Cambria California Photos Central Coast Information

This sometimes fog-shrouded coastal destination on California's Central Coast is every bit as romantic as Carmel-by-the-Sea, minus the traffic. 


Sure Cambria gets booked up with tourists, and sure it gets crowded. But with less hotels, the accommodations serve to limit traffic somewhat, making the experience simply awesome!  Nestled in pine trees at the foot of Big Sur half way between Los Angeles and San Francisco on Highway 1 is Cambria. The city includes beautiful beaches with numerous hotels facing them, two villages spanning several miles on Main Street and a location 6 miles from the California State Parks most successful attraction, Hearst Castle. 

East Village and West Villages are filled with ethnic restaurants and shops, antiques, collectibles, fine art, sculptures and historic buildings. Both are accessible to each other on foot though walking with gifts and packages would be a challenge. Drive your car to each section when you plan on buying things you don't want to carry around with you.  


ABOUT CAMBRIA: When William Leffingwell built the area's first sawmill in the 1860's, Cambria prospered as an active seaport and whaling station. It is a point of contention as to how Cambria was named but it most likely came from the suggestion of one resident who previously lived in Cambria County, Pennsylvania. In 1870,  titles such as Slabtown for the rough pieces of wood that went into hastily built homes that sprang up around that time, gave way to what we know it as today. Lumber, dairy ranches, mining and shipping began to provide a job base which attracted people to this scenic region with numerous natural resources. In 1880, 7000 residents made it the second largest city in San Luis Obispo County. The center of town during that time is now the East Village. 


The city's economy is primarily based on tourism now. The beach and shopping are the prime attractions there. Cambria is the largest city on the coast traveling north until you reach the Carmel/Monterey Bay region. Beyond Cambria and San Simeon are windy roads lined with trees and sometimes steep drop offs to the ocean.  Small hamlets and restaurants dot the coast traveling north but Cambria is the traveler's best opportunity for a variety of choices in shopping, dining and hotels on the Pacific for the next 100 miles.


Traveling north, Big Sur is 73 miles away but takes nearly 2 hours by car. Coastal Highway 1 passes through Los Padres National Forest and is a gorgeous, scenic drive but not for those who get motion sickness in cars. The 100-mile drive to Carmel takes over 2 hours on Highway 101, the inland route, but can take 4 hours+ on Highway 1. For some, this is a "white knuckle" trip but one worth the sweat. There are coach tours which take this route so you can leave the driving to someone else while you watch the dramatic ocean views below. 


The past is very much a part of the present in Cambria where historic buildings and monuments such as the glass encased Piedras Blancas Lighthouse lens stands. This fresnel lens (left) was installed on the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse 12 miles north of Cambria in 1875.  It was removed from the lighthouse in 1949 and was replaced by an automated aero-beacon.  Nearly destroyed, local groups stepped in to save it.


As one of the largest first order fresnel lenses in existence, it  would bring in an appraisal value of around $2 million. The United States Coast Guard transported the lens to Monterey for refurbishment in 1992 and then returned it to Cambria where it stands on the Pinedorado grounds, facing Main Street. The Friends of The Piedras Blancas Lighthouse Lens is a nonprofit organization created to preserve this treasure.


Fresnel Facts:  The light from this fresnel lens shone 20 to 25 miles out to sea. When in commission, the focal point of the lens was 90 feet above ground level. The lens contains glass elements which require polishing and retooling and cast iron portions needing polishing.


Morro Bay < Cambria > San Simeon

Cambria scenic coastal landscape picture
pacific ocean sunset cambria
couple, dining, wind surf with cow

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