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Hearst Castle

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Ontario, Canada
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Hearst Castle

If I book a 3:00 tour on a Sunday in May, what time should we arrive at the visitors centre to see the movie before we board the bus? We are driving down from Carmel that morning and then staying overnight in Cambria. Will we be finished the tour in time to check into our hotel and have time to relax before going out for dinner? I was thinking about trying the Sea Chest Restaurant but don't want to arrive so late that we won't get a table.

Corona del Mar, CA
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for San Diego, Orange County, California
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1. Re: Hearst Castle

And no plans to see anything on the way down?

I might try for the 1:30PM movie. I am not sure about the 2:15PM one since it ends at 3PM.

Ontario, Canada
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2. Re: Hearst Castle

Wow, I had no idea that the movie was so long. I was hoping to leave Carmel around 9:00 and stop at as many places as possible. I have not bought tickets yet, but looks like we won't have time to see the movie and do the tour. We can take a later tour say around 3:30 so we are not rushed on the way down. We won't have time the next morning to see the castle because we are leaving for Sequoia National Park.

Grover Beach...
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for Pismo Beach, Cambria, Big Sur
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3. Re: Hearst Castle

Yeah, definitely book the latest Hearst tour you can get because you just don't know how much time you'll take on the drive down through Big Sur and you don't want to feel rushed to get there.

Have you made a list of stops along the Big Sur coast you want to see? If so, I can tell you if you can realistically make it by 1:30 pm to see the movie. My gut tells me no.

Cambria, California
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4. Re: Hearst Castle

The movie lasts about 50 minutes and you need to be done by at least 2:45 to have time to get to the restroom, if needed, and get on the bus which leaves the Visitor's Center right at 3:00. Your tour will end around 4pm and you'll have about an hour to roam around the grounds if you want to stay that long. The 3:30 tour reaches the hilltop at 3:50 and you'd be done at 4:30, giving you about 30-40 minutes for time to walk around the grounds. I wouldn't make seeing the movie a priority - you can see it after your tour, or just skip it if you want to get back to Cambria for dinner. Most of it's content is covered during your guided tour...and if you REALLY want to see it, they have DVDs in the gift shop (altho' the theater format at the Visitor's Center is IMAX).

As Kibblesmom said, it is a better idea to be able to take your time and enjoy the spectacular drive through the Big Sur coast and get a late tour. If you want to eat at Sea Chest, know that there is usually a line to get in and two seatings - an early and later. They give details on their website. Also know it is cash only. If you don't want to be pressed, there are ample choices for restaurants in Cambria's east and west villages that stay open until 8/9pm.

Napa, CA
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5. Re: Hearst Castle

The "Building the Dream" movie is interesting but not worth cutting short your experiences on the drive down the Big Sur coastline. We ran into the situation where we didn't have enough time to view it before or after our tour so we came back the next morning to see it. Your tour ticket is good the next day to view the movie. Also, there are exhibits in the museum that are worth seeing and those can take an hour or more if you read all the information presented. First movie screening is at 8:15.

Ontario, Canada
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6. Re: Hearst Castle

Thanks for the advice. I would rather be outside enjoying the scenery. I think we'll skip the movie and take a later tour. Kibbles09 I have not planned any stops on our trip south except for Julia Pfeiffer Park. We will be spending a couple days in the Monterey/Carmel area before leaving for Cambria. Our plans there include Point Lobos Park and because my husband is a golfer we will do the 17 mile drive. I would be happy to hear your suggestions. If I book tickets to Hearst Castle for around 3:30 /4:00 will that give us plenty of time to see alot on the drive south? How early will we need to arrive at the Castle visitor centre before our tour starts?

Grover Beach...
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7. Re: Hearst Castle

I suggest booking the 4 pm tour just have that extra cushion of time to reach Hearst Castle. Highway 1 along the Big Sur coast is almost always work in progress. I checked the Caltrans website yesterday and saw at least 3 areas along that route where work is being done. That can mean delays of up to several minutes, so having that cushion of time could come in handy *if* there is road work going on at the time of your visit.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Some of the other places along the Big Sur coast worth a stop (or look):

Bixby Bridge: 15-20 minutes for photos/scenery viewing (Iconic arch bridge used in many car ads. This bridge was thought impossible to build, so it is an early engineering marvel)

Point Sur Light Station: An interesting lighthouse that sits on top of a large "hill" that sits on top of a beach. It's only accessible by guided tour, which are limited and not available every day. But it is a sight to behold on a clear day or when it isn't shrouded in fog as you make your way down the coast.

Phoenix Shop: Great gift shop off the Nepenthe parking lot with Big Sur souvenirs and gifts from around the world. 30 minutes.

McWay Falls @ Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park: 30 minutes. You can park along the highway and look over the fence line, saving you time from entering the park and making the walk over to the lookout trail. Just watch for the sign indicating the turn for "Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park 1/4 Mile". There will be a slight left turn in the road and you'll see an area where you can pull over. There's a boulder with a plaque toward the far south end of the pull out (If it isn't blocked by another car. But if you see a car parked there, you know you're there).

Ragged Point: 15 minutes. Last stop on the elevated section of Big Sur coastline. Ragged Point is a commercial property with 2 restaurants, an inn, mini mart and gas. But it also offers commanding views of the Big Sur coastline from the back of the property looking north.

Elephant seal rookery: 15-20 minutes. 4 miles before you reach the entrance for Hearst Castle is a beach with large marine animals sleeping on the beach. You might luck out and see 2 bull elephant seals fighting over a female.

You should arrive at the Hearst Castle Visitor's Center no later than 15 minutes before your tour starts. I would try to get there at least 30 minutes before just so you can browse the displays and learn a little history of Hearst before your tour.

You'll probably want to carry snacks with you as you make the drive down the coast. Normally, we would suggest having lunch at Nepenthe, but you'll probably be passing Nepenthe too early. There are few dining options between the Big Sur "village" and San Simeon and most are expensive and mediocre.

IF you arrive at Hearst an hour before your tour begins, I suggest going across the highway to Sebastian's General Store, order a sandwich to share (They're huge!) and then drive around the corner to San Simeon pier and enjoy your late lunch at one of the picnic tables while taking in the lovely views of the ocean and San Simeon Point.

Ontario, Canada
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8. Re: Hearst Castle

Sounds wonderful, I can hardly wait to get there. Thank you.

Rockville, MD
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9. Re: Hearst Castle

kibbles09, I don't know if you'll see this reply since it is a few months later that your post above, but I wanted to thank you for the detailed suggestions on where to stop and eat along Big Sur and before Hearst. This really helps with planning our Nov. 1-13 trip. Luckily, we will have a little more room in the schedule for stops along Highway 1 since we will be breaking up the trip with 2 nights in Half Moon Bay, 3 nights in Capitola, 2 nights in San Luis Obispo, and 3 nights in Cambria.

Grover Beach...
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for Pismo Beach, Cambria, Big Sur
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10. Re: Hearst Castle

@ freedshop

Here's a more comprehensive listing of sights along the Big Sur coast I posted under the Top Questions on the Big Sur Forums page to help with your planning. Have a great trip:

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g240329-i513-k7733…