Stunning beaches aren’t the only drawcard in sun-drenched San Simeon. The lively beach town is home to Hearst Castle, one of the most beautiful historic buildings in the United States. Admire the historic lighthouse overlooking San Simeon Bay and visit one of the largest elephant seal rookeries in the world.
Things to do in San Simeon
Built in the 1920s by an American newspaper magnate, Hearst Castle is a vision of terraced gardens, bubbling fountains and sparkling pools. Guided tours take you behind the scenes of the estate and into lavishly decorated rooms. Neptune Pool is the castle’s piece de resistance, designed by famed American architect Julia Morgan. You’ll be dazzled by the gleaming marble tiles and soaring Roman Revival pillars.
The castle overlooks William Randolph Hearst Memorial State Beach, a beautiful stretch of sand where you can sunbathe, swim and beachcomb. Enjoy a picnic on the grassy foreshore and cast a line off the wooden fishing pier.
Visiting the Piedras Blancas Rookery is like stepping into a David Attenborough documentary. It’s one of the largest elephant seal rookeries in the world and gets you up close with the impressive marine mammals. In peak season, you can see thousands of seals basking on the shoreline.
Piedras Blancas Light Station has been guiding ships along the California coast since 1875. At 21 metres high, it’s one of the tallest lighthouses on the West Coast and commands sweeping views over San Simeon Bay. Guided tours give more information on the unique history of the lighthouse and offer access to a scenic coastal trail.
Getting around San Simeon
San Simeon is compact and easy to get around on foot, though rental cars offer the freedom to explore San Luis Obispo County at your own pace. The town is located on Highway 1, a four-hour drive from San Francisco and Los Angeles.