Cambria is canine-friendly


Along Highway 1 rests some of California’s most intoxicating scenery. With over 656 miles running mostly along the coast, eye candy abounds. Halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, and a stone’s throw from San Simeon and Hearst Castle, Cambria is a great place to stop to break up a north-south road trip or as a stand-alone get away. Four-legged, furry people are welcome too adding to Cambria’s attraction. This caused the tail of Rerun my Labrador to wag incessantly. Highway 1 Discovery Route

Cambria is canine-friendly

Rerun enjoys a respite after a coastal jog. (Julie L.Kessler/Special to S.F. Examiner)

The bed

Cambria’s newest star is White Water, a pet-friendly lodge on Moonstone Beach that opened four months ago by combining and redesigning two properties. What resulted is a peaceful, 25-room inn. The magnificent, airy lobby has floor-to-ceiling windows offering breathtaking coastal views and Claude Monet-inspired sunsets.

Cambria is canine-friendly

White Water has a picture-perfect lobby. (Julie L.Kessler/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Rooms and suites come in a range of sizes. Mine was 400 square feet and decorated in a well-balanced wedding of subdued beach chic to minimalist Northern European. The electric fireplace visible from the seating and sleeping area gave us a choice of where to curl up; for Rerun, that meant either the portable bed/crate that travels with her or the one White Water had conveniently waiting for her.

Ocean views from the bed and large bathroom with free-standing tub delighted me almost as much as the fresh homemade scones delivered in a morning picnic basket with coffee in an old-fashioned thermos. For those that enjoy bike riding, there are complimentary beach cruisers. Proof that White Water takes hospitality seriously: When after 10,000 miles of pandemic road trips Rerun’s ID tag link disintegrated, the general manager found a spare key ring, fixed her collar and was duly rewarded with slobbery kisses.

The meals

The ocean view patio at Moonstone Beach Bar & Grill is a prime spot as the sounds of surf add to the dining experience. Owner-chef John MacKinnon has been at the helm since 1993, and it has thrived, even during a pandemic with its trifecta of ocean view, delicious food and pleasant staff. The Cioppino I devoured had abundant shellfish and tender crab legs and swam in a perfectly spiced marinara. The creamy cheesecake was worth every single calorie.

In Cambria’s historic East Village is Robin’s Restaurant. Housed in a charming, restored adobe home, it has a heated patio and is pet-friendly. The blackened salmon tacos with criolla salsa and crispy Brussel sprouts were tasty.

If a lunchtime pastrami emergency occurs, head over to the Café on Bridge Street in a historic building with both front and rear dog-friendly patios. Owner-operator Guy Souther also has an extensive vegetarian menu with specialty breads and hearty homemade soups.

For serious comfort food, Linn’s Restaurant signature chicken pot pie is a winner. During COVID, Linn’s is serving outside and is pet-friendly. It’s also physically impossible to walk by the dessert counter without ordering their olallieberry or strawberry rhubarb pie. I was told on good authority that since fruit was involved, those counted as one of the four basic fruit groups. Works for me. You may also have no choice but to take home some spreadable fruit jams.

The finds

The dog-friendly boardwalk along Moonstone Beach is a delight for jogging. Daily, Rerun and I ran several miles round-trip to and through Fiscalini Ranch Preserve, a permanent home to great blue herons, Cooper’s hawks and several other bird species. (Rerun’s DNA nearly gave her continuing whiplash.) Encompassing 437 acres, the dramatic coast rises to a crescendo with its 200-foot ridge in an ideal trio of nature, beauty and solitude.

Cambria is canine-friendly

Stellar views abound at Fiscalini Ranch Preserve. (Julie L.Kessler/Special to S.F. Examiner)

While Rerun napped, I climbed onto a 2,200-pound Clydesdale named Tyler at the 2,000-acre, ocean view Covell Ranch. Riding amid majestic Coast Live Oaks and Monterey pines, it was easy to see why horse breeder Ralph Covell fell in love with the property in the 1990s. Five years ago when his daughter Tara was just 16, she thought it the perfect time to start a riding business. She’s been offering trail rides on these marvelously mammoth horses ever since.

A few miles above Main Street and three miles from the ocean is pet-friendly Stolo Vineyards. Here winemaker Nicole Pope produces fantastic, cool climate artisan wines that belie their reasonable prices. No surprise these small batch wines have been rated 91 to 97-points by Wine Enthusiast. The 92-point 2017 Reserve Chardonnay with hints of lemon shortbread and the white peppery, 97-point 2018 Estate Syrah are both winners.

Antique browsers and shoppers will want to stroll both the East and West ends of Main Street. In four shops, there are several thousand square feet of items you didn’t know you absolutely needed. Rich Man, Poor Man has a great selection upstairs of well-priced, framed photographs of Hollywood’s golden-age glitterati. I purchased a black-and-white of Lucille Ball’s hilarious “VitaMeataVegiman” episode ostensibly for my husband – since sharing is caring after all – which was among plenty of items that doubled as robust conversation starters at Antiques on Main and Granny Had One.

For those wanting Fido permanently memorialized, artist Michae Vistia’s work is shown at Artifacts Gallery. Visitia realistically paints most breeds in humorous, whimsical color palettes that are then transferred onto shiny aluminum decorative wall art.

Cambria is canine-friendly

Artist Michael Vistia’s pooch portraits on aluminum are at Cambria’s Artifacts Gallery. (Julie L.Kessler/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Locals joke that you can smell the Piedras Blancas Northern Elephant Seal Rookery before you arrive. Perhaps because it was mid-winter and a bit windy, it wasn’t malodorous despite the fact that the entire colony numbers at 25,000. Located 15 minutes from Cambria just north of Hearst Castle, the rookery has thousands of seals from January to May (and hundreds during summer months). Rerun was enthralled by these honking, fin-flapping, belching behemoths in various states of repose that use this coastal stretch for breeding and birthing. Viewing the plethora of pups, moms and pops – some weighing 5,000 pounds and reaching 16-feet – was a sight to behold.

Cambria is canine-friendly

A colony of Elephant Seals includes several newborn pups at Piedras Blancas Northern Elephant Seal Rookery. (Julie L.Kessler/Special to S.F. Examiner)

The lesson learned

There is plenty to love about California’s dramatic Highway 1. Being able to enjoy its many virtues in pet-friendly Cambria with Rerun made it even better. She frankly thinks it’s pooch perfect.

Julie L. Kessler is a journalist, attorney, legal columnist and the author of the award-winning memoir: “Fifty-Fifty, The Clarity of Hindsight.” She can be reached at Some vendors hosted the writer however content was not reviewed by them prior to publication and is solely the writer’s opinion.