Cambria's coastal discovery center, lighthouse and trash palace

January 19, 2007 

Like Hearst’s creation, this one too is the result of an obsession and should be experienced at least once. Nitt Witt Ridge (881 Hillcrest Drive, 805-927-2690) was built over 50 years almost entirely out of salvaged, trashed and recycled materials, including toilet seats and beer cans, by Art Beal, a junk collector also known as Der Tinkerpaw or Capt. Nitt Witt. The riot of terraces, staircases and sculptures can be toured for $10 for adults and $5 for kids, but call the owners, Michael and Stacey O’Malley, in advance to make arrangements. From Main Street in the West Village, take Cornwall to Hillcrest.

The Piedras Blancas lighthouse, first illuminated in 1875, is one of only a trio of classic tall lighthouses built on the west coast. It originally had an elegantly sculpted upper portion housing the lens and lantern room but the section was removed after being damaged in a storm in 1949. The restored lens can be seen in a newly built lantern room on the Pinedorado grounds on Main Street in Cambria. The lighthouse was unmanned in 1975 when operations became automated. It’s now used to study sea otters and other coastal life. The federal Bureau of Land Management, which has owned the property since 2001, is developing plans to restore the tower’s upper portion.

From June 15 to August 21, tours are offered Monday through Saturday at 10 a.m. From September 1 through June 14, they are offered Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 10 a.m. The cost is $10 for adults, $5 for ages 6-17, no fee for children 5 and under. Groups of ten require reservations. Call 805-927-7361 or email PiedrasBlancasTours@gmail.com.

Read more about its history here. For more information, click here.

A talking tidepool. A voyage to the bottom of the sea. A peek at the creatures of the undersea Davidson Seamount 50 miles away. Find those and other interactive exhibits at the new Coastal Discovery Center (at Hearst State Beach, 805-927-6575). The center, the first of its kind, is a partnership of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, state parks and conservation groups. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the summer, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the winter, Friday through Sunday.

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