Big Sur Baby
So, you've decided to make the sexiest drive on the California coast along Highway One? Rent your favorite American muscle car and check-out our pared down list of pit-stops.
Before you drive: Along the way you will lose your phone signal and GPS, so have an itinerary planned ahead of time. Fill up at the start of your drive. Drive slowly - no one likes a speed demon along one of the most scenic drives in the United States. At a minimum, give yourself an entire day to meander along the coast. There are scenic vista points throughout the drive where you can pull over and snap pics. Breathe in the air, take in the view and maybe spot a whale along the coastline.
South to North Drive: Fly into L.A. and drive to the iconic Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo for one night. Named for its founder, cattleman and California businessman, Alex Madonna, this resort is a California icon. Check-out the room gallery! The pink and blue basketball court, Secret Garden and chilled pool are highlights of this fun destination. If the Inn is out of your budget, stop by to eat at the Copper Café. The staff are gracious, and the servings are generous.
Hearst Castle in San Simeon. We didn't stop for a castle tour (the weather was too beautiful, and we wanted to keep driving). But, we peeked at a friend's pictures. Opulent is an understatement! We also heard that nearby Sebastian's General Store has good food options (opens at 11a.m.).
About 6 miles north of San Simeon is the Elephant Seal Rookery at Piedras Blancas where you can see seals chilling on the beach alongside gorgeous coastline. Truly amazing. Words cannot do this beautiful site justice.
Feeling intellectual and a little controversial? Stop at the Henry Miller Library. Click here to learn more about the American author and Big Sur resident, Henry Miller, and check out one of his works, Tropic of Cancer.
Up the road is the world-famous Big Sur Bakery. The staff are incredibly nice and the food is delicious. We had the most divine pizza. Sit outside in the garden if the weather cooperates and check-out the neighborhood birds perched on the cacti and succulents that decorate the bakery's perimeter. Before you leave, grab an espresso for the road. This is, hands-down, the best place to have coffee along the drive. The Italian tourists we saw as we left confirmed this. If the lines are too long, head up the road to the Big Sur Roadhouse for a bite.
If you only make ONE stop on the drive, this has to be it. Pfeiffer State Beach is THE MOST STUNNING PLACE. Located between Big Sur Bakery and Big Sur Roadhouse, it's a small turn onto Sycamore Canyon Road (a NARROW, 15 minute detour). The road is not clearly marked so keep your eyes open for the wooded turn (on the left if you are coming from Big Sur Bakery). Keep cash handy to pay the fee to access the beach (the fee was $15 when we went). The views are worth it. It's unlike any beach you've ever been to. We spent 2 glorious hours there snapping pics, wading into the water and people watching.
Head up to Camel-by-the-Sea for the last leg of the journey. We wished we had spent the night here to cap the drive off. A California friend shared her favorite restaurants, and we grabbed a bite at La Bicyclette. If we'd had more time we would have gone down to Pebble Beach and done the 17 mile drive along the coast where we heard you can see some stunning homes. Before we left, we grabbled coffee and ice cream at Carmel Bakery to give us sustenance on the drive back to San Francisco. People say each time you do the Big Sur drive you notice something new...