You’re in luck if you’re planning a trip to Big Sur Anaheim California. And I’m already envious of you. I can’t get enough of this stretch of coastline, which has more ocean views than you could ever imagine, eco-friendly and luxurious hotel stays, wooded hiking trails, and nature for days.
Big Sur, a 90-mile stretch of rugged coastline in central California, is more of an experience than a destination. It’s where the Santa Lucia Mountains meet the Pacific Seaside, and it’s where the state-spanning Highway 1 slows with hairpin twists as headlights shine over beautiful ocean sunsets. Every mile of the Big Sur coast is bordered with postcard appeal, with roadside sights like Keyhole Rock formations and 80-foot waterfalls plunging into the ocean.
Big Sur is scarcely populated, yet it is densely forested, with parks, hot springs, nature reserves, and sanctuaries teeming with a variety of flora, trees, and animals found nowhere else. Big Sur is best experienced on foot, as it is surrounded by a network of hiking and biking paths that wind through gorgeous redwood woods and through flower-filled valleys before arriving at lovely, small hidden beaches. Certain attractions may be closed temporarily or require reservations in advance.
Table of Contents
- 1 Andrew Molera State Park
- 2 Sea Otter Game Refuge
- 3 Calla Lily Valley, Big Sur, CA
- 4 Point Sur State Historic Park
- 5 Partington Cove
- 6 Garrapata State Park
- 7 Henry Miller Memorial Library
- 8 Limekiln State Park
- 9 Point Lobos State Natural Reserve
- 10 Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
- 11 Bixby Bridge
- 12 Pfeiffer Beach
- 13 Carmel Heritage Society
- 14 Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
- 15 Nepenthe, Big Sur, California
- 16 Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary
- 17 Old Coast Road
Andrew Molera State Park
Andrew Molera State Park, the largest on the Big Sur coast, is also the greatest for exploring. Miles of hiking paths wind through a diverse landscape of coastal redwoods, steep bluffs, and sandy beaches, and with so much to see and do, even on summer weekends, it’s easy to avoid the crowds. The walk to Andrew Molera’s remote beach is just under a mile long, including a Big Sur River crossing, and hikers will find plenty of beach area to themselves.
Sea Otter Game Refuge
The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary includes the California Sea Otter Game Refuge, which is a marine park in Monterey. In San Luis Obispo County, the refuge extends from the Carmel River to Santa Rosa Creek.
While you may see these adorable sea creatures floating in a sea of kelp all over Big Sur, they were formerly thought to be extinct because their pelts were fished for. On the Big Sur Coast, a small group of California sea otters was discovered in 1938 near Bixby Creek.
Calla Lily Valley, Big Sur, CA
If you’re driving along Highway 2 in the early spring, make a special stop at Garrapata Park. There is a valley covered with exquisite, wild calla lilies in the short tight gorge that Doud Creek goes through on the way to Garrapata Beach. Stairs and walkways wind their way around the valley to safeguard the delicate flowers.
Take your time and savor the uncommon but fleeting beauty of the lilies, which are only here for a short time. Continue walking through the park to the 2-mile-long beach, which is surrounded by coarse coastal vegetation. Harbor seals point sea lions, and passing gray whales can all be seen from the park’s beautiful headlands at Soberanes Point.
Point Sur State Historic Park
Point Sur State Historic Park is located north of Andrew Molera State Park, slightly over 20 miles south of Monterey, and is focused around the turn-of-the-century Point Sur Lighthouse.
This historic lighthouse, which has been in operation since 1889, has directed many various types of tourists to the state of California. The only opportunity to get a close look at this historic lighthouse is to attend a guided tour on weekends throughout the year.
Partington Cove, located two miles north of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, offers coastal canyon access to the ocean. Tourists Park on a big sweeping curve of Highway 1 and walk down the winding woodland road to Partington Cove through a large metal gate. A historic 60-foot tunnel displays some of the cove’s tanbark history after a steep mile downhill, with the calm waters revealing immediately after exiting the tunnel.
Garrapata State Park
Garrapata State Park, located on the Big Sur coast’s north end, offers beach access, coastal canyon hiking paths, and spectacular headland vistas. Garrapata Beach is located on the south end of the park near mile markers 17 and 18. It is accessible via various pullouts on Highway 1. Inland hiking trails travel up and down Soberanes Canyon further north.
In comparison to other state parks in the vicinity, the hiking trail that leads to Soberanes Point is much less busy, and it offers some of the greatest vistas and highest waves on the Big Sur coast.
Henry Miller Memorial Library
Countless artists, including novelists, poets, musicians, and the occasional scholarly vagrant, have been impacted by Big Sur’s austere beauty and changing scenery over the last century. The non-profit Henry Miller Library celebrates the artistic side of Big Sur with rotating artworks, live performances, and shelves of books for sale by local and regional writers, and is centered on the works and character of the late Big Sur native and writer, Henry Miller.
This unusual and self-described “strange” institution is a place to engage with the culture and creativity of Big Sur. It is not a library in the traditional sense. The Henry Miller Memorial Library presents live music and community events on a regular basis, in addition to fiction and memoirs, natural guides, and regional history literature.
Limekiln State Park
Limekiln State Park encompasses redwood trees and the majestic aspect of the Santa Lucia Range that runs into the coast, highlighting much of what makes Big Sur so distinctive. Limekiln State Park, which borders the Ventana Wilderness within the Los Padres National Forest, is about 700 acres in size and offers a variety of activities, including hiking trails, picnic spaces, and campgrounds, as well as three ancient lime kilns for which the park is named. Limekiln State Park also has hiking routes that lead to waterfalls, redwood woods, and sweeping ocean views.
