On the Pacific

San Simeon, PCH & Piedras Blancas Rookery

elephant seals along the coast
Elephant seals near the Piedras Blancas Rookery - Photo by Yvonne Carpenter-Ross

Part 3 of the Series: Pismo to Carmel: One Taste at a Time

Join us as we travel from Pismo Beach to Carmel-by-the-Sea tasting good food, wines and stopping at sights along the scenic California coast! In this leg of our journey, we’ll leave Paso Robles behind and head for the coast. We’ll travel north on PCH and north of San Simeon taking in the sites on our final destination to Carmel.

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tasting room in paso robles
Grey Wolf Cellars Tasting Room – Photo by Yvonne Carpenter-Ross

For some unknown reason – and the fact that we were still close to our hotel, we decided to make one last stop for the day. It was at the Barton Family Estate, Home of Grey Wolf Cellars. I’ll apologize now for not remembering the wines we tasted.

Part of that lapse is from an over-taste of red wine earlier that day. Although I will say the name intrigued me and is part of the reason we stopped. The person doing the taste for us seemed like she couldn’t wait until her shift was over…  It was however, a Sunday and we stopped toward the end of the day, so I can forgive her. The tasting – three whites and three reds – was short, not much info was shared, and the wines were not really all that distinguished.

A Trip to the J. Lohr Winery…

There certainly are plenty of great places to stay in the Paso Robles area and lots of dinner venues as well. And that was a good thing, because my taste buds were struggling and it was time for a shower and dinner, so we headed back to the Hampton Inn & Suites. Dinner was had at a nearby Mexican restaurant, where we also planned the next day’s agenda. It was an agenda that was supposed to include a trip to the J. Lohr Winery – a stop we had definitely planned to make!

The best-laid plans, though, always seem to find a way to come undone. And on this trip, the stop at J. Lohr did not happen. But there must have been a good reason, because another stop – unplanned – made things right.

moonstone beach bar and grill sign
Moonstone Beach Bar & Grill – the sign said closed but we waited until they opened! – Photo by Yvonne Carpenter-Ross

Moonstone Beach Bar & Grill

Smoked Salmon Quesadilla – Photo by Yvonne Carpenter-Ross

Fate would have us head west to the coast instead and we ultimately ended up driving the final 90 or so miles back to Carmel along the Coast Highway, a beautiful and scenic route. Although we did not get to visit J. Lohr, we drove through the quaint little town of Cambria. Unfortunately, we were a tad too early for a tasting at the local winery there (Moonstone Cellars).

So, instead we intersected with and followed the Coast Highway north, stopping at a seaside eatery in San Simeon – actually on Manhattan Ave, along the ocean front. – called Moonstone Beach Bar & Grill. We literally stumbled upon this place quite by accident. It was a great find!

We decided to have a mid-morning snack and include a discussion of our itinerary. Sitting on a patio with a front-row-seat view of the Pacific Ocean, we enjoyed a special of the day: Smoked Salmon & Cream Cheese Quesadilla, with fresh tomatoes, green onions and salsa verde! M-m-m-m-m! And of course, it was accompanied by a chilled glass of – what else – J. Lohr Chardonnay! If we couldn’t get to the winery, this was the next best thing! View J. Lohr wines on Wine.com

Hearst Castle, & Piedras Blancas Rookery

Elephant seals
Elephant seals basking on the beach – Photo by Yvonne Carpenter-Ross

Afterwards, we continued north, with stops to view San Simeon’s Hearst Castle, take a peek at the Hearst Ranch Winery and Tasting Room (not an impressive stop, but interesting). The castle was built between 1919 and 1947 and sits majestically atop a high hill in San Simeon.

It’s an incredible view and an unforgettable experience. With eight different tours at the Castle, you’ll definitely be able to choose one that fits your taste. You’ll want to make Hearst Castle part of your tour of the California coast!

Just north of San Simeon and nearby Hearst Castle is the incredible Elephant Seal viewing area at the Piedras Blancas Rookery along the coast. That viewing area provided some “National Geographic-like” photo opportunities and a chance to just listen to the roar of the ocean and take some time to relax and enjoy the California sunshine. Perfect!

Pacific Coast Highway and North to Carmel


Big Creek Bridge California
Big Creek Bridge – Photo by Yvonne Carpenter-Ross

The Pacific Coast Highway – sometimes referred to simply as PCH – is probably a trip worth doing at least once in one’s life. It is as scenic as any road I have driven. (Part of the route my mother had followed back in the early 1940’s as I mentioned in my California Connections article).

But a safe top speed is only about 30-35 mph unless you are daring. I unfortunately had little opportunity to rubberneck at the incredible scenery on this trip, as I was driving. We were anxious to now head north on the last part of our journey, from Pismo Beach to Carmel-by-the-Sea.

Places to Stay near Cambria and San Simeon

Additional Resources, Links & Products

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We launched this website in 2004 after getting married on a beautiful bluff just south of Carmel-by-the-Sea, on the patio of a small restaurant called Rocky Point. Since that time, we have returned to the West Coast as often as time and funds would allow, always seeking new restaurants, wineries, beaches, unforgettable memories…“


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