Weekend Getaway: Cambria, California

Weekend Getaway: Cambria, California

Living on the Central Coast, a quick visit to Cambria with my family is a pretty common event. We love day-tripping the 20ish minutes North to casually stroll their easier (i.e. handicap) trails on a Sunday afternoon, grab lunch at Linn’s Easy as Pie Cafe (behind the main restaurant) & pop through our favorite stores.

However, my wife and I realized that since our honeymoon (Cambria was our first stop up Hwy 1), we haven’t stayed and played tourist in one of our favorite little towns in nearly 2 decades. So… we locked down a sitter for the munchkins, booked a room, made a few reservations, and enjoyed a lovely weekend getaway in Cambria, California!

We hope you can snag a few tid-bits from our trip to create your own magical getaway.

Living in SLO County, it’s actually harder than I thought getting good recommendations for hotels in our area. It makes sense if you think about it… when was the last time you stayed at a hotel in your own town. My wife recalled hearing about local specials at Cambria Pines Lodge, so we gave them a call. After being on hold for 20 or so minutes (insert eye roll), we discovered they didn’t have anything local specific “right now” but gave us 20% off of our rooms for asking. Sweet! They had a dinner, bottle of wine & a room package seeming almost too good to be true, so we locked it down.

The Hotel – Cambria Pines Lodge

Our Cambria Pines Lodge package was: $250 ($276 after taxes) for a 2 room suite, Dinner for 2, a bottle of wine & breakfast. Considering our dinner alone was in the neighborhood of $80 without wine, it was a great choice.

In all… the hotel was pretty good. If you’re not familiar with the property, the break-away individual bungalows and hotel rooms are surrounded by a series of beautiful gardens and walking paths. You can easily get lost (in a good way) going from garden to garden, each with a unique feature.

Add in the comfy benches sprinkled throughout, and you can tell this space was absolutely designed to be the ultimate mental retreat.

The room was pretty much everything we expected. Gas fireplace, flatscreen TVs in each room (which we never used), comfortable enough beds (a tad stiff, but mattresses are so subjective), lounging area, coffee maker & all of your other basic amenities.

It’s funny how many of these accouterments seem so important when thinking of a room… but never really get used. Other than a comfortable bed and a clean bathroom what do you honestly need? Especially in a location like Cambria where the last place you want to be is holed-up in a room. Here are a few images of our home for the weekend:

Alright… hotel aside, let’s get to the important stuff.

Food & Drinks…

Las Cambritas

We were able to get our room before standard check-in time… giving us HOURS until our dinner reservation, meaning it was time to explore. We passed a few cliché tourist town shops, an oddly high number of vacant buildings (what’s happening on Burton drive? See some of the pictures below), and found ourselves seriously in need of an adult beverage. We’ve been to Las Cambritas a handful of times before with family & friends, but never just the two of us. We snagged a shady table outside, and it. was. perfect!

Just as always, the staff was friendly and the chips & salsa were yummy. With dinner on the horizon, we were more in the mood for a small snack and drinks. We munched down on their deep-fried Avocados and imbibed on exactly what the weekend deserved… Margaritas on the rocks!

Hunger gone and a delightful little buzz happening, we embarked down Main street. We opted out of stairs-a-palooza leading down the hill-side from the back of Cambria Pines Lodge to Burton Drive/Rodeo Grounds Rd, so we needed to tread some pavement before hopping back into the car.

With the kids in tow, we don’t normally get to stroll causally and take in all the fun sites… but today we took our sweet time and learned a lot about the rich history of Cambria. (Buckets of Blood is as bad as it sounds… or is it?) If you have time to spare in the cozy sea-side town, do yourself a favor and read a few of the plaques adorning Cambria’s alleyways and even pop into their Historical Museum.

(scroll for more images)

After hours of walking about and having the peace to enjoy each others company, it was time to head back to our room. Dinner was nearing, and a quick wardrobe change was in order. A short evening walk through the gardens (as they were cleaning up after an afternoon wedding) and it was time to eat.

Dinner | Cambria Pines Lodge Restaurant

(this background seems more fitting)

Bottom line: the dinner was “pretty good”. The Lodge Restaurant’s All-American steak & potato vibe fits the atmosphere of the property perfectly. Growing up in the mid-west (Kansas City) the dining room felt like many of the Mid-West-style-not-quite-fine-dining places I remember eating at with the family. The menu was your pretty standard fare of steak & potatoes, surf & turf, pasta, etc…. however, it’s definitely worth mentioning they have a surprisingly nice variety of vegetarian options (including a Gluten-Free Vegetable Lasagne!). For this evening, the two of us chose:

Ravioli

(from the menu) A combination of cheese, sundried tomato, and butternut squash ravioli, topped with herbs from our garden and Parmesan basil cream.

