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Exploring Big Sur

March 29, 2013

Once I start traveling, I tend to get the urge to go everywhere. Now.  Luckily, after my fabulous Portland trip I already had another getaway lined up for the following weekend.  I headed West yet again, this time to visit my aunt in beautiful Carmel, California.

I last visited Carmel about 6 years ago and my boyfriend had never been, so we wanted to do a best-of tour over our long weekend.  The first item on our agenda was a drive down Big Sur.

Big Sur View

Big Sur is a 90-mile stretch of Central California coastline stretching south from Carmel down to San Simeon.  It is a popular scenic drive with dramatic Pacific views the whole way down Highway 1.  We drove the first 30 miles of Big Sur south from Carmel, stopping a few times to get out and explore.

At our first turnoff just south of Carmel, our jaws dropped at the dramatic views and pretty wildflowers.

Big Sur Wildflowers

Continuing a little farther, we stopped at a beach where one of my uncles recently got engaged.  The Pacific is a much more volatile ocean than the Atlantic, and this beach along with many others is known for “sneaker waves,” when every once in a while a wave will come up far above the high-tide line and whisk away hapless tourists. It can be really dangerous and it’s not usually advisable to walk along certain sections of beach.

Big Sur Beach

Luckily the tide was out far enough that we could safely walk along the beach without having to worry about getting washed away.  It was ridiculously windy, so we didn’t linger very long.

Big Sur Beach

Back in the car, we continued south.  The Big Sur Land Trust has bought and conserved most of the land along this stretch of coast, so the vast majority of it is completely undeveloped.  We passed huge pastures of cows grazing with the most incredible sea views you can imagine.  It was really cool to see such a long stretch of unspoiled land that must be worth zillions of dollars.

Pfeiffer Beach

Our next stop was at Pfeiffer Beach, a park with a particularly beautiful stretch of beach.  We walked down a trail paralleling a creek, winding underneath the branches of cypress trees.  I loved the variety of trees we encountered on this trip.

Pfeiffer Beach Park

Emerging from the woods, we encountered a large tidal pool on our way toward the ocean.

Big Sur beach

We took my aunt’s beautiful German Shepard for a walk down the beach and all enjoyed soaking up the sun.  While still breezy, it wasn’t nearly as windy as our first beach stop, which made for a much more relaxing stroll.

Pfeiffer Beach

The most distinct feature of this particular stretch of beach is a cut-out archway in one of the giant rock formations off the coast. I loved watching the waves crash through the opening.

Rock Archway

This was a spectacular little stretch of beach.

Big Sur

Big Sur

On the way back to the car, we got an even better look at the beautiful cypress trees we had walked through earlier.

Cypress Tree

Check out those roots!

Cypress Roots

Back in the car, we headed north with one thing on our minds: lunch.  Along this stretch of road there are only a couple of restaurants because so much of it is off-limits to developers.  This made the choice of Rocky Point Restaurant a no-brainer.  Perched on a cliff above the Pacific, Rocky Point is definitely a restaurant you visit more for the views than the food.  This was the view from our table.

Rocky Point View

There is a great outdoor seating area, but the wind moved our lunch indoors and the panoramic views were still amazing.  The bar area was the best of both worlds – wonderful views and a nice breeze through the open door, but no gale-force gusts.

Rocky Point

We started our meal with a Potato Crab Cake, which basically tasted like crispy crab hash browns.  The greens and lemons on top gave it some nice zing.  This was probably my favorite part of the whole meal.

Potato Crab Cake

For my lunch, I ordered a Mediterranean Tuna Sandwich, which was basically a mayo-free tuna salad with some interesting flavors.  It was decent but nothing too exciting.  My favorite part may have been the zippy maple vinaigrette on my side salad. My lunch companions each ordered burgers, which looked amazing but were apparently just ok.

Rocky Point Lunch

Like I said, the view was the main attraction at this restaurant.  Also, you pay pretty nicely for that view.  I thought it was worth it because it’s a truly special place to sit and enjoy while on vacation.  But if price is a major concern for you, you might want to pack sandwiches and plan on a Big Sur picnic instead.

Rocky Point

But oh what a view it was… I’d love to sit on their patio on a calm day with a few friends, a bottle of wine and an appetizer or two.  We didn’t drink with lunch, but according to my aunt (whose local wine knowledge I trust absolutely) they have a great wine list featuring a lot of local offerings.

There is also a great overlook point perfect for photo ops.  I now have photos in this very spot from two separate vacations.

Rocky Point Overlook

After lunch and our photo shoot, it was back to Carmel for us.  We arrived back in the valley just in time for a little wine tasting before the tasting rooms closed – recap to come!

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