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve
Photographers, SCUBA divers, and a variety of wildlife go to Point Lobos, which is located on the north end of the Big Sur coast. Numerous hiking routes traverse the perimeter and interior of this exceptionally scenic coastal point, allowing visitors to take in the natural reserve’s lush meadows and stunning shoreline. The protected waters surrounding Point Lobos offer a haven for hundreds of sea species, making it a popular SCUBA destination.
Seabirds are another regular sight at the park, with many of them congregating on the aptly named Bird Island. Whalers Cove, on Point Lobos, was formerly the site of a whaling and abalone industry in the 1800s, relics of which can be viewed and learned about. Point Lobos is the crown gem of the California state park system, with a large expanse of habitat that readily disperses weekend visitors.
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, named after a prominent pioneer in Big Sur territory, offers higher landscapes to explore near to the ocean. Hiking pathways such as the Ewoldsen Trail wind through a colorful canyon brimming with coastal redwoods and Pacific madrone, and the beautiful McWay Falls may be seen plunging over 80 feet into the ocean just half a mile from the parking lot. Natural disasters such as mudslides and wildfires can wreak havoc on the park’s trails.
The Bixby Bridge, an iconic emblem of the Big Sur coastline, is photographed by travelers from all over the world. This modern feat of engineering, also known as the Bixby Canyon Bridge, was finished in 1932 and stands 260 feet above Bixby Creek.
It can be difficult to find a parking spot to look out the bridge and pose for a photo, but there are various pull-offs and parking spots on the bridge’s north side. The bridge can also be viewed from a variety of angles, providing plenty of angles for the thousands of cameras that are directed at it every weekend.
The two-mile drive to Pfeiffer Beach lies just over a mile south of the entrance to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and is slightly off the usual route. A short route leads from the parking area to a stunning ocean view unsurpassed anywhere else on the coast, which is inaccessible to RVs and trailers. The massive sea stacks at Pfeiffer Beach inspire immediate amazement and astonishment, with rough waves adding a hypnotic and steady power against the backdrop of the rugged Santa Lucia Mountains.
Keyhole Rock is one of Pfeiffer Beach’s most popular attractions. This massive rock formation has a spectacular natural arch that pulses with ocean and sunshine, and it is frequently photographed. Pfeiffer Beach is a favorite spot to see the sunset in Big Sur, but it’s also a great area to watch the surf at any time of day.
Carmel Heritage Society
The First Murphy House, which is managed by the Carmel Heritage Society and owned by the City of Carmel-by-the-Sea, is located in Carmel at the corner of 6th Avenue and Lincoln Street.
The Carmel Legacy Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to safeguarding, promoting, and preserving Carmel’s cultural heritage, calls the house home. The First Murphy House has a variety of historical exhibitions as well as a study library containing books, videos, and audiotapes, as well as magazines concerning Carmel’s past. The First Murphy House is also a gathering area for Carmel locals and friends.
Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, located off the coast of California, is a nationally protected marine region. With 276 miles of shoreline running between the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and Cambria in San Luis Obispo County, it is the largest American marine sanctuary.
The sanctuary is home to a vast quantity of fish, animals, invertebrates, seabirds, and plants, and it supports one of the world’s most diversified marine ecosystems. Beautiful beaches, tidepools, kelp forests, undersea seamounts, cliffs, and canyons, all teeming with life, are also included. The purpose of the National Marine Sanctuary is to promote environmental conservation, ocean research, and stewardship.
Nepenthe, Big Sur, California
Nepenthe, a restaurant high on a ridge in the Santa Lucia Mountains, right off the gorgeous coast-hugging Cabrillo Highway, offers breathtaking views of the ocean and rocky beaches, as well as equally spectacular California culinary pleasures.
Nepenthe has a lengthy and illustrious history that includes names like Elizabeth Taylor, Orson Welles, and Henry Miller. The restaurant, which opened in 1949 and was designed by Rowan Maiden, a protégé of Frank Lloyd Wright, was always intended to integrate stunning landscape vistas with the cultural and artistic landscape of Big Sur. It drew musicians, artists, writers, and other interesting people from the start. Eating at Nepenthe is a one-of-a-kind experience, surrounded by ancient redwood and oak forest and with rail seating overlooking the ocean and Graves Canyon.
Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary
Every year in October, thousands of monarch butterflies pause on their long journey south to warmer climes in a large eucalyptus grove in California’s Pacific Grove. To keep warm, they hang in dense clusters from each eucalyptus branch, creating a stunning effect and attracting thousands of visitors.
The city of Pacific Grove designated the grove as a butterfly sanctuary to protect butterflies and their preferred eucalyptus habitat. The sanctuary is open to the public for free, and visitors are welcome to observe and admire the monarch butterflies as long as they do not touch them. Pacific Grove volunteers look after the sanctuary. The monarchs remain in their safe haven until February when they resume their journey south.
Old Coast Road
This 11-mile road is what people had to use before the famous Highway One was built — and not many tourists are aware of it yet! You’ll be driving on private property, so you can’t stop taking too many photos, but because it’s usually not crowded, feel free to pull over in the middle of the road for a few shots if necessary. Just keep an eye out for other vehicles approaching and livestock roaming around! The entire road is lined with redwood groves, babbling brooks, rolling hills, and numerous no trespassing signs. Basically, this is nature at its finest.