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Does this plan make sense? (Drive from LA & Visit to Hearst)

Houston, Texas
Level Contributor
341 posts
100 reviews
Does this plan make sense? (Drive from LA & Visit to Hearst)

Hi All,

Just looking for some advice on our plan:

We are planning on leaving LA around 6:30am - 7am to drive to San Simeon (along the coast, and through Malibu on the way. GoogleMaps tells me that should take about 1.5 hours in traffic). Once we arrive in San Simeon, we want to take a tour of Hearst Castle and see the Elephant Seal Rookery. We will be there in early November, and I understand that the sun sets around 5pm.

I am looking to buy our tickets for the Hearst Castle Tour ahead of time and trying to decide what time to book for. It looks like the latest tour we could take is at 3:20pm, which would give us plenty of time for the drive, and hopefully time to visit the Rookery first. However, from what I have read, the Hearst Castle Tour takes around 2 hours, so we would be finishing after the sun has set. Does that quoted 2 hour visit take into account the free time after the tour to walk around the grounds? Or is that JUST for the tour and transport to the castle? I definitely want to see the grounds and would be very disappointed if it were dark before we were able to see the fantastic-looking pool and grounds! If we took the 3:20pm tour, would we have some free time to roam the grounds before it gets dark at ~5pm? My other potential concern is the Hearst Castle movie. I am assuming that is not included in the tour time, and it looks like it may not run regularly in the evenings, so if we take the last tour I am guessing we may not have time to see it (unless we show up early and watch it before the tour). Is this correct?

Essentially, I am just wondering whether the 3:20pm tour makes logical sense, given my concerns. I want to give ourselves time for the drive from LA and to see the Rookery, but I also don't want to be cheated out of the full Hearst Castle experience by it being dark outside.

Thank you for your help! :)

Danville, California
Level Contributor
1,203 posts
159 reviews
11. Re: Does this plan make sense? (Drive from LA & Visit to Hearst)

Hi Erin464!

https://goo.gl/maps/3i4C2 Suggested Route

Are you going on a Friday or Saturday to possibly take advantage of the Evening tours? They last longer at 1 hour 40 minutes plus the docents in period costume really add to the experience. The Neptune Pool is still fascinating being able to see just how deep it really is. Note: The primary reason to drain it is because of significant leaks which need to be repaired. Target finish repairs year is 2016!

Heading through Malibu I would take a drive up the hill to Pepperdine University for the vistas. At the gate, just say you want to see the campus and enjoy the view. After Zuma Beach, we find Los Pasos Road to be a less traveled connector to Highway 101 near Camarillo. 154 is a nice route up into the mountains from Santa Barbara. If you like wine tasting, then I believe you have time to stop in Los Olivos. Then head by Morro Bay towards San Simeon. Wolff Vineyards outside San Luis Obispo has a nice patio for a picnic (weather permitting) plus some decent wines. Or further along a stop for lunch in Cayucos at Hoppe's Garden Bistro!

Note: I would stop at the Rookery for the Elephant Seals after breakfast in the morning heading towards Big Sur/Carmel. You will probably spend no more than 15 minutes to walk from the parking area to the end of the viewing areas and back. This will be more enjoyable than trying to see them before your Hearst Castle tour.

Hopefully you get a clear evening to enjoy the sunset from La Cuesta Encantada! In order to not stress on times, I would watch the movie after the tour and supplement my before hand knowledge with the wikis: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hearst_Castle The Castle

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julia_Morgan Julia Morgan was a very impressive woman from the 1920's!

This way you have more time of your "limited" time to enjoy the route from LA to San Simeon.

I would stay at Moonstone Beach. The cash only, probable 20 minute wait (no reservations) Sea Chest Oyster Bar is a very good choice for dinner if you like seafood. Moonstone Bar & Grill would be my second recommendation! Sands By The Sea Motel in San Simeon is very clean and a good value for price. Touring some of the galleries in Cambria is also enjoyable!


PS - If you have not seen Citizen Kane the movie, then I highly recommend watching it before your visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizen_Kane "There's no law you have to be sick or injured to own and travel with the siren in your ambulance"!

Edited: 16 September 2014, 02:52
Houston, Texas
Level Contributor
341 posts
100 reviews
12. Re: Does this plan make sense? (Drive from LA & Visit to Hearst)

Wow, thank you StrandsDanville! Great advice!! I will have to play with my itinerary to make it work with all of your wonderful suggestions! :)

Cambria, California
Destination Expert
for San Simeon, Cambria
Level Contributor
563 posts
17 reviews
13. Re: Does this plan make sense? (Drive from LA & Visit to Hearst)

The amount of time you'll have to be on the grounds after your tour is affected by when the hilltop closes. If you are going on a Friday or Saturday night, there are evening tours. The first night tour usually begins around 5:30pm, so anyone who is still there on a daytime tour needs to leave by about 5pm. I didn't see if you mentioned the day of the week you plan to go.

The movie theater usually closes the doors to people coming in 5 minutes after the start, so you'd have to wait for the next one if you miss getting in at the posted times. Your ticket for the movie is part of the ticket you'll receive when you go to the ticket window. Part of it is the bus ticket, the other part your movie ticket.

Yes, it's disappointing that the fountains and Neptune Pool are empty and portable toilets are installed at the Castle. But, looking down from the hilltop at the Hearst Ranch, the property surrounding the Castle, you can see their reservoirs are either empty or very low. The only water source for this area is springs in the mountains 5 miles to the east and after 3 years of below normal rainfall, the water isn't there to replace the 3000+ gallons that were being lost daily to evaporation and leaks in the Neptune pool unless water was trucked up. The pool is being evaluated for repairs - just like at anyone's house, things need to be fixed.

You can see the tour times online to see the gap between tours. Usually during summer and holidays it's 10 minutes but early November could be more than that. And when that is the case, the buses don't leave as often to take you back to the Visitor's Center when you're ready to leave. Might be every 10 minutes or 20 minutes - it's safe to give yourself at least 1.5 hours and a bit more if the buses coming back down are only a few an hour.

Have you considered saving the tour for the next day (morning?) so you're not having to crunch the time frames?

Houston, Texas
Level Contributor
341 posts
100 reviews
14. Re: Does this plan make sense? (Drive from LA & Visit to Hearst)

Sorry for not clarifying - we will be at Hearst Castle on a Thursday. And unfortunately, we will not have time to tour the castle the next morning because we will be driving up to San Francisco, with multiple stops along the way (McWay Falls, Pfeiffer Beach, etc.). It will be a busy trip, but at least we will get to see everything (however briefly)!

We already bought our tickets for the 3:20 tour and will try to get there early enough to see the movie beforehand. If not, it sounds like we will be able to view it after without any issues.

Thanks again to everyone for your help! :)

15. Re: Does this plan make sense? (Drive from LA & Visit to Hearst)

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