Cambria is a small town—pop. roughly 6,000—but its reliance on tourism means charming forays are easy to find. For lunch, go to Hidden Kitchen (quite literally tucked away down a dirt road). The cafe specializes in gluten-free blue corn waffles, which can be ordered sweet or savory, and a variety of vegan smoothies. Crunchy, organic California cuisine is also well-represented at Soto’s True Earth Market, the best place to pick up a pre-hike breakfast burrito or beach walk picnic. Come dinnertime, Freudenberger is quick to recommend The Sea Chest, established in 1975, to any first-time visitor: “You walk down with your lantern that we have at White Water, at night next to the water, and you just eat some really buttery shrimp and it’s delicious.” The seafood spot has opened an outdoor patio to accommodate more fresh-air dining amid COVID. They don’t take reservations, but any wait time allows for a stroll along the boardwalk. For those who want their plans decided, Madeline’s both accepts and recommends reservations. It doubles as a wine shop during the day, with a selection focused on local bottles. Those who taste something they like might even be able to visit its vineyard, since the wineries and tasting rooms of Paso Robles (one of the Times’s 52 Places to Go in 2020) are a 40-minute drive away.
But in a year when so many city dwellers have been limited to their cramped apartments, the first thing on the travel to-do list is probably ROAM FREE. The Moonstone Beach boardwalk is within paces of White Water, and the hotel offers complimentary bikes for those who want more wind in their hair. For additional views, drive seven minutes to Fiscalini Ranch Preserve, where trails follow the coastal bluff and lead through the Monterey pine forest. Stay on the lookout for California Gray Whales, which migrate south from late December through February; they head back north in March and April. If it rains? Go out anyway, knowing that when you come back, the rest of the day can be spent curled up in front of your room’s fireplace.