Earlier this year, one of my best college girlfriends and I were putting what was really countless hours of dreaming, conversation and planning into fruition. That’s right…we were finally off to Big Sur, a place that has been calling my name for years now and one that was also taunting me pretty regularly on Instagram. We wanted to get the full experience, so we decided to turn this into a road trip up along Highway 1 – otherwise know was one of the most beautiful roads to drive along.
“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta
1. Morro Bay: A sweet seaside town laden with coffee shops, taffy galore and the smell of the sea air. If you’re a fan of Oysters, try out the BBQ Oysters at Giovanni’s Fish Market
2. Julia Pfeiffer Beach: The unique rocks here are worth checking out. Note – You have to buy a $10 pass to get into the state beaches, but the good news is the pass works in all of them…so if you can, try to do that all one day.
3. Pfeiffer State Park: This place was awesome. Between the amazing trees, cool hiking paths (which oddly have the best cell reception in all of Big Sur) and picnic tables where you can snag a bite to eat it’s well worth spending your morning or afternoon here.
4. Salmon Creek: We didn’t actually get to go here, but we heard amazing things from some people we ran into along our journey. It’s on the South side of Big Sur…so if you’re entering from that way, it’s worth a stop before getting into town. Easy to miss on the way out.
5. Deetjen’s: This place is a classic and has been around since the 30s and is quant and beautiful. The serving sizes are pretty big here, so definitely an opportunity to share a meal.
6. Big Sur Bakery: We had breakfast here and my mouth still waters when I think about it. Great food, amazing coffee and an awesome little patio to eat outside. We our order pretty simple with fresh bread, bacon and mashed avocado and it was out of this world good.
7. Nepenthe:View that will BLOW your mind. We stopped here for a drink and an appetizer and I didn’t ever want to leave. Did I mention that this place is romantic as HECK!? I mean, talk about the perfect setting to fall in love.
8. Big Sur Taphouse: De-lish-ous Fish Tacos. I had an 805 beer wise and it paired perfectly. This place has a huge back deck that is perfect for summer.
9. McWay Falls: This iconic lookout point is popular for a reason. We parked on Highway 1 (easier on a weekday) — get there early on a weekend— and then walk right over. Only thing I would change about this stop was the time of day. We were there mid-morning and actually closer to high-noon sun, which made getting some good pictures challenging. Note: This trail is actually located in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park so go venture a bit once you’re down being a tourist, there are a few fun hiking options and various little areas to explore. TIP: Seeing as this a state park, they have free maps available which give you a really good overview of Big Sur and spots you might want to check out. We didn’t see these anywhere else on the trip…so for that reason alone, worth doing some additional exploration.
10. Brown Butter Cookie Company:If you want the best cookies in the world, than you will stop here. They give free samples and you’ll have to resist not buying multiple bags of the sweet treats. That’s just me excited because I just had one of these delicious bites!
Full breakdown of the adventure below
We left West LA around 6:30am on a Wednesday and while we still hit traffic leaving LA (yes, somehow there are still a plethora of cars on the road at all ungodly hours) we managed to make it Ventura by 8am and were ready to dive into our first meal, breakfast.
For those of you who haven’t been to Ventura, it’s a sleepy little town. Now, let me stop a moment to preface what I’m about to tell you. When best friends (especially girl friends) get together – especially those who haven’t seen each other in awhile – you might find yourself in a gab sesh if you will…catching up on all of the things you’ve talked about on the phone but are suddenly so much better in person. Anyway, we were full on in one of these, so when Ventura rolled around we were honestly lucky to have not missed it; as in I just got off at an exit because it seemed like that was the thing to do.
Well, it turns out it was and it wasn’t. We did manage to exit on a street that was close to restaurants but we also managed to miss all of the “really good” options already. We weren’t really up for back tracking given that we had so much road left to travel, so instead we made due with the options Yelp was giving us…which brings us to the Busy Bee Cafe.
You’re ultimate stop if you’re looking for a look at true locals, a hearty and might I add, greasy breakfast — fit for someone who is drunk or hungover – or a place that uses coin operated bathrooms, an experience at the very least.
It wasn’t long before we were back on the road, talking and reminiscing and this time, more carefully planning out our next stop.
Or so we thought.
To get to NorCal from essentially LAX, you have to take the US 101 to CA-1N. Well, we decided we were going to just make up our own directions thinking we’d end up in the same spot vs. listening to GPS apps, like Waze, like you’re supposed to. Anyway – as a result, we ended up staying on the 101 and all of a sudden we were approaching Atascadero…which is inland. Something wasn’t right. We decided it was time to actually start paying attention to where we were going and made an inland detour West, towards the ocean.
And, there there it was, Morro Bay, another sleepy little town right along a bay – hence the name. I had been here once before for a wedding, so I was feeling pretty confident and that we’d definitely be having a good little snack here. We ended up getting more than we bargained for. In fact, much more. We got some photos, walked the main strip in town, saw the sea otters put on their little show of clanking together oyster shells that they had just retrieved and had the bright idea of: Why don’t we get some oysters? So we walked about 100 feet over to Giovanni’s Fish Market where you can get grilled oysters that are the size of your hand…NOT KIDDING. So, if you or anyone you know is an oyster lover and looking for the ‘real’ experience, this is your stop. I on the other hand, while I like oysters to a degree and was happy to have had this experience, was sort of just craving some food I could actually count on to “hit the spot”.
It was time to keep going, and so we very carefully got back on the 1 and headed North yet again. We stopped in Cambria, San Simeon AND Ragged Point…all of which housed beautiful views. The views seemed to get better the closer to Big Sur we got.
When I say that we were in awe of what we were seeing, it’s truly an understatement you guys. Between the green rolling hills that were lined with cows, to the steep, magnificent cliffs that held in the fog, the turquoise water pockets, and the actual reality that if you were facing South you would see the ocean on your right and the mountains and forrest on your left. I mean, it was absolutely unreal. Oh, did I mention the distinct and amazing smell of redwoods that filled the air? Okay, okay – not trying to make you jealous, just trying to explain the angelic state of what we were experiencing.
Back to the road trip: We managed to turn a 5.5ish hour road trip into a 9 hour road trip (all by choice! Remember all of those memorable stops? 😉 and by the time we got to our hotel, we were pretty ready to just have a glass of wine and basque in the beauty of what was Big Sur. The next few days were spent adventuring, sight seeing, eating, drinking, laughing, catching up and making memories that will forever bring a smile to my face.