Things to do in Cambria.
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14 BEST Things to Do in Cambria, California

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There are a surprising amount of things to do in Cambria!

This beautiful beach town offers something for everyone. Relax and enjoy the quaint streets of the town, or get out and about in the windy bluffs just south of the Big Sur area and enjoy nature at its finest.

Strategically placed halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, it makes the perfect stop on any road trip, but once you arrive, trust us, you won’t want to leave.

With incredible scenery, delicious food, wine-tasting rooms, nearby attractions, and laid-back vibes, the small town has more than meets the eye.

Things to Do in Cambria

1. Explore Moonstone Beach

Moonstone Beach is one of the most stunning beaches in California and should, without a doubt, be on your list of things to do in Cambria. The name stems from the fact that it is not uncommon to find shining gemstones glittering on the shore, which are so pretty in the sunshine. They are not actually Moonstones, but good enough!

Two people sitting on a bench overlooking Moonstone Beach in San Simeon State Park.
Relax at Moonstone Beach

The shores are also dotted with huge driftwood logs, making it a fun place to stroll and take in the view of the bluffs and rocks. You can have fun tide-pooling, lazing on the sand, beachcombing, and wildlife watching.

2. Take the Moonstone Beach Scenic Drive or Walk The Moonstone Beach Boardwalk

If you are short on time, one of the best ways to see the beach is to take the Moonstone Beach scenic drive, just a short detour off Highway 1.

A white RV parked up along the Moonstone Scenic Driver overlooking a beach at golden hour.
Parked up along the Moonstone Scenic Drive

If you fancy stretching your legs, the Moonstone Beach boardwalk offers sweeping views of this stunning beach. The boardwalk runs for about a mile and is very accessible to all. You can discover several side trails that take you down to the rocks along the route.

The boardwalk forms part of the California Whale Trail, so if you time it right, you can spot these huge migrating beasts just off the shore.

A couple looking out over the ocean from the boardwalk nearby Moonstone Beach.
Stroll along the Moonstone Boardwalk

Ensure you check out the Seal View Beach Deck for your nature fix. We will be very surprised if the seals remain elusive, and you may be able to spot other creatures like elephant seals, sea otters, and dolphins.

3. Stroll the Town

One of the best things to do in Cambria, or whenever you visit a new place, is stroll the streets.

The term ‘charming’ springs to mind when talking about Cambria, with streets filled with restaurants and antique galleries, and even its own microbrewery, which is the perfect place for a pint at the end of a busy day.

Old looking shop fronts along one of the main roads in Cambria.
It’s a quaint little town

Surprisingly, the lens of a lighthouse, known as the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse Lens, is located in the middle of the town. It is very different from the huge lighthouse on the shore nearby.

A popular farmers market is also here, where you can wander the stalls and pick up local produce.

4. Hike Fiscalini Ranch Preserve

Stretching for a mile, the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve is a diverse wonderland along the Pacific. There are several hiking trails across the preserve that wind their way through the wetlands, forests, and coastal prairies.

A man walking along along the cliffs in Fiscalini Ranch Preserve at golden hour.
Views over the coastline of the Preserve

Each course explores different preserve sections, such as the Bluff Trail and the Forest Loop Trail.

Hiking is not the only activity to enjoy in the park. Check out the scenes from the elevated seat of horseback and trot through the pine forests, or bring your furry friend and let them off the leash in the dog park.

Two pairs of dog walkers heading down a wooden boardwalk in a field in Fiscalini Ranch Preserve.
The perfect spot to walk the dog

Head up the 400-foot rocky ridge, look out for migrating whales, and keep your eye peeled for playful otters. If you visit during the spring, you’ll be treated to a colorful explosion of wildflowers, with meadows blanketed in all types of bloom.

Look out for the 17 handcrafted wood and stone benches dotted around the preserve, each a true work of art.

5. Hearst San Simeon State Park Has Seals

Say that three times fast!

Hearst San Simeon State Park is one of the oldest parks in the state park system. The park is rugged and very much all-natural, with the Santa Rosa Creek Natural Preserve, the San Simeon Natural Preserve, and the Pa-nu Cultural Preserve all located within the park.

