Central California: Cambria

Santa Rosa Creek Road, Cambria

30 miles north of San Luis Obispo and 10 minutes past Exit 46 for Paso Robles off Highway 1, you’ll find the lovely small town of Cambria.

A former dairy and timber hub for industrial-era San Francisco, it was re-discovered by Bay Area artists, actors, and farmers in the late 1960s; it now hosts some beautiful craft galleries, a very good restaurant or two, a spot of tea, a fabulous garden store, a sparkling stretch of beach, and a perfect country drive.

From the 1, turn onto Cambria’s Main Street.   If you want to explore said country drive, take a right on Santa Rosa Creek Road.   A quiet, rural two-lane stretch, it runs along the, um, Santa Rosa Creek on one side and the Santa Lucia Mountain foothills on the other.  You’ll pass small farm homes with front-yard orchards, with dappled light through shade willows and eucalyptus.

15 minutes up on the left, you’ll find the McCall Farm B & B, which offers a couple of pretty rooms in late 1800s farmhouse;  mornings here are so quiet you could probably hear butterfly wings flapping out in the idyllic garden.  Try to score the Rose Room — the bed’s soft and comfy – and remember that there are no streetlights at night, so brights are a good idea if you’ve gone into town for dinner.

The greenhouses beside Linn's Fruit Bin

Five miles up you’ll find Linn’s Fruit Bin, a farm stand/store that’s been here since the late 1970s; it’s a good place to pick up some jam, candy, or just a piece of fruit for the road.   Once the scenery turns to forest, not far after Linn’s, think about turning around within ten minutes to avoid potholes and the need for an all-terrain vehicle.

Back at Main Street, take a right to head into the heart of town, known as the West Village.   Burton Drive bisects this part of town, and serves as the secondary drag.  Have fun poking around eclectic galleries to find your taste, and keep an eye out for the following:

Robin’s Restaurant has excellent Mediterranean food.  It’s a great place for lunch because of the vine-covered, semi-open patio, but is also florally comfy inside for dinner.

Wild Ginger offers finely prepared Asian fusion, the only such place you’ll find from here north to Carmel.

Linn’s Restaurant is part of the local Linn mini-conglomerate, great for pies like their famous olallieberry, and hearty breakfasts.

The Tea Cozy offers a lovely British-style high tea in a cute little clapboard house.

The Garden Shed has beautiful wrought iron and ceramic items we don’t often find in LA — they’ll arrange delivery — as well as herbs and coastal-friendly plants.  (We have a great trellis from here in our backyard.)

The Squibb House B & B is a late 1800s house-turned B & B in Cambria’s most central location, with a comprehensive antiques/home store next door; you can find housewares from the 1880s to now.

Cambria continues for just shy of a mile past the West Village, crossing over Highway 1 at its north end and continuing to the right along Moonstone Beach Drive.


The Moonstone Beach Boardwalk in early September

Moonstone Beach has, in places, “sand” made of small smooth pebbles.  I personally love to collect these, so Moonstone’s something like a zen retreat for me; I can get lost for a solid hour just sitting down and sifting through all the different colors.  I bring Ziploc bags to bring my treasures home, pouring them into bowls of water in which I then float a rose or two from my garden.  (Stay around the beauty of California long enough, and you might find yourself doing this sort of decorator-dork thing, too.)

Along the mile-long Moonstone Beach Drive you’ll find:

The Moonstone Beach Bar & Grill, renowned up here for its ocean views from the heated patio – but skip the salads in favor of the sandwiches.

The Fog Catcher Inn has a beautiful garden, upscale rooms, and perfect balcony/decks with ocean views.

There’s a beach boardwalk that winds along 3/4 of a mile and can take you right to San Simeon State Park up the road.  I highly recommend this for a little sea air and, in spring and summer, clusters of wildflowers.



See also
A Dog-Friendly Stay by the Cambria Shore
Weird House of Cambria: Nitt Witt Ridge
Central California: San Simeon
Central California: Paso Robles
The Best of Central California


  1. judy Merrill says:

    We occasionally drive through Cambria and will definitely appreciate the restaurant recommendations, as we are usually hungry by that point in our drive and end up grabbing something from the closest open establishment.


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