Part-time traveller, Full-Time Brummie

USA Sept 2010 – Big Sur: The most amazing coastal drive!

The alarm tolls at 8am – a veritable lie-in this morning – and after grabbing a quick pastry for breakfast, we’re all checked out and ready to leave Monterey behind. As we return to Route 1, it is clear how foggy it is today and we can barely see the ocean. However this leads to some dramatic scenery as we pay our $10 daily fee and park up at Point Lobos.

We park at Sea Lion Point, and walk a loop including China Cove and Bird Island. This is barely a hike, more of a leisurely stroll and there is very little that is challenging. The scenery is spectacular, with huge waves dramatically crashing onto the rocks below, although with the heavy fog rolling in off the sea, it was quite an eerie landscape.

Point Lobos State Reserve

Point Lobos State Reserve

Point Lobos State Reserve

Point Lobos State Reserve

Back on Route 1, and the fog is finally lifting – the blue of the ocean is once again visible from the Fletchemobile. We make a quick stop at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.Cannot believe that there are hardly any other cars here; it’s like we have a whole forest to ourselves! We have a quick walk down by Big Sur River, marvelling how peaceful it is despite being right next to CA-1 – the only sounds we can hear are the babbling of the river and the birds singing.

We had planned to eat lunch at Café Kevah at Nepenthe, but on parking up, Mr Fletche and I were a little disappointed by the menu on offer. We didn’t want anything fancy, but we didn’t want to pay extortionate prices just to have “food with a view” (which is stunning by the way… at least we have some photos from the patio, even if we didn’t eat there!). We decided that with all this stunning scenery around us, there was only one thing that could do it justice. Picnic.

We had passed Big Sur Deli about a mile down the road, so we did a 180 and returned to the Deli – two huge sub sandwiches, potato chips and sodas for $19. We stuff everything into the cooler and head on back up CA-1.

Our intended location for our picnic? Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. We’d paid our fee at Point Lobos which allowed us unlimited access to the State Parks, so we parked up at a picnic area just inside the park and had Part 1 of our picnic (yes, the sandwiches were that huge we had to eat in two parts…).  We then walked the short trail under CA-1 to McWay Falls. The famous waterfall cascading onto the beach is absolutely stunning –it’s little wonder that this is one of most photographed spots along Big Sur.

McWay Falls, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

McWay Falls, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

We return to the picnic area at JPB State Park to start Round 2 of our picnic. This is possibly the prettiest place I’ve ever had the good fortune to picnic in!

We continue making our way South through Big Sur; Mr Fletche and the Fletchemobile are thoroughly enjoying the challenging twisty turny roads and I’m thoroughly enjoying the stunning views. We are tempted to stop at almost every pullout as each seems to provide an even more spectacular view than the last. This is one of the shortest drives of our trip in distance, but we are taking our time to experience as much as we can on this dramatic coastal highway.

As we continue on our way towards Cambria, I fear that we have missed the famous elephant seals at Piedras Blancas. Then, a quick glimpse to my right, and I spy a cove populated with these magnificent creatures. We park the Fletchemobile, and then backtrack over the headland to the cove.

We are rewarded with an isolated cove with around 20-30 elephant seals. At this time of year, we assume these are juveniles, and there are certainly not the thousands we would expect to see earlier on in the year during breeding season, but they are fantastically entertaining to watch.

Elephant Seals at Piedras Blancas

Elephant Seals at Piedras Blancas

Leaving the seals in peace, we carry on to Cambria. Our accommodation – the Sea Otter Inn – is directly facing Moonstone Beach, and once we’ve checked in, it’s a quick change of clothes before heading across to catch the sunset.

On this trip, we’ve caught beautiful sunsets at Grand Canyon, San Francisco and Monterey, but none compare to this one. The colours of the sky are just indescribable, and the ocean can only be described as looking like liquid mercury. We take dozens of photographs but none capture the beauty of this amazing sunset.

Sunset at Moonstone Beach, Cambria

Sunset at Moonstone Beach, Cambria

Sunset at Moonstone Beach, Cambria 2

Sunset at Moonstone Beach, Cambria

Sunset at Moonstone Beach, Cambria 3

Sunset at Moonstone Beach, Cambria

The fresh air reminds us that we haven’t eaten since our picnic lunch at JPB State Park, so we get back into the Fletchemobile at 7:45pm to head into Cambria. Our choices of places to eat were actually quite limited, which surprised me as I had done plenty of pre-trip research. Everywhere was either closed for the evening – and it’s not even 8pm! – or prices were a little more expensive than we were intending to pay.

We managed to sneak into Main Street Grill, only to be told that they were closing… we would be their last customers! Food was tasty, plentiful and inexpensive – just what we were looking for! Although Mr Fletche and I were slightly perturbed by the staff sweeping up and turning off lights all around us… We get the hint!

We leave sleepy downtown Cambria behind and head back to Sea Otter Inn at 8:45pm. Time for a couple of beers and a spot of channel-hopping before bed!


5 responses to “USA Sept 2010 – Big Sur: The most amazing coastal drive!”

  1. […] Driving down Route 1 from San Francisco to Los Angeles […]

  2. […] the place to be for sunset.  So we hop a train back to Manarola.    This goes up there with the Cambria and Burlington sunsets that we have had the good fortune to experience. And as the sun sets, both […]

  3. […] We’ve been lucky to see some wonderful sunsets in the Maldives, at the Grand Canyon, at Cambria in California, at Burlington in Vermont – but this is definitely up there at the top of the […]

  4. […] Driving the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to LA: You can drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles on the 101 Freeway.  Or you can take Route 1, hugging the coast with the Pacific Ocean on your right hand side and towering mountains on your left.  National Geographic Traveller have even named the 123 mile “Big Sur” stretch from Monterey to Morro Bay as one of their “Drives of a Lifetime.”   There are sleepy beach towns – like Cambria with its beautiful Moonstone Beach – and bustling towns like Santa Cruz, Monterey and Santa Barbara.  There are lighthouses, bridges and waterfalls cascading down onto the beach. There are sea otters, sea lions – and best of all – elephant seals.  In distance, the Big Sur Drive is one of the shortest of our trip, but takes the longest as we stop so many times to admire the view, take short hikes and just take in the natural beauty before us. […]

  5. […] Mr Fletche manages to drag me out before the karaoke commences, reminding me that we have another long drive ahead of us tomorrow. Tomorrow, we’re continuing driving Route 1 down to Cambria, via the famous Big Sur –  The most amazing coastal drive! […]

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