Moonstone Boardwalk trailing off across the coastline of Big Sur near Cambria.
A fun place to explore!

Strolling along the beaches and bluffs gives you sweeping, unobstructed views of the Pacific, which is full of the barking cries of enormous elephant seals at certain points of the year.

Hiking opportunities are abundant, and the campsites offer some of the most scenic camping spots in California. Still, there are plenty of day-use areas if spending the night isn’t in the cards.

We camped out here and got a pretty primitive site. While there are nicer ones, we didn’t get a reservation in on time, so keep this in mind for your visit.

6. See What The Town of San Simeon Has to Offer

San Simeon is a lovely beachside town and a common stop for those driving Big Sur on Highway 1. Stop here for a bite to eat or even stay the night, but ensure you have enough time to visit the beautiful pier and beach.

Golden sunset light shining through mist at San Simeon Beach in California.
The perfect sunset over Simeon Beach

At the base of the pier sits the Coastal Discovery Center to help you learn more about the local wildlife, and all along the pier, you will find interesting interpretive signs that tell you more about the cultural and natural history of San Simeon Bay.

The beaches are some of the most spectacular in California, the most popular being the William R. Hearst Memorial Beach. There are many facilities and activities, including swimming, picnicking, fishing off the pier, boating or kayaking, and sunbathing on the sand.

7. Enjoy the Views at Leffingwell Landing Park

Although driving through Big Sur is stunning, it is hard to take it all in, especially if you are at the wheel. Well, Leffingwell Land Park provides the perfect opportunity to do just that. Sit and take it all in.

The park is quiet and relaxed, with plenty of picnic tables to sit and enjoy a leisurely lunch, watching the surfers out to sea. If you fancy stretching your legs, you can head down the boardwalk on Moonstone Beach or the tide pools to see if any colorful marine life fancy showing their face.

A couple walking down Moonstone Boardwalk towards the beach and bridge at Leffingwell Landing Park near Cambria.
Moonstone Boardwalk leading to Leffingwell Landing Park

Sometimes, one of the best things to do in Cambria is to do nothing at all, and this is the park to do exactly that!

8. Say Hello to the Seals on the Boucher Trail

If this stretch of coastline is known for one other thing besides the views, it’s the seals. The seals flock to the beaches and rocks around Cambria in great numbers, and your best chance of spotting some is along the Boucher Trail, which is one of the best things to do in Cambria!

Elephant seals all sleeping together on a beach along the Boucher Trail in Big Sur near Cambria.
One of the best places to check out Elephant Seals!

Take a secluded and relatively flat walk along the bluffs, with views of the surrounding beaches and Piedras Blancas Lighthouse.

For the most part, you will be walking along a wide, well-maintained, and grassy trail, and as you hike, it won’t be long until you hear the telltale calls of the elephant seals that laze in the sun along the beaches of the Boucher Trail.

An elephant seal enjoying his nap on the beach near Cambria.
It must’ve been a long night!

As the biggest elephant seal rookery in the mainland U.S., it is safe to say that a sighting is almost guaranteed. The incredible sight of hundreds of huge seals is maybe only beaten by the towering spray of a migrating gray whale, which is also common.

This is one of my favorite trails in the Big Sur area. It’s really easy, and the wildlife watching is perfection.

9. Go Tidepooling at Lampton Cliffs Park

If it is the tidepools you are after, look no further than Lampton Cliffs Park, a small park on the edge of town.

Take the narrow stairs that will lead you down to the sandy beach. The tide pools are plentiful at low tide, with scuttling crabs, sea stars, and colorful anemones. The beach is entirely different at high tide, as the waves crash hard on the rocks.

Wooden stairs leading down to a stone beach at Lampton Cliffs Park near Cambria.
A great place for tidepooling!

If you don’t fancy heading down onto the sand, a few benches on the marine terrace offer hard-to-beat views of the ocean, ideal if you want some solitude.

