A visit to Morro Bay and San Simeon provide visitors with a taste of what the Hearst family appreciated about California’s central coast: coastal hills, ocean and estuary wildlife, and outdoor recreation.
Morro Bay State Park
Morro Bay’s prominent rock feature, nearby salt marsh, and surrounding estuary are protected by the California State Park system as Morro Bay State Park.
The natural bay habitat is best appreciated after visiting the Museum of Natural History, located adjacent to the campgound, marina, and salt marsh. The Museum features a bay window, interactive displays for children, and excellent descriptions of the area’s wildlife, geology, oceanography, and human use.
Morro Bay State Park Campground has 134 sites accomodating tents, trailers, RVs, and groups. A number of sites have water and electric hookups. Bathrooms feature flush toilets and coin operated shower rooms.
The Bayside Cafe is a very short walk from the campsite and a popular local eatery for good reason. We asked around about the cafe and a volunteer at the museum told us that she liked everything on the menu. The cafe was opened in the ’80’s by a local university graduate who used her own recipes; you can’t go wrong.
Hearst Castle State Historic Park
Hearst Castle, once a residence for newspaper and real estate man, William Randolph Hearst, is a National and California State landmark managed by California State Parks. Designed by Julia Morgan, the castle was built in 1919 on a hilltop above the coastal town of San Simeon. Experiencing Hearst Castle is an opportunity to time travel to the era of silent films. The Casa Grande main house and Casa del Mar cottage at La Cuesta Encantada, The Enchanted Hill , was a “weekend away with the Hearsts” for film stars such as Charlie Chaplin, Marion Davies, Cary Grant, Mary Pickford, and Greta Garbo.
The tall ceilings, European imports, wooden doors, statues, and tiles from the ‘20’s give a certain feeling of old Hollywood and classic coastal California living. The outdoor Neptune Pool is famously photographed regularly, and the indoor pool is what swimming dreams are made of. Reportedly, the tennis courts were the most used recreation area, because many of their guests did not know how to swim. Hearst Castle State Historic Park offers a handful of tours to visitors, including tours of the main rooms, private rooms, cottages and kitchen. They are all popular, so it is recommended to book tours online in advance.