California's Central Coast

Big Sur Coastal Drive

santa lucia mountains rising from ocean big sur
The California Central Coast's jewel is where the Santa Lucia Mountains rise out of the Pacific Ocean and is generally known as Big Sur. The steep terrain provides spectacular views of the ocean along this breathtaking stretch of coast. Rocks are constantly crashing down on the road causing closures so it is important to drive carefully and keep your eyes on the road. Not an easy task considering the beautiful vistas around every bend in the road! Stop whenever you can because it is almost impossible to turn around and go back! There are waterfalls and hiking trails on the mountain side and some access trails to the sea on the ocean side of the road. Although there is disagreement, many people believe that 'Big Sur' starts at Ragged Point where the San Caporforo Creek meets the ocean and ends at Carmel. It doesn't matter….you cannot go wrong if you are fortunate enough to experience any part or all of this California WONDER.

gorda gorda gas pump ocean view from gorda roadside monterey pinetree big sur drive highway 1
big sur fauna view driving big sur
Gorda is located along the way and is currently famous for selling the HIGHEST PRICE GAS in America. They have been on TV defending the many reasons they have to charge so much and seem to be 'over it'. We noticed that most of the people stopping when we were there were just taking pictures of the pump rather than to purchase gas! They do sell marvelous sandwiches in the small restaurant but watch the kids as the traffic jam is amazing!

big sur rocky shoreline big sur coastal view offshore rocks big sur coast crashing waves big sur azure ocean colors big sur california coast big sur
jade beach big sur deserted beach view big sur ocean tumbled rocks big sur coast beach view from route 1 view down to ocean from rest stop big sur steep big sur terrain
bay in big sur trail to beach big sur under highway 1 big sur hiking trailhead wild flowers los padres
roadside pine tree looking down steep big sur cliff wild flowers big sur
The views of the Pacific Ocean are absolutely amazing! Each time you stop - the waves, rocks and colors of the ocean are different and simply beautiful! Make sure you have a large capacity memory stick or lots of film for your camera because you will need it! Big Sur's Cone Peak is the highest coastal mountain in the lower 48 states ascending nearly a mile above sea level. The northern section of the Los Padres National Forest begins north of Gorda and goes all the way to Big Sur. The national forestry service suggests that due to the unpredictable, dangerous surf along the Big Sur coastline and the absence of lifeguards that you do not swim in the ocean and use extreme caution at all times along the shore.

nathanial owens redwood grove campground los padres national forest camping at big sur picnic spot los padres forest big sur picnic wild strawberries los padres campground waterfall stop highway 1 big sur
You will find a number of campgrounds along the coast and we stopped to picnic and to play at several. Google Los Padres National Forest for more information specific to your travel plans.

stairs to big sur beach throwing rocks at big sur hiking trail big sur boys and rocks calm water at big sur ocean tumbled rocks big sur coast big sur beach view
There is limited coastal access along the Big Sur coastline drive. It usually requires a steep hike (especially on the way back) but you normally have the place to yourself! We found our climbs and hikes to be well worth the effort!

san caporforo creek big sur flora flowers big sur throwing rocks at big sur big sur daisies santa lucia mountains rising from ocean big sur bay in big sur
We recommend you make an entire day of your drive through the Big Sur. You can also take a tour and leave the driving to a local expert! It is a trip that cannot be rushed so don't be fooled by the number of miles you will travel. It can be a slow drive so relax and plan to stop and really enjoy this beautiful area. Carmel and Monterey offer every type of overnight accommodations you can imagine but as always, I suggest you make reservations in advance. You can negotiate a great rate online and not spend the afternoon worrying about where you are going to sleep! DRIVE CAREFULLY and remember to stop and smell the OCEAN!

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