Big Sur, an approximately 90-mile hilly coastline in central California, is more of an experience than a destination. It’s where the Santa Lucia Mountains meet the Pacific Seaside, and headlights sparkle over breathtaking seaside sunsets as Highway 1 slows with hairpin twists throughout the state.
Every mile of the Big Sur coast is filled with postcard-worthy beauties such as Keyhole Rock formations and 80-foot waterfalls falling into the ocean.
The coast is often blanketed in fog in the early morning, but it typically clears by the afternoon, presenting a complex scene of redwood canyons and 300-foot coastal cliffs. Numerous state parks and public access areas border this rough stretch of the coast, from San Simeon in the south to Carmel-by-the-Sea in the north, and provide a range of activities for outdoor lovers.
Expect to spend an entire day or more driving the Big Sur coast, with sites like Pfeiffer Big Sur and Limekiln State Parks offering hours of exploring and some of the top Big Sur campgrounds.
On the Big Sur coast, each stop seems more gorgeous than the previous, with spots like Pfeiffer Beach and the Bixby Bridge presenting one legendary sight after another.
Along with the amazing coastal panoramas and nearby lush wildlands, expect to observe a multitude of animals along the Big Sur coast. Elephant seals, California condors, and the odd visitor pulling over to take pictures are regular encounters along this untamed frontier of the continent.
The short and twisting two-mile road to Pfeiffer Beach lies little over a mile south of the entrance to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and is somewhat off the main path. A short walk leads from the parking lot to a beautiful ocean panorama unparalleled nowhere else on the coast, which is inaccessible to RVs and trailers.
The towering sea stacks at Pfeiffer Beach provoke immediate awe and astonishment, with choppy waves giving a mesmerising and steady force against a background of the Santa Lucia Mountains.
Keyhole Rock is the principal attraction at Pfeiffer Beach. This gigantic rock structure is appreciated and frequently photographed, and it has a beautiful natural arch that pulses with ocean and sunshine. Pfeiffer Beach is a great spot to observe the sunset in Big Sur, although bringing a beach chair and watching the waves is wonderful at any time of day.
Big Sur, California, Sycamore Canyon Road
The Bixby Bridge, an iconic landmark of the Big Sur coastline, is photographed by people from all over the world. This contemporary engineering wonder, commonly known as the Bixby Canyon Bridge, was constructed in 1932 and stands 260 feet above Bixby Creek.
Parking could be difficult to obtain while visiting the bridge and posing for photographs, although various pullouts and parking areas flank the north side of the bridge. Multiple viewpoints of the bridge are also accessible, allowing plenty of angles for the thousands of cameras that are trained at it every weekend.
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, named after a notable pioneer in Big Sur region, provides higher panoramas to explore adjacent to the shore.
Hiking trails such as the Ewoldsen Trail snake through a colourful canyon teaming with coastal redwoods and Pacific madrone, and the majestic McWay Falls may be observed cascading over 80 feet into the ocean with a half-mile stroll from the parking lot.
Natural occurrences such as mudslides and wildfires can have an influence on trail conditions inside the park.
Big Sur, California 52801 California State Route 1
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is one of the most popular on the coast, nestled along the banks of the Big Sur River and surrounded by the rocky Santa Lucia Mountains. Every acre of this state park is surrounded by spectacular scenery, especially on the paths that follow the Big Sur River and snake through giant redwood woodlands.
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, one of the loveliest campgrounds in Big Sur and frequently booked months in advance, includes around 150 campsites along the river that permits tents and RVs.
47231 CA-1, Big Sur, California
Point Lobos, located near the northern tip of the Big Sur coast, is popular with photographers, SCUBA divers, and a variety of wildlife.
Numerous hiking trails cross the perimeter and interior of this unusually gorgeous coastline point, allowing visitors to take in the nature reserve’s lush meadows and magnificent shoreline. The protected waters surrounding Point Lobos are home to hundreds of marine species, making it a popular SCUBA destination.
