Like something out of a dream is the Hearst Castle, which sits at the south end of Big Sur, California. This is a one of a kind California attraction, with over 144 rooms, 36 of which are bedrooms. Most visitors will stay at the nearby San Simeon hotels so they have enough time to take in the scenic Central Coast.
The inspiration for Hearst Castle came from William Hearst, who inherited the land around where the castle now stands. In the time that the ranch was owned by the wealthy miner George Hearst, it had grown from the original 40,000 acres he purchases in 1865 over 250,000 acres. Friends and family of the Hearst's used to camp out in elaborate tents, separate ones for sleeping and dining. When William Randolph Hearst inherited the ranch from his father in 1919, he commissioned San Francisco architect Julia Morgan to design a mansion on an impressive scale.
There is a small museum that is open from 9am to 5pm. You can learn more about the original owner of Hearst Castle by visiting the museum and taking the tram to the house. There are four different tours that take you around the opulent house, each of which takes you to different parts of the house, pools, and gardens. These range from $10 to $14 dollars and take roughly two hours. In the summer, reservations are highly recommended.
Set on a rocky perch commanding excellent views of the Pacific Ocean, Heart Castle is a sprawling estate covering 127 acres, filled with pools, terraces, gardens, and walkways.
Hearst Castle was built at a great expenditure of time, effort, and money. What would cost billions nowadays is what William put into this estate, which was estimated to be between 30 and 40 million at the time. When he should have been busy with his publishing company and movie studio, Hearst was busy moving 33 cypresses from Paso Robles for two years. He replaced the single tower with two, and uprooted and replanted a plum tree that was 3 inches out of alignment.
25 years was spent in the construction of Hearst Castle, including time consuming changes such as tearing down and rebuilding a guest house because the it seemed to close as he drive up the hill, and sparing no expense whatsoever. What is now a California attraction is where the Hollywood elite would come for lavish parties, with each guest having his own opulent room. Some of the details you might see are the real tiles made of gold in the mosaic indoor pool, dozens of fine sculptures and paintings, imported runs and tapestries, and Italian and Spanish mantles and doors.
If you're planning California coast travel, San Luis Obispo is a good place to start on a south to north route. San Simeon is in San Luis Obispo County, and is a good place to start if you're planning to spend a day or two exploring Big Sur and touring a great California attraction. San Simeon hotels are the nearest ones around, so in addition to the Castle you can easily have access to hiking and picnic at parks like Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Parks and Limekiln State Park.
You don't have to plan anything at all, you can simply check into one of the nearby San Simeon hotels and drive up Highway 1, which has great trails and views of the Pacific. As you head north towards Monterey, you will pass by Carmel, which is the city that is at the north of Big Sur. Beginning your California coast travel to the South and watching the landscape change from the warm, vibrant Southern California atmosphere to the breathtaking windswept vistas of the 17 Mile Drive is an unforgettable experience.
Top image: usareisetipps (flickr), CC BY-SA 2.0