Back when California was still part of Mexico, the ranch lands were bestowed to the Mission San Carlos Borromeo del Rio Carmel. By 1928 it had changed hands several times, and a hacienda was constructed. Nicknamed “Hidden House,” it was a hideaway for Hollywood celebrities. You can see many pictures of them on the walls of the still-standing building.
In the 1940’s it was expanded to include guest rooms and one of the first swimming pools in Carmel Valley. Fast forward to 2006, and the current owners brought it back to its original splendor, while adding vineyards, olive groves and wine caves.
Wine and Food
On our tour we got to taste a number of their estate wines, which have been rightly listed by National Geographic as one of the “world’s 10 best wines.” What appealed to me was their organic, high end Jarman varietals because they were created to honor co-owner Hunter Lowder’s mother, with a portion of proceeds going to the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation.
My dad, a former wine connoisseur, would love their estate wine club. Besides getting exclusive access to some of their limited-production wines (which I found out means you cannot buy them elsewhere), club membership is also one of the ways to gain access to the ranch grounds, events and guest cottages. My dad also would have loved the offsite Will’s Fargo restaurant (which is owned by the same family) where we got to have dinner as their special guests. I had a favorite waiter. He noticed I was a bit cold on the outdoor patio and brought me a folded up tablecloth to put around my shoulders. I think he liked me best!
Even if you care nothing for wine, you’ll still want to stay on the property. Weddings, retreats, special events, (we were a group of 14 bloggers, though the property can accommodate 38 overnight guests), or corporate dinners are all options for staying overnight in one of the 10 “cabins.” I have it in quotation marks because my so-called cabin had a kitchen, living room, and two separate bedrooms, each with their own bathroom. It was divine, actually.
After touring the wine caves, we got a thorough tour of the – are you ready for this – game room, carriage house, great room, conference room, chapel, lawn and veranda, garden courtyard, rose patio, and stone terrace. We were also given complete access to the swimming pool.
We had spent the previous night in Carmel-by-the-Sea, which was a few miles away, yet completely different. I was trying to decide which place I preferred, and came to the conclusion that they were tied for first because both places were amazing in their own right. The main thing they had in common was superior hospitality.
If you want scenery, take Highway 1 along the California coast instead of the inland freeway choices. After leaving Holman Ranch, I wasn’t in a hurry to get home, so I took this route for the first time in quite a few years. Even though it was foggy for much of the drive, I managed to get some great photos, and go on a few hikes. One warning – your nose will let you know when you’re at the elephant seal rookery just north of Hearst Castle.
Text and photos: Alexandra Williams, MA
Where do you go and what can you do when you have three generations, four days to travel, and a goal to achieve at least 10,000 steps per day? Let me rephrase that: what place meets the needs of middle-aged twins who want “active travel” options, a 19 year old who is game for whatever as long as heavy exertion is not required, and a mom/ grandma who needs to make decisions based on safety?
Click on all images to see the captions.
When Alexandra and I, both baby boomers, were offered the opportunity to head up the Highway 1 Discovery Route, we were all over it like elephant seals on sand! Wait, did I just compare ourselves to large, rotund animals? Moving on. (But first, we would like to thank, acknowledge, and disclose that our trip was sponsored by CA Highway 1 DiscoveryRoute (highway1discoveryroute.com). Local businesses and organizations teamed up to promote the many options the area offers and we were the lucky bloggers chosen to get spoiled.)
Turns out the Cambria/ Harmony/ San Simeon area (best known for Hearst Castle) is the ideal vacation destination for multigenerational travel. Even better, winter is an ideal time to visit this accessible section of central California. Crowds are down; prices are low; and the number of things to do and see is sky high. Seriously, I had thought of the area as “sleepy” but we could have spent a week and still not have exhausted the options. I might have started fighting with Alexandra after a week together. Willing to find out though!
Why fight when you can find Harmony? Home of 18 residents and the Harmony Glassworks Studio, this tiny “city” is worth checking out. Don’t blink or you’ll miss the exit. Whether you want to try glassblowing, shop for handmade gifts, or wait in the car while the crazy middle-aged sisters brave the rain to get some pictures, you’ll be glad you ventured here. Skin is waterproof, so bring on the wet!
A quick tour and interview of the Harmony Glassworks
New experiences and nature spark the brain. Great for our mom, who wants to retain her memory and cognitive skills. She loves to travel, though can no longer do so alone. Catching the elephant seals in winter is perfect as that’s when the pups are just born, so the rookery is chock full of new seal families. Super accessible and interesting for all ages. And we almost saw a seal give birth.
Walking and healthy foods enhance health. Say, that sounds good to all of us, including my 19 year old nephew. He was keen on the high quality restaurants and varied food choices. He fully embraced the antiquing, beachcombing, and massage at the El Colibri Spa and Inn, where we stayed.
Rain and mist (finally!) create gorgeous vistas and ideal hike conditions. For me this meant heading to the Harmony Headlands Trail, a 4-mile walk through meadows and rolling hills to get to rugged coastline.
My sister, mom, and nephew headed to Hearst Castle meantime. Hot tip to you baby boomers who bring a parent along — walking sticks will really help with steps, castle climbing, slippery streets, and strolls along the Moonstone Beach boardwalk.
Originally, I was scheduled to kayak with Cubby of Kayak Outfitters. But when the words “tricky” and “high surf advisory” came into the discussion, I decided to return in fall for this adventure. Apparently fall is the best time to paddle out. So that’s when you can count me in. Yes, I plan to return as I enjoyed the area so much and have other hiking trails to check out.
Visiting Covell’s Clydesdale Horse Ranch is another insider tip for those of you who want to step back in time when the land was pristine and undeveloped. You can read more about this unique, historic, and privately held ranch dedicated to conservation in this post my sister wrote. Great photos too!: Hidden Gem in Central California. Again, the set up appealed to all four of us, and the owner was very sweet and accommodating of our varied needs and interests. I am not normally a horse person (they scare me, ok?!). But seeing the Clydesdales up close was a once-in-a-lifetime, inspiring experience. What may appeal to some of you even more is getting access to this private and vast property. Being able to perambulate and drive through more than a thousand acres of “original” California coastal land is the tour to take advantage of while you can.
Another travel tip Alexandra and I figured out is that we can work in some hikes and walks while the generation above and below take a nap, fondle their smart phones in the hotel room, and get spa treatments. With the Fiscalini Preserve just a mile from our hotel, we braved the elements and had the coastline to ourselves.
What’s left to say? If you want to start your day with beauty (see above) and end it with more beauty (see and sea below), then get yourself and family to Highway 1 in Central California. For sure in winter. Then again, who wants to meet me there in fall? We can double kayak and take a hike!
ACTION: Have you been to Cambria and the surrounding area? If so, what is one of your fondest memories? Comment below. Or lay some emoticons on us.
Photo credits: Photos of me taken by not me, aka Alexandra. Photos that look professional also taken by Alexandra. Photos that look pretty darn good for an amateur with little clue about lighting taken by me! If you really want to know who took what, click on the images and all captions reveal themselves.