Our visit to the enchanting Hearst Castle

14 Fascinating Facts about Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle, San Simeon California William Hearst

I have a confession. I was born and raised in California, and I’d never visited the iconic Hearst Castle before I moved away 6 years ago. Since our travels are taking us down the Pacific Coast Highway, I was determined to stop in San Simeon and visit the legendary home of the extravagant media mogul, William Hurst. What I didn’t realize is how fascinating of a story his life, and his home would be.

hearst castle, William hearst, San Simeon California, PCH

The visitor center and tour guides have so much information available, there’s no way to take it all in in just a day. Here are just a few of the facts I found fascinating about Hearst Castle.

  1. He was an avid art collector, and his passion was inspired when his mother took him to Europe for 18 months when he was a boy. His collection is worth millions today, one piece is worth $10 million just by itself.
  2. Much of his collection was acquired after WWI when European towns were selling off parts of buildings that were damaged in the war. He was the largest single collector outside of museums.hearst castle, william hearst, san simeon california
  3. He picked the spot on the hill to build the house because his dad used to bring him up there as a child on horseback, and it’s his favorite piece of the 250,000 acres he inherited.
  4. He hired Julia Morgan, one of the 1st women architects of her time, to design  the house with him. They worked together for 28 years. hearst castle, william hearst, san simeon California
  5. The house was never completed. One part or another was always under construction. The house still remains unfinished today.
  6. He preferred the quiet life of the ranch over “ high society”, but he had his newspapers flown in everyday from L.A. He had an airstrip built, and it remains still today. hearst castle, william hearst, san simeon. california
  7. The house cost around 10 million to build, which is surprisingly lower than it looks with all the details and original structures he had shipped over from other parts of the world, and how many times he had things torn down and redone.
  8. The Neptune pool was ripped out and redone 3 times. It now holds almost 350,000 gallons of water, and has real Grecian ruins surrounding the perimeter.hearst castle, william hearst, san simeon california
  9. There are 3 large guest houses on the property. He lived in one during the construction of the main house.
  10.  He had 10 large homes all over the world, this wasn’t the biggest.
  11.  The temperature can change up to 50’ from the coastline up to the top of the mountain. In the summer the coastal fog creates cool temperatures at the visitors center, but once you take the ride above the clouds to the main house on the hill, it’s hot and averages 20-30’ degrees warmer. hearst castle
  12.  The surrounding grounds are still a working ranch that the Hearst family owns. Although a big portion was donated to the state of California, it still remains one of the largest ranches today.
  13.  The house was donated to the California State Park system in 1952. Hearst had moved out about 4 years prior due to ill health, and it remained empty for a number of years. Instead of selling off the estate in pieces, the family preserved it by working with the state of California park system.
  14.  There was a zoo on the property. In fact, in it’s prime, it was the largest privately owned collection of animals in the country. The animals were sold off long ago, but the zebra were released on the land, and some of their descendants can still be seen mingling among the cattle on the ranch today.

hearst castle, william hearst,

We only got to spend one day at the castle, and we could’ve easily spent a few more and still not get the full impact of Hearst’s legacy. However, I was very pleased at how much we learned in our short visit there. The visitor center has a very educational, entertaining IMAX movie about his  life, which gave us a lot of context before we actually toured the house. The tour guide packed a lot of information into our 45 minute tour as well. As we toured the grounds, there are docents posted around the property, ready and willing to answer your questions and give you more detail into the history and legacy of the home and the man.

hearst castle, william hearst, san simeon california


1. Reserve your tickets in advance. Each tour is limited in the number of people that can go up the hill on the bus, and in peak seasons tickets might be sold out.

2. Go early in the day before the crowds swell and the weather gets hot.

3. The temperature can change dramatically, like I mentioned earlier, so dress in layers. Wear sunscreen and bring sunglasses or a hat as most of our time will be spent walking the grounds outside.

4. Bring your own food or snacks if possible. You can’t eat at the castle, but you can at the visitors center. They have some good food options there, but it’s pricey, like most tourist destinations.


hearst castle, william hearst, san simeon california

If you’d like to know more history on the Hearst Castle, you can check out the Facts & Stats page.

A tour of the castle is a great blend of education and entertainment, making it a perfect family destination.

So the next time you are in central California, make sure to put Hearst Castle on your list of places to visit.

william hearst, hearst castle





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