Cambria Visitor Guide
Nestled among towering pines that overlook the shimmering sea, the picturesque village of Cambria enchants visitors with its historic architecture, distinctive shops and a bustling art scene. It’s hard to believe, but this incredibly beautiful, culturally sophisticated community with the well-known tagline “where the pines meet the sea” was once called Slabtown! Early photographs reveal buildings made from rough slabs of wood that likely contributed to the name.
Like so many cities and settlements in California, Cambria grew up on a Mexican land grant owned mostly by one man. By the 1860s, other investors moved in, divided it up, purchased their slice of paradise, and began to build homes, hotels, and businesses to support the early industries of cinnabar mining, lumbering, dairying, beef cattle ranching, and grain and orchard farming. In 1870, through the influence of a wealthy surveyor, it was renamed after a Welsh settlement in Cambria County, Pennsylvania.
Even after 1894, Cambria remained relatively isolated as the new railroad bypassed the city. The advent of the automobile and better roads in the early 1900s helped the town to thrive; but it wasn’t until 1958, when Hearst Castle was opened to the public, that Cambria came into its own as a popular tourist destination.
Drawn by its stunning beauty, the serenity of its relative isolation, and its mild ocean climate, artists of all stripes – from painters to musicians, builders to actors, gourmet chefs to medicinal herbalists – have made their homes here. This rare concentration of talent contributes to the plethora of galleries, workshops, antique and specialty shops that pack the quaint village streets in both sections of town. It also fosters the lively jazz, classical music, theatre, and food scene here.
The little museum run by the Cambria Historical Society is now housed in a fully restored historic home, the Guthrie-Bianchini House at 2251 Center Street, and is well worth a visit. Here, discover moving displays of The Building of Highway One, The Great Fire of 1889 that destroyed most of the town, and The Sinking of the S.S. Montebello in 1941 off Cambrian shores – a little-reported event that happened just days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Rent bicycles or horses to explore; go golfing or hiking; shopping or fishing; wine-tasting or whale-watching. Cambria is like no other place you’ve ever been, but it’s surely a place you’ll revisit again and again. San Luis Obispo locals do… it’s a favorite day trip in their own backyard.
Average temps in Cambria tend to be cooler all year round than the rest of the county. In the spring, temps range from 45 to 68; in summer 54 to 73; in fall 46 to 71; and in winter 42 to 67. Humidity is in the 45% to 65% range. And Cambria gets about 20 inches of rain each year, pretty much evenly distributed.
Comfortable shoes, a warm jacket, and lots of layers that include a good sweater are in order here. Also suggested are hiking boots, binoculars, and your favorite birding book.