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Winding Turns, Seaside Cliffs and Views of the Misty Coastline Make for One Great Adventure

Written By: Taylor Haynes Big Sur Road Trip

The Big Sur region, part of California’s Central Coast, is revered for its picturesque scenery: steep cliffs plunging dramatically into the Pacific waves, ancient redwood trees rising from the mist and tucked away, pebbled beaches, dotted with coves and waterfalls. The area has historically lured bohemians and romantics from Henry Miller and Jack Kerouac to Ansel Adams and Jean Varda. Even if you didn’t arrive in Big Sur a romantic, chances are you’ll return home as one.

Angelenos are in luck: this incredible stretch of coastline is close enough for an unforgettable weekend excursion.

 

The Drive Big Sur Road Trip

One of the best parts of going to Big Sur is the drive. This isn’t any old road trip; the section of Highway 1 hugging the coast in Big Sur regularly tops “Most Scenic Drives” lists. While beautiful, this isn’t a short drive, so pack plenty of snacks and water. Also, keep a camera handy, as there are plenty of photo ops along the way, such as Morro Rock Beach (with a nearly 600-foot volcanic plug that also serves as a bird sanctuary) and the Guadalupe Nipomo sand dunes—a prime spot to stretch your legs.

Nothing makes a road trip better than a perfectly curated playlist, and why not pay homage to the Big Sur Folk Festival? The festival was held between 1964 and 1971 and was partly organized by Joan Baez, attracting folk giants Joni Mitchell, the Beach Boys and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young—let these musicians serenade your journey north. 

Morro Rock Beach
Coleman Dr
Morro Bay, CA 93442
Guadalupe Nipomo Sand Dunes
1065 Guadalupe St
Guadalupe, CA 93434

 

Where to Stay

Accommodations to suit all lifestyles are within reach in Big Sur. If you’re longing for a reprieve from city life that’s within a short walk to the beach, the Plaskett Creek Campground can’t be beat.

Seeking something more luxe? Top glamping locations include the Treebones Resort (with chic, cozy yurts) and Ventana Big Sur, offering safari-style tents nestled amongst the redwoods with custom glamping mattresses and hot water. Here, even the least outdoorsy types will feel right at home.

If camping (or glamping) definitely isn’t your thing, Ventana Big Sur Resort’s tastefully furnished rooms, generous amenities and full spa won’t disappoint. Whether you’re staying at a resort or a campsite, make sure to get reservations ASAP, as most places fill up quickly during the peak summer months.

Plaskett Creek Campground
69345 Hwy 1
Big Sur, CA 93920
805.434.1996
Ventana Big Sur (Camping & Resort)
48123 Hwy 1
Big Sur, CA 93920
831.667.2331
Treebones Resort 
71895 Hwy 1
South Big Sur, California 93920
877.424.4787

 

What to Do Big Sur Road Trip

There’s more than enough to fill a weekend in this corner of California. Big Sur offers some of the best hiking in the state. The Point Lobos State Natural Reserve offers meandering seaside trails and frequent up-close wildlife sightings, including sea lions lazily basking in the sun. The oft-overlooked Partington Cove Trail is a one-mile walk that includes a 60-foot tunnel, which leads to a secluded cove and some incredible views.

Carmel-by-the-Sea, on the northern tip of Big Sur, is worth a visit too. The town is known for its stunning white sand beaches, rich history and charming small-town atmosphere. Founded in 1902 by a collection of artists, writers and poets, it has retained its dedication to creative life. To experience Carmel at its best, see a play at the Forest Theater, an outdoor stage built in 1910 that remains active today.

Of course, simply sitting against the base of a redwood, contemplating dappled light through sky-high branches will suffice for many. 

Point Lobos Natural Reserve
62 Hwy 1
Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923
831.624.4909
Partington Cove Trail
51700 Hwy 1
Big Sur, CA 93920
Forest Theater
Santa Rita St and Mountain View Ave
Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93921
831.622.0100

Where to Eat Big Sur Road Trip

Despite being sparsely populated, there is no shortage of can’t-miss eateries in Big Sur. Start your day at the Big Sur Bakery for fresh, out-of-the-oven bread with butter and sea salt (simple, but always satisfying), a few pastries for the road and a hot cup of coffee.

Nearby Nepenthe is rightfully on every Big Sur visitor’s list. Open since 1949—and continuously run by the same family—Nepenthe serves up American classics alongside incredible cliff-top views. Feast on the restaurant’s specialty: roast chicken with sage stuffing and cranberries.

Make a point to stop by the Big Sur Roadhouse for a mouthwatering meal made from seasonal, local ingredients. Hungry travelers are pleased by the Roadhouse Burger or blackened fish, finished off with a slice of olive oil cake with orange and lemon curd.

It’s dangerously easy to fall in love with Big Sur’s unparalleled natural beauty, and it’s been winning hearts for as long as humans have been in the area. Even if it’s your first visit to the region, don’t be surprised if you find yourself dreaming up different ways to get back on Highway 1.

Big Sur Bakery
47540 Hwy 1
Big Sur, CA 93920
831.667.0520
Nepenthe
48510 Hwy 1
Big Sur, CA 93920
831.667.2345
Big Sur Roadhouse
47080 Hwy 1
Big Sur, CA 93920
831.667.2105