Beach Stays: Captain’s Cove Inn in Cambria, CA

Beach Stays: Captain’s Cove Inn in Cambria, CA

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When we decided to overnight in Cambria during our California Central Coast road-trip, we had a hard time picking which part of the city to stay in. For a teeny, tiny town like Cambria (population 6,000), that sounds silly to say, but there were in fact two distinct options. We could either choose a darling bed-and-breakfast on the walkable Main Street, or one of the boutique lodgings along the oceanfront. I’m glad I deferred to my husband on this one, because he confirmed my heart’s desire, which was to be on the water always a good choice! And lucky for us, we found a property well under budget that was seriously one of the cutest places we’ve ever booked.

I’ve mentioned before that we like small hotels, but don’t have the best track record when it comes to chatty innkeepers. I’m pleased to say, Captain’s Cove Inn provided an excellent combination of friendliness and privacy. The small-town vibes are strong here. When we asked for dining recommendations, the owner pointed us to a binder that detailed every local restaurant, and then proceeded to print out a map and bring it to our room a few minutes later. It’s sweet touches like these (and the free fresh pastries in our room) that make us want to return to these places over and over. Read on for three reasons to swoon over Cambria and Captain’s Cove Inn.    

The ideal Central Coast location

Cambria’s position on Highway 1 midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco makes it a great stopping point on a road trip in this region. With the ongoing highway and bridge closures around Big Sur, Cambria also is the best place to detour to U.S. 101 down the vineyard-laced state Route 46 that starts near here. The city is small, but charming, with a business district concentrated along two walkable miles of Main Street, a quick inland turn off Highway 1. Pivot toward the ocean instead and you'll be on Moonstone Beach Drive, where a collection of hotels, inns and bed-and-breakfasts overlook the Pacific. A very quiet road runs between the beach and the accommodations, as does a mile-long boardwalk fitting for a sunset stroll.

Castles and lighthouses and seals (oh my!)

The highlight of Cambria is its picture-perfect downtown reminiscent of a European village and full of antique stores, local boutiques, galleries and coffee shops. Other attractions are a short drive away. Just north in San Simeon, Hearst Castle offers property tours of its elaborate suites and grounds. The National Historic Landmark consists of a grand mansion with 115 rooms (including a theater, beauty salon and library), three guest houses, Greek and Roman-style pools, and acres of gardens. Also in San Simeon, you can tour the Piedras Blancas Light Station, an 1875 lighthouse named for the white rocks on the shore. Elephant seals like to hang out near here, and there’s a viewing area a couple miles south of the lighthouse where you can watch them from a safe distance.

All the special touches

With just five rooms, Captain’s Cove Inn feels like a B&B, but without the awkward forced socializing (does that happen in real life or just on Gilmore Girls?). There’s actually a carport between each room, which makes for both convenient parking and quiet accommodations. One special “Captain’s Suite” has an ocean view and patio, but we opted for a deluxe room, which comes with either a king or two queen beds. Wood paneling and a gas fireplace made the space feel super cozy, while thoughtful extras like real coffee mugs, a picnic basket stocked with fruit and pastries, and beach chairs for an alfresco breakfast put this little charmer over the edge. We were particularly appreciative of the paper plates, plastic cutlery and microwave when we found ourselves crafting a gas station dinner at 9:15 p.m. after coming back from a hike to find all the restaurants closed. And despite its low price, especially for a beachfront inn, there was no shortage of handy perks here, like lotion with the bathroom amenities (it’s the small things), gratis juices and soda in the fridge, hot cocoa and a candy jar full of mints. The only thing that could have made this stay any more perfect? A mint on the pillow instead.

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