Escape to Cambria

Savor ocean, pines, and great pie on a three-day coastal California weekend

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Cambria: Charms of California's Central Coast

The golden coast: trail at Cambria's East West Rancho.

Chris Leschinsky

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  • Cambria: Charms of California's Central Coast

    Main Street Cambria

  • Cambria: Charms of California's Central Coast

    Venture off the main drag to sample Linn’s olallieberry pie.

Rising from a rocky shoreline into hills covered by Monterey pines, Cambria has a spirit shaped equally by ocean and forest.

Midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, this Central Coast town boasts several miles of coastline and, especially in spring, is bordered by rolling hills green enough to evoke the Welsh origins of its name.

The village itself sits deep in a knoll between wooded slopes. Quaint but not cloyingly so, it has 19th-century cottages set in lush gardens while a lawn-bowling green commands a prominent place on a main street named Main Street.

Back when this area was busy with whaling, mining, and logging, Cambria was known as Slabtown. Rugged as the town was, the name referred not to tombstones but to the slabs of rough wood used in building construction.

These days Cambria's trees and mountains are cherished rather than bought and sold, and the town makes an ideal base for anyone looking for a weekend filled with long beach walks or hikes into the hills. Browsing, not brawling, is the main village pursuit, and shops and galleries feature many of the local artists and craftspeople who have settled here. It's no wonder they chose Cambria ― a place where beauty and inspiration are never very far away.

Day one: Stroll the beach, art shop, eat some great olallieberry pie

The ideal start to a Cambria day is a walk at Moonstone Beach. You can take the boardwalk that follows the bluffs or walk along the beach, named for the white agates sometimes found here.

Head into the village for breakfast, where, on Saturdays, Lily's Coffeehouse serves crêpes on its patio. Then browse for art. The Vault Gallery is located in a 1920s bank building. Next door, Sunfire Gallery spotlights glass art by owner Larry E. Newsum III, while Seekers Glass Gallery's collection includes pieces by artists from around the country.

For lunch, Robin's Restaurant has an eclectic menu that features daily salad specials and a flavorful salmon bisque. Its vine-covered patio is one of Cambria's most appealing dining spots. Save room for dessert and drive up Santa Rosa Creek Road to Linn's Farmstore for its country setting and famous olallieberry pie. From here, double back to State 1, then head south a short distance to Harmony. While the old dairy town has seen busier times, you can watch glassblowing demonstrations, visit a pottery studio, and end your afternoon with wine tasting at Harmony Cellars. Then join the locals for oysters, clams, and other seafood at the Sea Chest on Moonstone Beach.

Moonstone Beach. Along Moonstone Beach Dr. off Windsor Blvd.

Lily's Coffeehouse. $; closed Tue (crêpes 11-4 Sat only). 2028 Main St.; (805) 927-7259.

The Vault Gallery. 2289 Main; or (805) 927-0300.

Sunfire Gallery. 2289 Main; 805/927-1800.

Seekers Glass Gallery. 4090 Burton Dr.; or 805/927-4352.

Robin's Restaurant. $$$; lunch Mon-Sat, brunch Sun, dinner daily. 4095 Burton; (805) 927-5007.

Linn's Farmstore. $; 10-5 daily. Five miles east of town on Santa Rosa Creek Rd.; (805) 927-8134.

Harmony Cellars. Tasting $2. 3255 Harmony Valley Rd., Harmony; or (805) 927-1625.

The Sea Chest. $$$ (no credit cards accepted); dinner Wed-Mon. 6216 Moonstone Beach Dr.; (805) 927-4514.

Annual Garden Extravaganza. 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, June 4, 2006; $35 admission includes breakfast at Cambria Pines Lodge, tours of six gardens, and a dessert/champagne reception. (805) 909-2181.


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