Saturday, April 23, 2011

Why We Love Big Sur and California's Highway 1

Just in time for the tourism season, California's Scenic Highway 1 officially reopened April 21, 2011 following a March 16, 2011 slide and road closure south of Carmel.  On this route which sees nearly four million visitors each year, you may have heard of some of the favorite stops below, or read about the area's dozen hotels.

For family adventurers, Big Sur packs in hundreds of miles of hiking terrain, resident wild animals and all things oceanic.  Its seamless blend of rustic yet revered lands have made "El Sur Grande" home to a long list of artists, poets and craftspeople since the area was first settled in the 1870s.  For nature and auto enthusiasts, and anyone embarking on the classic family road trip, the trek through Big Sur is a rite of passage.

Thanks to the See  for sharing their pick of Big Sur's top 10 attractions.

Point Lobos State Reserve
Noted as "the crown jewel of the State park system," this is the stop for hikers, birders and divers.  At 25 miles north of Big Sur and home to 250+ animal and bird species, the 544-acre park packs plenty of punch.  Try the ocean-front Perimeter trail or just park and hit the key points including Cypress Grove, home to one of two naturally growing strands of Monterey Cypress in the world, Bird Island, Whaler's Cove and China Cove – with its dramatic sparkling jade-green waters framed by hanging Cliffside gardens.

Bixby Creek Bridge
One of the most photographed features on the West Coast, this architectural marvel linked the world to Big Sur in 1932 at a cost of $10 million.  The 714-ft. long bridge is one of the top ten highest single-span bridges in the world and has debuted in Play Misty for Me, as well as a number of television programs and car advertisements.  It also is center stage for the annual Big Sur Marathon every April.

Point Sur Lighthouse Station
Go off-road for a seasonal moonlight hike/tour at this State Historic Landmark set on a volcanic rock 361 feet above the Pacific.  Located in Point Sur State Historic Park , the lighthouse has been in operation since 1889 and is the West Coast's only complete turn-of-the-century light station open to the public.  The lighthouse and nine other buildings, including a complete blacksmith and carpentry ship, are viewable by guided tour.

Pfeiffer Beach
Hard to find and even harder to forget, this pristine beach is a rare opportunity to get up close with Big Sur's shoreline with dramatic offshore rocks and an unusual purple sand, from manganese garnet particles that have washed down from the hillside.  This is nature at its naked best, especially at sunset.  A sharp right turn on the only paved road past the Big Sur Post Office (Sycamore Canyon Road) heading south on Highway 1 delivers a two-mile windy road, from there a walking path opens up to this hidden gem.

Nepenthe Restaurant
Set 808 ft. above the crashing surf, this classic redwood and glass outpost was once home to author Henry Miller, doubled as a dance floor in the film Sandpiper and was a gift from Orson Welles to actress Rita Hayworth in 1944.  Today, travelers find Nepenthe's lure irresistible, with views to infinity as the sun slips into the sea.  An open-pit fireplace, meandering decks and dishes like local Castroville artichokes and the signature Ambrosia hamburger paired with a substantial wine by the glass program ensure an ethereal stay.

Henry Miller Memorial Library
The funky library, tucked deep in a redwood grove along Highway 1, offers a variety of books by Miller and his contemporaries, a sculpture garden, alfresco stage for performances and plenty of Big Sur character.  Henry Miller spent eighteen years (1944-1962) living in Big Sur while turning out some of his finest work, including The Rosy Crucifixion, a three-volume epic about his life with his second wife, June; and Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch , the story of his life in the region.

McWay F a lls
Located in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, this slender yet dramatic 80-ft. fall is a brief one-mile round trip jaunt via the Scenic Overlook/Waterfall trail.  The falls flow year-round and are one of only two in the region that are close enough to the ocean to be referred as "tidefalls" with its delicate sand landing.  Along McWay Creek, the path leads through a tunnel under Highway 1 and emerges with a spectacular grand panorama of the Big Sur coast.

Esalen Institute
Once home to a Native American Esselen tribe, the institute sits on 27 acres of spectacular Big Sur coastline with the Santa Lucia Mountains rising sharply behind.  In 1962, Esalen was founded as an alternative educational center devoted to all things "human potential." Today it is better known for its blend of East/West philosophies, workshops and breathtaking grounds blessed with natural hot springs. Baths are open to the public from 1:00 a.m.3:00 a.m.; $20.  Guestrooms are sometimes available independent of workshops.

Limekiln State Park
For a true Raiders of the Lost Ark adventure, visit this magical site.  Cutting deep through towering redwoods along several lush creeks line four 100+ year old lost limekilns, used for quarrying limestone in the 1870-1880s. The Park combines crashing Pacific with an opportunity to trek through some of the oldest and largest redwood groves in Monterey County.  Cut down to the beach thereafter for prime views or sunbathing.

Jade Cove          
Named after the smooth, waxy stone frequently found here, Jade Cove offers an inside look at the riches of Big Sur.  Two miles south of Sand Dollar Beach, the Jade Cove Trail quickly descends from the bluffs to the beach with a number of rocky coves.  Scout about for treasures while soaking in the dynamic mixture of land and sea.  Note: regulations for collecting apply.

Whale Watching
Highway 1 also boasts several vantage points from which to view the migratory path of the California Gray Whale. Between late November and early February, these giant mammals swim south to the warm waters of Baja California, Mexico, where they breed and birth their calves. The whales often travel together in large pods, and their trademark spouting makes these huge creatures easy to identify. Then, from late February through early April, the migration reverses itself.

Trip Planning Information for Monterey and Highway 1
Monterey County is located 120 miles/192 km south of San Francisco and 345 miles/552 km north of Los Angeles along the classic California corridor, Highway 1.  The region boasts 99 miles of prime Pacific Coastline, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, three historic missions, 40,000 acres of premium vineyards, 24 golf courses and over 250 lodging properties. For families, the Asilomar Conference Center is a top value resort that's popular with reunion groups.

No comments:

Post a Comment