Seabirds are another typical sight in the park, with many of them congregating on the suitably named Bird Island. Whalers Cove, located on Point Lobos, was previously the site of a whaling and abalone business in the 1800s, the remnants of which may be observed and learned around.
Point Lobos is the crown gem of the California state park system, with a huge area of environment that quickly disperses weekend visitors.
Address: 62 CA-1, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA
Traveling fifteen kilometres south from San Simeon, travellers may also witness the unique wildlife ecosystem within the Piedras Blancas State Marine Reserve.
A roadside elephant seal rookery along this protected length of coastline allows access and observation opportunities for hundreds of incredibly enormous, and highly vociferous, elephant seals in their natural surroundings. Salmon Creek Falls, located just north of Ragged Point, is a lovely water feature that may be reached from the Salmon Creek Trailhead.
Ragged Point, California is situated at 19019 CA-1.
Limekiln State Park features redwood forests and the spectacular look of the Santa Lucia Range extending towards the shore, displaying much of what makes Big Sur so special. Limekiln State Park contains around 700 acres and lies near to the Ventana Wilderness inside the Los Padres National Forest.
It features hiking routes, picnic spots, and campsites, as well as three old lime kilns for which the park is called. Other hiking pathways in Limekiln State Park travel to waterfalls, redwood forests, and panoramic views of the coast.
63025 CA-1, Big Sur, California
Big Sur’s austere beauty and fluctuating landscape have impacted numerous artists over the last century, including novelists, poets, musicians, and the rare intellectual vagabond.
The non-profit Henry Miller Library is based on the works and persona of Henry Miller, a late Big Sur native and writer, and promotes the creative side of Big Sur with rotating artworks, live performances, and shelves of books for sale by local and regional writers.
This unconventional and self-proclaimed “weird” organisation offers a space to engage with Big Sur’s culture and creativity. It is not a library in the classic sense. In addition to works of fiction and biography, as well as environmental guides and regional history books, the Henry Miller Memorial Library conducts live music and community events on a regular basis.
48603 CA-1, Big Sur, California
Garrapata State Park, located towards the north end of the Big Sur coast, includes beach access, coastal canyon hiking pathways, and breathtaking headland panoramas. Garrapata Beach is located on the south end of the park about mile markers 17 and 18. It is accessible by various pullouts on Highway 1. Inland hiking pathways run up and down Soberanes Canyon further north.
The hiking route that goes to Soberanes Point is substantially less popular than the trails at other state parks in the neighbourhood, and it provides some of the biggest waves and finest vistas of the Big Sur coast.
34500 CA-1, Carmel-By-The-Sea, California
Partington Cove, two miles north of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, provides a coastal canyon approach to the ocean. Tourists park on a wide sweeping curve of Highway 1 and cross the road to a massive metal gate to wander down the meandering wooded trail to Partington Cove.
Following a steep mile downhill, a historic 60-foot tunnel reveals some of the cove’s tanbark past, with the tranquil waters arriving shortly after exiting the tunnel.
Location: 51700 CA-1, Big Sur, California
Andrew Molera State Park, the largest on the Big Sur coast, is also the greatest for exploration. Miles of hiking pathways weave through a varied terrain of coastal redwoods, rocky bluffs, and sandy beaches, and with so much to see and do, it’s possible to dodge the crowds, even on summer weekends.
The trip to Andrew Molera’s remote beach is just under a mile long, including a Big Sur River bridge, and those who make the journey will find enough of beach area to themselves.
Location: 45500 CA-1, Big Sur, California
Point Sur State Historic Park is located north of Andrew Molera State Park and just over 20 miles south of Monterey. It is centred around the turn-of-the-century Point Sur Lighthouse
This historic lighthouse, which has been in service since 1889, has led many varied types of travellers to the state of California. The only way to get a close look at this antique lighthouse is to take a guided tour, which are available on weekends throughout the year.
CA-1, Monterey, California is the address.