Summer along California’s Big Sur Coast.
Lots of gray clouds hanging over a gray-green ocean.
Lots of tourists snapping photos with their camera and cell phones.
Lots of traffic.
Begin the day with a hearty breakfast at your hotel or in Carmel early in the morning at a cafe like the Village Corner before the town becomes busy and parking problematic.
Then drive south on Highway 1 three miles from Carmel to Point Lobos State Nature Reserve.
While you could easily spend an entire day here, a couple of hours or so will give you plenty of time to take an easy hike through the forests, around the rocky points jutting out into the ocean, watch scuba divers set off on underwater adventures, and look for seals, seal lions and sea otters near shore.
By now, the calories from the breakfast you tucked away that morning will have been burned off and it will be time to “refuel” with lunch, New Orleans style, at the Big Sur Roadhouse, twenty-odd miles and about a half hour’s drive south of Point Lobos.
If the midday weather is just a little bit on the cool side, warm yourself up by dining indoors.
Just minutes down the road from the roadhouse you can work off your lunch with a hike to a 60-foot high waterfall, or a stroll through the coast redwoods, at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. If you’re lucky, you may spot one or more of the endangered California Condors, a big bird with a wingspan of about nine feet.
For a different post-lunch option, drive six miles north from the Big Sur Roadhouse and take a three-hour walking tour at the Point Sur State Historic Park & Lighthouse.
On the way back up the highway to the Monterey Peninsula towns, stop just south of the Bixby Creek Bridge, easily the most photographed, and sometimes painted, spot along this section of the Big Sur Coast.
If You Go
The Monterey-Carmel area is about a two-hour-plus drive south from San Francisco.
Alaska, Allegiant, American, United and US Airways provide airline service to Monterey Regional Airport where you can rent a car from Alamo, Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz, or National.
Lodging in Monterey-Carmel Area
The Monterey-Carmel area has a large number of lodging options including hotels, motels, and bed and breakfast inns, in all price ranges.
On the luxury end of the lodging scale, during my latest stay last spring I spent two nights and had lunch at the Quail Lodge & Golf Club in Carmel Valley, and got a chance to check out the rooms, dining facilities, spa, and taste wine and food from the kitchen while messing about on the bocce ball court at the posh Bernardus Lodge & Spa just a few miles to the east in the valley.
My clean and adequate budget accommodations were at the Sand Castle Inn in the Seaside area of the Monterey Peninsula.
Lodging in Big Sur
Glen Oaks, just across the highway from the Big Sur Roadhouse, has a variety of lodging options.
The Big Sur Lodge, where I’ve stayed on past trips, has 61 rooms, cottages, a conference center, a cafe, a gift shop and a grocery store. You can camp in the park as well.
Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn has been around since the 1930’s.
The Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau Website lists 300 lodgings in all county towns and locations, including Big Sur, and allows you to book a room via Booking.com.
Hearst Castle Area Lodging
Be sure to read our story, “Seeing John Steinbeck’s Monterey,” published earlier this year, for information on visiting the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas and the Monterey Bay Aquarium, along with suggestions on where to dine on the Monterey Peninsula.
Tales Told From The Road publisher, Dick Jordan, Big Sur, traveled to Monterey-Big Sur in April as guest of the Monterey County Visitors & Convention Bureau. In the summer of 1968, he spent nearly every weekend on the Big Sur Coast at Pacific Valley where his then-girlfriend (now wife) worked as a “summer hire” for the U.S. Forest Service, collecting fees from and answering questions for those pitching their tents or sleeping in “campers” or vans in the USFS coastal campgrounds.)