My wife really enjoyed the strong flavors and butternut squash filling. The only downside to a meal such as this one, is the single-flavor-for-every-bite approach. As good as it is… you can only eat so much of the same thing before growing a tad bored.

Surf & Turf

(from the menu) A 9 oz center-cut top sirloin steak topped with our house demi glace and our scampi-style prawns; served with mashed potatoes and fresh vegetables.

I was on the hunt for variety when ordering this meal, and was mostly happy. The steak was cooked & seasoned perfectly, and the demi-glaze did not disappoint. I was a little bummed that their “surf’ consisted of 3 scampi. My wife & I were both on the fence whether the potatoes were instant or not, but ultimately the demi-glaze saved the day either way. I did enjoy my meal… but at $35, I’ll likely order the NY instead and get more of the nicely prepared steak next time.

With dinner, we also opted for our free bottle of wine, a Castoro Cellars private label Cabernet Sauvignon (called “Moonstone”). At different tasting events around the area we have realized neither of us are big fans of Castoro’s wine. For our pallets it’s very acidic, and sadly tonight wasn’t any different. We each had a glass with our meal and took the rest back to our room.

We finished the meal off with a slice of cheesecake to share.

After dinner, we enjoy more ambling about in the gardens (extra fun in the dark with no lights)… made our way back to the room… and called it an early night.

Day 2 – Exploring Cambria

It’s a great thing we hit the sack early… because we did NOT have a great night’s sleep. I mentioned earlier that mattresses are so subjective, it’s nearly impossible to talk preference… so we won’t discuss the mattress. Except to say it was so “bouncy”, every time I moved it woke my wife up and vice-versa. The room itself was comfortable, but loud. We were upstairs and in the top corner of the building, and we STILL could hear people through the walls, outside, in the hallway, etc. Plus, the little road that runs behind the hotel (the one that drops down to the shopping districts) apparently has people driving it ALL NIGHT LONG. You could hear engines revving up the hill every few minutes, bleck!

After a long night… coffee & food was mandatory (a lot of coffee). The lodge has a complimentary breakfast, and it was nice. Situated in the same dining room as our dinner last night, there was a variety of Hot eggs, sausages, potatoes, waffles, toast, oatmeal, cereal, fruit & a few pastries…. all served via buffet style self-serve.

Plenty of options for nearly everyone in the family, even for my wife (vegetarian) and me (Gluten-Free).

After stuffing our faces & caffeinating, we roamed their gardens in the early morning (no, “walking their gardens” isn’t code for anything… they really are beautiful, and with enough variety to walk through them during different times of the day).

Only staying one night, and not planning to be back at the hotel before check-out time… we packed our bags and hit the road.

First stop was one of our favorite “secret” destinations in Cambria, Lampton Cliffs Park. If you’ve never been, there is a cliff-side staircase which takes you down to a treasure-trove of tide-pool exploration! I’ve been visiting this little spot since I was a kid, and still have fun navigating the pools. Obviously low-tide is ideal, but any time of day is perfect for this spot. With a few benches scattered about, this is also a killer location during migration season. You can watch whales breach for miles.

Next, we jumped in the car and lazily cruised over to Moonstone Beach Boardwalk to stretch our legs and get some movement. It was casual and scenic, but felt nice to set a decent pace.

Nothing bad to say about the boardwalk whatsoever. It’s very well maintained, wide & level (handicap-accessible), and we easily brought the average walker’s age down by a few decades. 😉

Following our little jaunt, we decided to cruise around the neighborhoods of Cambria to get a feel for this secretive little community we know so little about. I’m not going to post any pictures here… but I will say this. If you want to take a short drive and see some of the most incredible homes you can imagine on the Central Coast (picture multi-multi-million dollar sprawling ranch estates of the stars) Head North on Hwy 1, make a Right on Cambria Pines Road, and keep driving. You can thank me later.
We walked, we drove, we gazed lovingly into each others eyes… and now it was time for a snack and more adult beverages! After a little Yelping, we settled on Indigo Moon back on Main Street. Of all the times we’ve been to Cambria, I am bummed we’ve never stopped here before. We were sat at a little slightly rusted table in their back garden area and completely fell in love with the atmosphere. Whimsical and classy all rolled into a delightful little ball of relaxation. We stumbled into the perfect spot for conversation, something to snack on & drinks.

We settled on their cheese plate appetizer which was a joyful mix of local cheeses, fruits, walnuts, pears & bread slices so good, we’re still talking about them today. Paired with a Pinot and TapIt IPA, we were in heaven. Not sure if we were here for an hour, or for hours… but time seemed to slow down in a really great way!

