If you’re planning a winter getaway you might be thinking heading into the mountains, or even the opposite down to a tropical beach, but one place that often gets overlooked is the California Central Coast. It might not be 75 and sunny with warm waters. But it’s mostly clear skies, beautiful views, and days in the 60s. To be honest, on California’s coast, there are more summer days where the fog rolls in.
It might be the off-season but us Californians know to take advantage of this perfect time to explore many of our coastal areas. One perfect spot to visit in the winter is Cambria down on the Central Coast. With beautiful coastal views, it offers a wide variety of activities that are perfect for enjoying on cool winter days.
Note: I’ve partnered with Visit Cambria as an ambassador to share more about the area with you. Some accommodations, tours and meals were provided at no cost to the author. All opinions remain my own.
Take In The Views
Head down to Moonstone Beach where you’ll be able to take in the bay. There is a long path you can wander down, and there is a good beach area to walk as well. It’s a west-facing beach which makes it absolutely perfect for watching the sunset. We sat on a park bench and watched it slowly go down, others walked the path and some were even watching from their cars.
If you’re looking for a new vantage point head up the road a little to Centrally Grown. To be honest, as a restaurant I was disappointed and their market is now closed, which seemed to have been the best part. But the property itself is still worth taking a visit. Beautiful gardens to wander through and take in the ocean view. Head upstairs and grab a glass of wine at the bar and pop back down into the gardens to relax over the ocean.
If a room with a view is what you’re after take a look at the Sand Pebbles Inn. Right on Moonstone Drive, they have six rooms that face right out to the beach. It was breathtaking to sit on a beautiful couch and enjoy hearing the waves crashing right outside your window.
Dig Into The Food In Downtown
Two of the meals we enjoyed in Cambria were right in the downtown area. Both of these places were recommended by just about every local we met, and they were definitely right.
We headed over to Robin’s for dinner. Tucked into an old house with a beautiful enclosed and heated patio it was a charming spot to sit and enjoy a long dinner. There were too many delicious things to try that we had to order a little bit of everything. The Salmon Bisque was smooth and savory. The white enchiladas with prawns were some of the best I’ve had. Plus, they waive the corkage fee on certain local wineries (including Cutruzzola, you’ll find below) which allows you enjoy a couple courses without breaking the bank. You definitely want to make a reservation even on a weeknight. If you do end up with a wait just cross the street and visit Wine : Taste where you can try a selection of local and international wines in this quirky shop.
After that dinner, we weren’t all that hungry when we got up but knew we needed to try Linn’s Fruit Bin for breakfast so we headed back into downtown. Here you can wander through the bakery savoring over the baked goods, explore their cute shop and then settle in for a meal. Every order seems to come with a baked good and they were delicious. The scone with ollaliberry might have been the best thing I ate. Their granola is a great option if you’re looking for a tasty but light meal. Or dive into the Mr. Potato Stack for all my favorite things in one breakfast, hash browns, eggs, salsa and cheddar cheese.
Getting To Know the Local Wine
Another piece of Cambria that is great to get to know is its wine. Right off the Pacific Coast Highway, you will find a series of tasting rooms that provide you a cozy space to sit and sip wine even if it’s a cool day.
Stop by Cutruzzola Vineyards where you can enjoy their Pinot Noirs and Rieslings. They grow most of their grapes right in Cambria. We were surprised by the dry rieslings you find on the coast. You keep the flavor off the grapes without the sweetness you normally find. Theirs was a favorite and what we enjoyed at dinner at Robin’s. Pop in and talk to Karen, who manages the tasting room, she will educate you not only on the wine but also the city itself.
Then head over to Moonstone Cellars just down the street. They have a selection of varietals that can please just about any palette including a few blends.
If these spots along PCH aren’t enough, Cambria is the perfect launching pad to explore Paso Robles. Only 30 minutes from the center of the wine region, you can easily access the entire area. So spend your days drinking wine and your nights by the beach.
Castles, Elephant Seals and More
Just North of Cambria you’ll find San Simeon the home to Hearst Castle. This beautiful property is awe-inspiring architecture, artwork, and landscape. It was hard to pick which part was my favorite but somehow what surprised me the most was the conserved land that felt like it went on forever. If you’ve never gone before taking the Grand Rooms tour to get you started, and maybe even another one. Make sure to book ahead though, since even in the winter they can sell out.
The one tip I’m so glad I got from the locals was not to eat at Hearst Castle but instead drive right across the Pacific Coast Highway to Sebastian’s General Store and Hearst Ranch Winery. If you’re looking to try some of that Hearst Ranch beef this is the place. The tri-tip sandwich and burgers were both amazing in this laid back environment. And who doesn’t need some wine to go along with that.
A couple more miles up you’ll find a unique wildlife experience at Elephant Seals Beach. You can find sea lions just about anywhere on the California coast but these Elephant Seals are only a few places. Another great reason why to visit Cambria in the winter is it’s the perfect time to visit these guys. The adults return in November and December, in late December into January you’ll have births taking place on the beach and tons of newborn seals, then in February mating season begins. In late December, we saw too many pups to count and even saw a birth.
Everything The Coast Has To Offer Without Crowds
The winter is when the locals head to the coast. The costs are lower for an overnight trip, the crowds have dissipated, the weather is beautiful and you can do just about anything you wanted to in high-season.
While I didn’t get out on the water this trip, you can even kayak or paddle board out on the water all around Cambria all year long. At the end of December, it was low sixties and completely clear. The perfect break for anyone stuck with real winter and just a great excuse for the rest of us to make it to the coast.
Have you visited Cambria or the California Coast in the winter? If so, tell us what your favorite part was in a comment below.