In 1919, newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst inherited 250,000 acres from his mother, Phoebe Apperson Hearst, wife of miner and U.S. Senator George Hearst who amassed great wealth and land holdings on the central coast of California.
As a boy, William played in the woods north of San Simeon, hiked around the boulders in the hills, camped on the ridge and traveled to Europe with his mother, all the while admiring the stunning architecture of Eurpoean cathedrals and castles.
When he acquired the land, he enlisted the help of architect Julia Morgan and built one of the most noteworthy homes in the hemisphere, named by Hearst "La Cuesta Encantada" (The Enchanted Hill), now known as Hearst Castle.
You can spot his home from Highway 1, perched on the hill, almost in the clouds, like a fairy-tale castle. The tours begin at the bottom, with an impressive IMAX film about the castle that will leave your head spinning from the first glimpse of the cliffs from a two engine prop plane flying the southern edge of Big Sur.
The estate is on the large side: 165 rooms, 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms, 127 acres of gardens, pools, balconies, libraries, and kitchens. And an airstrip. And a zoo. The castle is decorated with rare antiques, chairs fit for kings, draperies and wall hangings and sculptures imported from Europe by ship during the Great Depression. There is nothing like it. Hearst Castle is like all of mansions of Newport, Rhode Island put together.
There are several different walking tours, all led by volunteers. Hearst Castle is now a National Historic Landmark and the grounds a state park.