The amazing thing about the West Coast is that it is still mostly wild, open, and astoundingly beautiful country, where you can drive for miles and miles and have the scenery all to yourself.
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 Cafe (2094 Main St., 805/927-4830), while well-prepared multi-ethnic 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., 800/552-5434, $68 and up) to the spacious suites and cabins at Cambria Pines Lodge (2905 Burton Dr., 805/927-4200, $89 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., 805/927-7653), a block from downtown, which offers very 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.