10. Gaze in Awe at Hearst Castle

Okay, fine, Hearst Castle is not technically in Cambria, it is in the neighboring town of San Simeon, but it is close enough for an easy trip out.

The incredible building was constructed atop a hill, meaning you get views, history, and a little bit of culture all thrown in at once. The building was built by William Hearst, bringing art and antiques from all over the world to complete his unique construction, including entire hand-carved Italian ceilings!

The tropical looking Hearst Castle surrounded by palm trees, bushes and statues.
The unique architecture is captivating!

The castle is huge; we are talking about 56 bedrooms, so there is much to explore. Don’t be surprised if you see a zebra or two strolling the grounds, as it was also once home to an exotic zoo.

We think it is safe to say that Hearst Castle will leave you speechless and is a lot more than your standard crumbling ruin that the term ‘castle’ is known for. 

11. Take a Tour of Piedras Blancas Light Station

What is it about lighthouses that draw people to them (although hopefully not boats!)? The Piedras Blancas Light Station is no exception and draws visitors to its white tower high above the Pacific Ocean.

A tall lighthouse surrounded by building in Piedra Blancas Light Station.
Perched right besides the bluest water

The lighthouse was built in 1875 and is still in operation to this day, with the added benefit of offering tours to visitors who want to know more about the historic structure.

The tour takes around 2 hours, and you’ll explore the lighthouse and surrounding grounds. Although the tours run year-round, always check their operating days to avoid disappointment. 

Things to Do Near Cambria

You don’t have to head too far out to see even more! These are all under an hour away…

12. Head Up North and Visit as Much of Big Sur as You Can

It is no secret that we love the Big Sur area, so if you have the time, you must explore as much of it as possible! It is such an easy place to navigate, as it’s essentially just one road, so you can just travel as far up Highway 1 as you wish.

A car towing a caravan over the arched Bixby Bridge along the Big Sur drive.
Big Sur is a great drive!

You could spend weeks exploring the parks, trails, and overlooks. Still, if you only have time for a few highlights, we recommend checking out McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, snapping some photos of the iconic Bixby Bridge, hiking Partington Cove, and checking out Pfeiffer Beach.

READ MORE: Things To Do in Big Sur: 16 Best Stops on a Big Sur Drive

13. Relax on the Beaches of Cayucos

If you fancy spending the day at a beautiful beach town, head to Cayucos, just a short drive away. The town is most well known for its incredible beach, which stretches 6 miles to Morro Rock and has some of the finest white sand in the state.

It is a popular spot with facilities, easy access, tide-pooling, surfing, and swimming opportunities. One of the most fun hikes in the area is the hike to a shipwreck at Estero Bluffs, which was run aground in 2017.

A shipwreck off the coast of Estero Bluff State Park in Cayucos, California.
Estero Bluffs shipwreck

The town is small but a delight to explore, with all kinds of eateries and cute places to grab a coffee. You could spend a few hours popping into some antique shops and going on a self-guided mural tour of the beautiful, colorful murals that dot the town.

14. Go Wildlife Watching at Morro Bay

Another incredible Central California Coast town is Morro Bay, just down the coast of Cambria.

A kayak paddling in front of Morro Rock in Morro Bay State Park in California.
Kayakers exploring the Morro Rock area

The town has plenty to keep you occupied but is best known for Morro Rock, a 576-foot volcanic tower formed around 23 million years ago! You can see the rock throughout town, but if you drive to the base, you may be able to spot some of the nesting Peregrine Falcon that call the rock home.

Morro Bay is a haven for wildlife with its calm waters and is also popular with kayakers who come to take in the natural beauty without being buffeted by waves. Plenty of companies offer tours by kayak, and even some via a Seaview Sub, so you can see what’s going on beneath the water.

Morro Rock on a sunny day at Morro Rock Strand State Beach in California.
It’s a great beach to visit with amazing views!

Stroll the Embarcadero, look out for birds in the wetlands, dine in a waterfront restaurant, or check out the shops; Morro Bay has a lot to offer. We love it, and it’s worth a trip of its own.

👉 Accommodation in Cambria

We hope this list of things to do in Cambria helped you plan your trip!

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