SAN SIMEON, California: The coastline that parallels Route 1 in central California is so breathtaking that you might be forgiven for missing the zebras on the opposite side of the road. And that huge chateau perched far off on the hillside? Almost unnoticeable at highway speeds.
Both belong to the legacy of larger-than-life newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst, who chose this surprisingly unobtrusive spot along the Pacific Coast Highway to build his 165-room estate.
Now overseen by the state park system, the site known as the Hearst Castle is worth a side trip if you’re driving between San Francisco and Los Angeles. An array of tours offers a glimpse into the lifestyle of the rich and famous that, while not quick or cheap, is not something you’ll soon forget.
The Mediterranean revival-style property designed by architect Julia Morgan occupies land in San Simeon that had been in Hearst’s family for decades. The original acreage had few amenities and the publisher reportedly told Morgan in 1919: “We are tired of camping out in the open at the ranch in San Simeon and I would like to build a little something.”