Burnett Peak


5 miles from San Simeon

San Simeon History

Relive History. Discover a Legacy.

The Start of San Simeon
Steeped in a rich history that dates back to 1836, San Simeon was first established when the San Miguel Mission was secularized and divided into three distinct ranches: Piedras Blancas, Santa Rosa and San Simeon.

Whaling and San Simeon’s Growth
Less than 20 years later, the town soon became known for whaling, after a whaling station was established in the natural harbor at San Simeon Point around the grey whale migration, which can still be witnessed to this day. San Simeon’s high vantage points and towering coastal bluffs proved to be advantageous for whale watchers, who would signal the signs of whales, which would then be harvested by the practice of shore whaling—another preservation method that has helped keep the area’s natural pristine beauty so intact.

San Simeon grew during the whaling period, with twenty two families settling in the area.

The Decline of Whaling. The Rise of Hearst.
By the 1860s, a drought left San Simeon with inadequate grazing land for livestock, leading rancheros to sell the land. Almost simultaneously, the whaling industry had declined, leaving the town without the employment and economic boom it had experienced years earlier. Because of these events, George Heart began to buy up land around the area, eventually becoming the rightful owner of more than 250,000 area acres.

The Hearst Family Legacy
After George Hearst passed away in 1919, his only son, William Randolph Hearst, inherited all the land his father had purchased. His ownership has been the key reason San Simeon remains so intact and pristine to this day, since the Hearst family’s main concern to protect and enhance the area. Their efforts also brought in more jobs and attracted visitors from all over the world, including Thomas A. Edison, Calvin Coolidge, and Winston Churchill.

However, it wasn’t until the completion of Hearst Castle that the town of San Simeon really came to life, hosting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.

Following William Randolph Hearst’s passing in 1951, the Hearst family began donating plots of land, which would later become the area’s state parks, beaches and preservation sites.

San Simeon Today
Today, San Simeon remains as beautiful as it was created, perfectly preserved and completely breathtaking. The Hearst Castle is the area’s biggest draw, but for those who discover the town of San Simeon, they return again and again, lured back by the immaculate beauty and unspoiled sights.

San Simeon Timeline

  • 1836: San Miguel Mission secularized and divided into three ranchos: Piedras Blancas, Santa Rosa and San Simeon.
  • 1852: Whaling station established at San Simeon Point
  • 1874: Piedras Blancas Light Station is built by the U.S. Government
  • 1878: Whaling industry in decline. The Bay View, San Simeon’s first hotel is constructed
  • 1914: Sebastian Family purchases general store, and retains ownership of it to this day
  • 1919: Construction on Hearst Castle begins
  • 1937: Sam Simeon State Beach opened as a day-use facility
  • 1937: California Highway 1 is completed, opening San Simeon’s majesty to visitors around the world
  • 1947: Construction of Hearst Castle is finished
  • 1951: William Randolph Hearst passes away. Hearst family creates William Randolph Hearst Memorial Park through the donation of a large plot of land
  • 1957: San Simeon’s famous pier is constructed
  • 1958: Hearst Corporation gave Hearst Castle to State of California
  • 1964: San Simeon State Beach converted into a seaside overnight park
  • 1971: State Department of Parks and Beaches takes ownership of Hearst Memorial Park

For more information about the history of San Simeon, please call our
office at (805) 927-3500, or contact us online.