The Cambria Scarecrow Festival was kicking off the day after we left, and businesses were starting to trickle their exhibit pieces onto the curb. Here are a few that made us stop and take notice (I’m sure many, many more were displayed after we left)…

More walking… more shops… and I think we’re kind of running out of things to see in Cambria at this point. Of course, there are trails in the area we normally visit, but not feeling it today. Hearst Castle is also a short drive up the road, but not feeling it today. We were in more of a “hang-out and chat” mood, so… we continued to roam around casually. Finally, we decided to stop and find another place for a light snack and adult beverage.

We settled on Cambria Pub & Steakhouse. If you’re looking for a lively pub to watch the game (any game… they have like 10 TVs), grab a drink & cheer… this is your jam!

We snagged a corner table, ordered some greasy (in a good way) fries and drinks. My wife was hydrating and I ordered a Hennessy & soda (I never realized Hennessy & fries worked so well together). I was a tad worried when one bartender was serving the entire room solo, but homie was on it.

After an hour or so of recharging and drinks, we were growing a little restless and needed to get out. We’ve hit all the tourist traps, stopped by our favorite stores to see what’s new, ate, drank… now what? We do have dinner reservations in a few hours, but what to do until then?

We walked. This time through the back corners and cul-de-sacs of Main & Burton, and I have to say… I was a little surprised how neglected some of the old storefronts & back-lots were. There was a “Greenspace Reserve” which looked more like a dumpsite, and some scary looking buildings on West Street. It’s almost as if we stumbled onto little corners of Cambria forgotten by the rest of the world… or a major movie studio is preparing to film a very realistic end-of-world/apocalypse style flick.

After 2-3 hours of ambling about, window shopping and casual conversation, it was time for our dinner reservation. For our final meal in Cambria we chose one of our favorites…

Robin’s Global Cuisine

We arrived a few minutes early (before they opened) to snap pics of the place empty, but these images simply don’t do the atmosphere justice. It’s about as relaxing and comfortable as you can get in a restaurant. The only thing you’ll think about here, is how delicious the food is! (Robin’s has that same magicial vibe you get when visiting Disneyland)

After being greeted by our fantastic waiter, Tony, we kicked off the night by ordering a couple wine flights and the Meze Plate (carrot miso hummus, babaganoush, tzatziki, olives roasted garlic and lavash).

She Ordered (left to right):

“Local Favorites Red Wine Flight”

Tolosa Pinot Noir – Force of Nature Tempranillo – Pessimist by Daou

I Ordered (left to right):

“International Trio Mixed Flight”

Acinum Extra Dry Prosecco – Bollig-Lenhert Reisling – Tenuta di Arceno, Chianti

My stunningly beautiful date this weekend!!!

Starting off our dinner with a glass of wine & Meze plate will now be our new go-to move. It was perfect.

Tony mentioned the Salmon Bisque is nearly famous, so I absolutely had to have a bowl. Now sure if it was the ambiance, the live music, the company, or it really lived up to it’s hype… but damn that was good soup!!!

Speaking of live music, we were fortunate enough to stop in during their annual Harvest Jazz Nights in the Garden, and heard the beautiful tunes of “Classinova with Brynn Albnese”. Here’s a quick taste…

Now the main course…

My lovely date ordered “Robin’s Chow“, described on the menu as: wok-flashed pasta, farmer’s market vegetables, garlic, ginger and soy; with Tofu.

I ordered “Roghan Josh” described on the menu as: north indian lamb curry, yogurt, tomatoes, green beans, almonds, yogurt, cilantro-mint chutney, chapati.

Both meals were absolutely fantastic! Vegetables were so fresh they tasted as if there was a hidden garden out back they plucked our ingredients from. I’m, personally, a big fan of exotic foods… and the Roghan Josh absolutely makes it in my all-time top 5 dishes. The Cilantro-mint chutney is to die for!

Robin’s Chow

Roghan Josh

We rounded our meal off with a delightful and light “Sweet Trio”, belgian dark chocolate mousse, lemongrass-ginger creme brûlée & housemaid sorbet. The perfect ending to a powerhouse meal of dynamic flavors, incredible atmosphere, top-notch friendly service and a weekend designed for recharging our batteries.
We packed up our leftovers (which were very quickly devoured the next day) and made our way back to the car for our short drive back home.

Final note: if you’re looking for a perfectly quiet place to unplug (figuratively & literally) from whatever it is that drags you down day-to-day… I highly recommend Cambria, CA!

With everything going on in our regular work lives, having the chance to truly spend one-on-one time with my wife was magical. Work, school & sports schedules for the kids, volunteer work, even the stress of figuring out what’s for dinner… all of it just melted away on this trip.

If you take our recommendations and go, I hope you find even a little of the Pines-by-the-Sea nirvana we did. 🙂

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