San Simeon and Hearst Castle

Beach Forests

San Simeon State Park is a nice campground nestled in the woods with a five minute walk to the beach. The sites back into lush vines and trees, but have plenty of room for chairs around the fire and a picnic table. We decided to stay three nights and to test our dry camping skills! The first night we roasted hotdogs over our campfire, did the usual smores, and fell asleep listening to Harry Potter on Audible. Yes, we’re nerds. DEAL WITH IT!

Hot dogs at San Simeon State Park

The Wheels on the Bus Go ‘Round and ‘Round

One thing we really wanted to check out while in San Simeon was the famous Hearst Castle. I mean, who doesn’t want to see a castle on hill over looking the ocean?! On our way to the castle, we were surprised to see zebras. Later we learned that they were among the few remaining of Hearst’s collection of exotic animals. They were casually grazing among the cattle on the side of the highway one. Once we parked, Rosella was ready to go see the “princess castle.” We walked inside, she selected the grand room tour (where all the parties were held), and we headed to the buses.

Little known fact about Rosella. She loves buses. Like, loves them. Every time she sees one there’s a 50/50 chance she might have a melt down if she can’t ride it. Don’t ask me why. I have no idea. She’s a weirdo. Once on the bus, Alex Trebek (fine, a recording of Alex Trebek) gave a riveting account of the history of the Hearst family while we climbed the windy hill. We quickly noticed we were the only family with little ones on the tour…was this a sign? Had we made a mistake coming?

“I got to go potty in the castle!”

The tour of the castle was extraordinary. There are so many We kept up with our group, took lots of pictures, and there were a ton of things for the kids to look at. About 45 minutes into the tour Rosella has to use the bathroom. We’re in the middle of the castle…in a dining room. I ask one of the guides about finding an exit (assuming we have to drive all the way down the hill to use a bathroom) and he takes us down a hallway to a “family room”. It’s the coolest family room I’ve ever been in. It looks just like the rest of the castle! Everything antique and original. Awesome! Once everyone was all set the guide connected us back to the tour. At the end we were allowed to roam the grounds. We checked out the gardens, the tennis courts, and the pools and then headed back down the hill for lunch.

Exploring the castle Exploring the castle

Later that night our good friend Spencer drove up from Shell Beach to have dinner with us. Spencer is Andy’s bestie from elementary school. We filled him in on our crazy adventures and newbie mistakes, and he told us about his recent Euro trip where he obtained his master’s degree and upcoming trip to Madrid. We made a fire, and listened to our neighbor’s stories about his life as a deep sea fisherman.

Who doesn’t like shiny rocks?

Moonstone Beach was so cool! Our neighbors told us about it and it was walking distance from our camp. We walked along this little boardwalk to find it from our site. The beach was full of tiny birds, sea shells, and of course shiny tiny rocks. We went on a Thursday so it was practically empty. Rosella enjoyed running around collecting treasures and Ender loved eating as much sand has his chubby fists could carry. While exploring the beach we found an egg washed up on the shore surrounded by interesting rock formations. After investigating the egg, we decided to head back to camp.

Moonstone Beach Moonstone Beach

Elephant Seals/Ragged Point

About fifteen minutes down the road is Piedras Blancas. Here you can see the northern elephant seals up close. Rosella loved seeing the seals flop all over the beach and battle over the sunny spots in the sand. While watching the seals Rosella dropped her toy bird over the wooden railing of the trail. Of course, she became immediately panicked and worried that the seals would eat her bird. Daddy had to jump over the railing and climb down a few rocks to save him. Once saved all was right with the world and we headed to dinner.

Piedras Blancas

We ate dinner at a small restaurant at the Ragged Point Inn, located in Big Sur. The yelp reviews weren’t totally great, but the promise of spectacular scenery is what we really wanted. We sat outside on the porch with our food and watched the sunset. It was the perfect ending to our time in San Simeon.