The Dog Who Went To: Cambria, California
By Jane Turner
Tags: dog friendly hotels in cambria, pet friendly hotels in cambria, dog friendly hotels california
Jane Turner is the author and illustrator of The Dog Who Went to Main Street, a children’s book celebrating adventure, a perfectly imperfect dog, and Main Streets everywhere. Jane travels frequently with her Shih Tzu mix, Dozer, and shares their favorite dog-happy destinations with our readers. Dozer is a rescue, a therapy dog, happens to be totally blind, and is always ready to go.
Driving up the California coast from LA to San Francisco, we chose the decidedly non-urban Cambria as our mid-point stop for a weekend of rugged beach, wineries and lavender fields. All of it Dozer-friendly, so that sealed the deal on Cambria for us.
The vibe: A bit of a closely held secret among its fans, Cambria is what seaside artist colonies must have felt like before the arrival of commercial success and Starbucks sameness. Cambria’s natural heart is Moonstone Beach, where you actually can find moonstones – and larger rocks with lounging seals and sea lions. In Cambria, only nature plays big: outsized sunsets, surround-sound surf, morning fog. Everything else is low-key local; village shops and cafés are individual creations, footwear fashion is flips or hiking shoes, and the lusted-after ride is a vintage truck. Dogs of all sizes fit right in, just an expected part of Cambria area life.
“It’s a dog’s life” cred: For us, true dogcentricity means Dozer can go where we want to go. And here, he did.
If you love exploring vineyards and sampling wines, your dog can be part of the adventure at many wineries that make up the Route 46 wine trail. The drive itself from Cambria toward Paso Robles is worth the trip as the coast turns into winding mountain roads and sky-high, open vistas. Two of our favorites, both sustainable/organic, capture the region’s spirit. Tablas Creek boasts grafted vines from France, highly regarded Rhone varietals, and the irresistible resident greeter Maddie (a rescue from the DC Humane Society). Just up the road, at the historic Halter Ranch with its 1885 farmhouse and modern winery, Dozer was welcomed like a visiting dignitary. We lingered for a picnic at this old-California landmark (Ronald Reagan announced his second gubernatorial run here), while Dozer joined in the festivities and transformed into a furry foodie.
Another kind of experience awaited us at family-run Central Coast Lavender – a dog-loving, organic lavender farm in full bloom. We were happily overwhelmed: Dozer by the scent, the rest of us by the sight of waves and waves of blue-violet stalks.
The “moon walk”
(aka the boardwalk on Moonstone Beach)
Dozer and I decided the rustic boardwalk that hugs Moonstone Beach for almost a mile was the must-walk every day. The slightly elevated boardwalk makes it easy to walk through abundant wildflowers. Sage, mustard, and rock rose add texture and fragrance, while busy ground squirrels and birds provide additional stimulus for interested dogs. In several spots, Monterey cypress create natural archways. With tidepools below and wide sky above, it’s no wonder the Sierra Club named this a “trail of the month.” Its appeal to all the senses (not just sight), earns the “moon walk” a top spot on Dozer’s all-time/anywhere best walks list.
Dining with dogs: a few Dozer hang-outs
• Robin's. Farm to table food in a historic adobe house where your pup can join you in the artistic garden patio. (Call ahead to confirm four-legged guest space.)
• Cambria Pines Lodge. Produce from the organic kitchen garden is handpicked by the chef for every meal which you--and your dog, of course--can enjoy al fresco in one of the kiva-like rock alcoves complete with fireplace.
• Wild Ginger. Southeast Asia meets Pacific Rim in food prepared with local ingredients while your dog gets to meet and greet with other dining-out dogs.
• Indigo Moon. Part café, part artisanal cheese/wine shop with tables outside for cheesehounds and their families. Our default source for take-out when Dozer and I felt like eating at our log bench on Moonstone Beach.
Where to stay
• Fog Catcher Inn. A row of inns (set up in low-slung motel style) line Moonstone Beach Drive, many of them dog-welcoming, most just steps across to the beach. We chose Fog Catcher for grace notes like the ocean view window and the gas fireplace, a plus on foggy mornings and nights. Happenstance chats with frequent, return visitors to Cambria – an interesting mix of mostly Europeans and Californians – confirmed the insider view of Fog Catcher’s place among Moonstone Beach options.
• Cambria Pines Lodge. If mountain lodge is more your style, Cambria Pines, a short, steep drive from the center of town, offers everything from rustic cabins to suites amid towering pines and extensive gardens.
Now that Dozer and I are back in the Connecticut chill, our thoughts are already wandering to our next adventure in the warmth of the California coast!
Photos by Jane Turner