Overlooking the Pacific Ocean and masterly situated on the Central Coast hilltops of San Simeon, rests Hearst Castle, one of California’s most visited historic landmark estates. It is little wonder why the early 20th Century newspaper publisher, William Randolph Hearst, formally named the estate “La Cuesta Encantada” meaning “The Enchanted Hill.”
The 250,000 acres estate features the breathtaking twin-tower Casa Grande and three Spanish guesthouses – Casa Del Sol, Casa Del Monte, and Casa Del Mar where W.R. Hearst spent his last years. Today this expansive estate attracts millions of travelers each year who eagerly tread the 127-acre grounds of lush terraced gardens, walkways, fountains, and pools while experiencing Hearst’s grand art collection on display throughout the 165-room estate.
Notable historic areas of The Enchanted Hill include the famous Neptune Pool(currently empty and under restoration), the truly unique indoor Roman Pool, the extravagant wine cellar, private tennis courts, the Hearst Airport (the original airstrip – located directly behind the Visitors Center), and what little remains of what was at one time the world’s largest private zoo.
W.R. Hearst would spend almost 3 decades collaborating with the architect, Julia Morgan, on the design and construction of La Cuesta Encantada. This “museum like no other” would eventually showcase his massive European/Mediterranean private art collection, which can be seen today on display throughout the castle’s breathtaking interior and grounds. With over twenty-five thousand artifacts ranging from Egyptian, Greek, and Roman antiquities along with Old Master European paintings, sculptures, and decorative art, it is evident that W.R. Hearst envisioned more of a grand museum than a hilltop retreat.
Visitors may discover Hearst Castle through a variety of 60-minute guided tours. Travel back in time as a guest with the popular Grand Rooms Tour (wheelchair accessible), experience some of the most personal rooms with the Cottages & Kitchens Tour, explore the upper floors of Casa Grande including the spectacular Gothic-style Study on the third floor with the Upstairs Suites Tour, or enjoy the estate at night during the Spring and Fall with an Evening Tour (wheelchair accessible). If Architecture is your passion, you might consider the 75-minute Designing the Dream Tour which guides you through the design and construction of Hearst Castle. Seasonal tours include the Holiday Twilight Tour (wheelchair accessible), Hearst and Hollywood Tour, Art of San Simeon Tour and Private Tours.
Included in your ticket price is Hearst Castles resident film, “Hearst Castle – Building The Dream,” which can be experienced on a massive five-story screen Iwerks theater built three stories underground. Hearst Castle Theater, designed by Gary F Harcourt, Architect, is approximately 17,000 square feet, handicap accessible, and features 360 seats with an architectural style that complements the adjoining Visitors Center.
The Visitors Center, located at the bottom of the hill, is where you’ll purchase tickets, enjoy restaurants, refreshments, and snacks, explore souvenir gift shops, and experience the Iwerks Theater before jumping on a scenic 5-mile bus ride up the hill and beginning your tour at the castle. Ticket prices start at $25 for adults and just $12 for children. Guests should book arrangements in advance by phone (800) 444-4445 or by visiting www.hearstcastle.org.
With so much to take in and experience, we are almost certain that you’ll return a second or third time to explore more of this National Historic Landmark. Consider extending your Hearst Castle day trip and taking an exciting week-long vacation to experience nearby attractions in both San Simeon and Cambria. If you’ve planned a trip to the “Enchanted Hill” in the fall, winter or early spring, consider dropping by San Simeon’s nearby coves just minutes away to watch as many as 17,000 elephant seals in action. They are loud, fat, ugly and quite fascinating to watch.
What was your most memorable experience touring Hearst Castle? Which guided tour did you find most Intriguing? Which room or area of the castle would you spend most of your time in as a guest of William Randolph Hearst? Let us know by responding in the comments below.