-4830), while well-prepared multiethnic and vegetarian food is on the menu at Robin’s (4095 Burton Dr., 805/927-5007), a half block off Main Street. For barbecue, burgers, and beer, check out the Main Street Grill (603 Main St., 805/927-3194, cash only). Places to stay range from nice older motels like the Bluebird Inn (1880 Main St., 805/927-4634, $95 and up) to the spacious suites and cabins at Cambria Pines Lodge (2905 Burton Dr., 805/927-4200, $115 and up), which has a nice pool high on a hill between town and the beach. For a relaxing overnight, try the lovely little Bridge Street Inn (4314 Bridge St., 805/215-0724), a block from downtown, which offers reasonable B&B rooms as well as shared HI-approved hostel beds.

Five miles south of Cambria, Harmony (pop. 18) is a former dairy town turned arts and crafts colony, with a range of galleries and a small wedding chapel.

Travel map of Cambria
Map of Pacific Coast through California's Central Coast.
Map of Pacific Coast through California’s Central Coast.
Travel map of Cambria and San Simeon
Cambria and San Simeon