My husband and I woke up in our cozy hotel room in Carmel, California to the clamor from the heating unit under the window, and to a sunless gray sky beyond the checkered window curtains. A single day was our allotted time during a side trip from San Francisco, and our plan to spend it on the coast in Big Sur was threatened by a persistent drizzle and a fog that seemed to float in and out on a blanket of whispers. A travel article I had read advised not to rush when driving along the stunning stretch of coastline between San Simeon and Carmel, that Big Sur should be explored leisurely so as not to miss the many sites between the curves and valleys. We had time constraints, but with this scenic stretch of coastal wonderland at our doorstep, the alternative of choosing another spot for the day was simply not an option. There is a certain freedom that comes with the realization that you have 90 coastline miles of one of the most popular and beyond beautiful tourist destinations in the world to yourself, an aloneness that was almost guaranteed by the early hour and gloomy weather. Each mile driven further into “el sur grande” or “the big south” that morning defined the beauty of the area despite the mist that clung to it. The landscape’s tumble toward the sea was so captivating that my husband and I became victims of what I call the stop and go syndrome, the uncontrollable act of pulling over, jumping out of the car, running around in circles in wonder, and repeating every half mile or so. We spent a full day there, which is enough to experience the greatness of Big Sur, but two days would have been perfect. Here are a few thoughts if it’s on your trip list:
- Plan ahead. Get to know the area and the highlights. If you’re a hiker, there are a variety of hiking trails, (see Hiking Big Sur) or a tree lover, the Redwoods at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park are a must. If you love the ocean…you’ll feel as though you’ve come home.
- Leave as early as your body clock will allow. Big Sur gets crowded, and if you’d like a little alone time on a bluff overlooking the Pacific you’re more likely to get it at 9:00 am vs. noon.
- The weather is generally moderate year round, and I can’t imagine the area being anything but gorgeous no matter what the day throws at you.
- Cell phone service is non-existent for many miles along the Big Sur Coast. Print out hard copies of directions for your wish list, or screen shot them so you’ll have them handy on your phone.
- The top attractions are the tops for a reason: Mcway Falls, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Bixby Bridge to name a few.
- Pfeiffer Beach was my favorite, but the most difficult to find. The long dirt road to the sea is hidden, and we had to pass by the turn off a few times before we realized where to go. Parking is limited and there is a fee, but the amazing views, purple streaked sand, and giant rock formations were awe-inspiring.
- For lunch, the charming Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant served the best grilled cheese sandwich I’ve ever devoured, and the bakery goods reminded me of a weekend at Grandma’s.
“The details, that’s what the world is made of.”
My feature header picture is of Point Sur Lighthouse located on the Northern end of Big Sur. It’s retro vibe reminded me of the 70’s styling of a Wes Anderson movie, one of my favorite filmmakers. Tours of the park are available on scheduled days of each week. For more information see Point Sur Historic Park and Lighthouse.