As one approaches San Simeon from the south, two white towers appear in the distance, an unlikely apparition in the rolling hills above the Pacific Ocean. This is Hearst Castle, well worth your visit, and not only because of its 90,000 square feet of living space, 56 bedrooms and 61 bathrooms, two pools and a movie theater. It is worth a visit as one of the world’s greatest showplaces of wealth, art, impeccable taste, and the imagination of a great man.
Plans for the castle began in 1919. It was built over a span of 28 years, but much of it remains unfinished. The grounds at one time extended to 250,000 acres, including an exotic animal zoo. William Randolph Hearst left the castle in 1947. It was donated to the state of California in 1957 and is now managed by the Park Service. Hearst Ranch, 82,000 acres of mountains and oak-crowned hills, along with 18 miles of pristine California coastline, is undergoing one of the most complex land-preservation deals in state history.
Five different tours of the castle are available, 75 minutes in length, starting at 9 a.m. in off-season (October – February), 8 a.m. in peak season (March – September). Tour buses drive you from the visitors center up the steep 5-mile road to the castle. Though you can purchase tickets upon arrival, prior reservations are strongly recommended.
Peak season ticket prices (May 15 – September 15) are $24 for adults and $12 for children for day tours. Off-Season ticket prices (September 16 – May 14) are $20 for adults and $10 for children for day tours. Evening tour prices are $30 for adults and $15 for children.
Or reserve by phone at 1-800-444-4445.
The IMAX movie, Hearst Castle: Building the Dream, is shown every 45 minutes starting at 8:15 a.m. You may view it either before or after the tour.
How to Get There:
From the Inn at Morro Bay, turn left onto State Park Road, which will immediately become Main Street. Travel along Main Street through the city of Morro Bay approximately two miles to Hwy 1. Merge onto Hwy 1 north and follow it for approximately 30 miles. The Hearst Castle Visitor Center entrance will be on your right.