Big Sur

big sur.

[spotlight series. josh gold]

[our big sur soundtrack.]

there is a pleasure in the pathless woods; there is a rapture on the lonely shore; there is society, where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar: i love not man less, but nature more.*

The isolated beauty of Big Sur is breathtaking. Nestled into the steep curves of the Santa Lucia Mountains, surrounded by remarkable redwoods and rocky beaches, there is magic in the air here. A long and windy journey north of Los Angeles, or south from San Francisco, the scenery along the Pacific Ocean is totally awe-inspiring. We were wowed by a pod of gray whales, on their migration north back to their summer feeding grounds in the North Pacific. These amazingly humble and beautiful creatures, perhaps ten of them, entertained us for what seemed like hours. Seals, dolphins, birds as well, as if on queue, on stage, showing off in their stunning surrounds. The air is clear, the nature wild and free, and the energy intoxicating…and as Henry Miller said, there is at once, an “eloquent silence” here. Just wait to be swept away by the magical energy.

1. To sleep…

Sleeping options are somewhat limited…but there are definitely a couple of choices for every budget. If you are craving a little bit of luxe, and don’t mind spenny, then I would definitely recommend Post Ranch Inn orVentana (where the “rustic charm of Ventana’s weathered cedar buildings belie the luxury within”). For something a little more affordable, try Deetjen’s: a charming bed and breakfast nestled into a lush and windy part of the coastal drive; or Glen Oaks: an updated 1950s motor lodge/turned cabins (I hear good things about their River View cabins. Or lastly, save your pennies altogether, and pitch a tent. There are countless campgrounds to choose from. Be one with nature - so many magical spots. We loved the look of the Andrew Molera State Park Trail Camp, perfectly located within walking distance of the Big Sur Rivermouth. Bordered on one side by the Big Sur River, this campground is in a grassy meadow dotted with large trees, and is just a short walk to the beach. None more perfect a place to set up camp.

2. To eat…

Eat at the Big Sur Bakery: breakfast, brunch, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner - or all of the above! A Big Sur staple. We love starting the day here, and then ending it here as well. Take home a copy of The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook: filled with Big Sur history, Big Sur personalities, and some seriously delicious recipes.

Deetjen’s: for the best eggs benedict in town (according to my beloved Big Sur aficionado – Skye Byrne). A charming, rustic and woody atmosphere, on the edge of the redwood forest in Big Sur.

2. To drink…

Our favorite place for a sunset drink is the Cliffside restaurant and bar at the Post Ranch Inn. We couldn't quite afford the $1500+ price-tag to stay the night, but figured a bottle of rose, watching the sun go down from the outside bar, was just as good. Clear skies, so many stars, pure magic.

Nepenthe: a great place to grab a drink or bite at sunset. Killer views over the Pacific as the sun goes down. If you have already eaten, or have dinner plans later, just pop in for a drink…and cosy up by the fire if it’s chilly outside.

Night cap at the Big Sur Village Pub: we had a very fun night at this quaint little pub, just meters down the hill from the Big Sur Bakery. Friendly service, live music [ryan dishen was playing the night we were there: so good, we took home a copy of his album, new windows. the kid can sing], and good brews. A perfect way to end the most perfect of days.

3. To do…

Hike: to the McWay Falls in the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park – a picturesque waterfall, which drops over jagged cliffs into the Pacific Ocean, just a short walk from Highway 1. Sadly, you can’t get down close to the waterfall, but this is a main feature of the park and definitely worth checking out. Just go early, as the crowds start to roll up pretty soon after breakfast.

Visit: the Big Sur River Mouth, through the Andrew Molera State Park - a lovely beach you can access by walking through a stunning meadow. We had the beach completely to ourselves when we visited shortly after sunrise.

Surf: exploring the rugged Big Sur coastline on a surfboard is an experience not to be missed. Jaw-dropping coastal scenery, empty lineups, and enough wilderness to get truly lost in! The ocean here demands respect. The Big Sur Rivermouth, for example, can sometimes have good waves, but beware of fast currents that can close out the waves, and the shallow sandbar.

Get nude: at the Esalen Institute’s Public Night Hot Springs (1am-3am). A spectacular setting – natural hot springs, which hug the cliff-side of the Pacific Ocean. Reservations essential. Relax, unwind and get naked. The famed (and famously private) Esalen Institute opens to the public for 2 hours each evening. A maximum of 20 visitors are allowed each night. The hot springs can reach temperatures of 115 °F (46 °C), but are cooled significantly by the coastal air. Total darkness keeps this sanctuary shrouded in secrecy.

Hikes: so many wonderful options, for all different levels. You can’t go wrong.

Whale Watching: watch these stunning creatures – gray whales – pass Big Sur in December and January, on their migration south to their breeding and calving grounds off the Baja California coast. In March and April, they can be seen returning north to their summer feeding grounds in the North Pacific.

A MUST: if you are very lucky, and you time it right, catch a live show at the Henry Miller Library. An unbelievably magical and hidden experience – a little stage tucked deep in the forest, among the big Reds, secluded and only for an audience of 300. Grizzly Bear, Beach House and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs all played in this mystical place last summer. Doesn’t get more radical than that.