Hearst Castle finally reopens after more than 2 years

The COVID-19 pandemic kept plenty of popular tourist attractions shuttered for months or even years. But not many also had to deal with a severe storm that caused extensive damage to their main roadway.

Hearst Castle, one of the most popular destinations for those exploring the Central California coast, finally reopened today after more than two years. A 10-month-long reconstruction of Hearst Castle Road should prevent future rainstorms from prohibiting access to the attraction.

Dan Falat, California State Parks San Luis Obispo Coast District superintendent, said there were about 1,000 advance reservations made for Wednesday and the day went very well. “So far everything has gone as we hoped and expected,” Falat said. “Folks are enjoying themselves. The first bus that came up the road everyone was clapping and hollering.”

Falat said he expects the coming weekend’s tickets to sell out.

Dubbed “La Cuesta Encantada,” Spanish for “The Enchanted Hill,” the historic landmark built along Route 1 was designed for William Randolph Hearst by famed Bay Area architect Julia Morgan. The sprawling hilltop estate includes 115 rooms, the 104-foot-long Neptune Pool surrounded by a Greco-Roman temple and 8 acres of gardens.

Ancient Roman columns, dating from the first to fourth centuries, surrounding the Hearst Castle's Neptune Pool.

Ancient Roman columns, dating from the first to fourth centuries, surrounding the Hearst Castle’s Neptune Pool.

Associated Press

Visitors can view new exhibits career celebrating the delayed 100-year anniversary of the construction of the ocean-view property, plus take a new tour centered on Morgan’s life and. Ticket prices have also been updated, reducing the cost per ticket by $3 to $6.

With just 658 local residents, the neighboring small town of San Simeon relies heavily on the attraction for tourism revenue and has been struggling since the closure. Local resident Bob Matchett told SFGATE in February that it is especially hurting from an absence of overseas tourists.

“I used to run [tour] buses,” Matchett, who lives in nearby Cambria, said. “The castle has been in decline for years with locals and California residents. But for people coming from abroad — Europeans and visitors from Japan and China especially — it was a big draw.”

Tour reservations are strongly recommended and although there are currently no COVID restrictions in place, visitors are encouraged to check the website for updated information.

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