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How to cruise the coast

Explore San Luis Obispo County's natural side

The northern c coast sits roughly halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. For general information contact the Cambria Chamber of Commerce (805/927-3624), the Cayucos Chamber of Commerce (805/995-1200), or the San Simeon Chamber of Commerce (805/927-3500).

HISTORIC SITES

Hearst Castle. Three different tours are available in January; reservations are required. Daytime tours from $10; nighttime tours, available spring and fall, $20. Just north of San Simeon off State 1; www.hearstcastle.org or (800) 444-4445.

William Randolph Hearst Memorial State Beach. Location of historic pier and nearby townsite, including the 19th-century Sebastian's Store, which has historic artifacts on display and art and souvenirs for sale. Off State 1 at San Simeon Rd.; (805) 927-2020.

EXPLORING

East-West Ranch. Six trails, including the 1-mile Bluff Trail, are accessible here. Parking is very limited, but Friday through Monday you can take the Otter Trolley from Cambria (every half hour 9-6; free). For more information visit www.northcoastswap.org or call the Cambria Chamber of Commerce (805/995-1200).

Elephant seals. January is a good time to see bulls competing for territory and females bearing pups. A docent-staffed viewing site is 4 miles north of the turnoff for Hearst Castle. Friends of the Elephant Seal; (805) 924-1628.

Estero Bluffs. Take a walk along this 3 1/2-mile stretch of coastline. Turnouts north of Cayucos mark the entry points. (805) 549-3312.

Moonstone Beach. A blufftop boardwalk extends roughly 1 mile along this popular Cambria beach. On Moonstone Beach Dr. off State 1; (805) 927-2020.

San Simeon State Park. For a 3 1/2-mile hike, follow the boardwalk across the marsh and up to the blufftop Monterey pine forest. North of Cambria at San Simeon Creek Rd.; (805) 927-2020.

DINING

Hoppe's Garden Bistro and Wine Shop. One of the Central Coast's top restaurants. Closed Mon-Tue. 78 N. Ocean Ave., Cayucos; (805) 995-1006.

Main Street Grill. Great for casual lunch and dinner. 603 Main St., Cambria; (805) 927-3194.

Robin's. Relaxed atmosphere and healthy fare. 4095 Burton Dr., Cambria; (805) 927-5007.

The Sow's Ear Cafe. Hearty, traditional cuisine. 2248 Main, Cambria; (805) 927-4865.

LODGING

Cayucos Sunset Inn. New bed-and-breakfast on Cayucos's main drag. From $150. 95 S. Ocean Ave.; www.cayucossunsetinn.com or (877) 805-1076.

FogCatcher Inn. Just across from Moonstone Beach. From $99. 6400 Moonstone Beach Dr.; www.fogcatcherinn.com or (805) 927-1400.

Ragged Point Inn & Resort. Sitting on high cliffs in southern Big Sur, this self-contained inn has a restaurant, general store, and gift shop. From $89. 19019 State 1; www.raggedpointinn.net or (805) 927-4502.