Best known for the Pacific Coast Highway some of the best tourist attractions in Big Sur are the 90 miles of coastline, jagged cliffs and beaches. Big Sur is derived from the Spanish meaning the big south or the big country of the south. The sparsely populated area makes it a lovely place to visit to get closer to nature and enjoy the outdoors.
10. Partington Cove
Partington cove trail may only be a mile long but it is a steep climb of 280 feet. Walkers make their way through a 60-foot tunnel which leads to the secluded cove. During prohibition the cove is said to have been used by smugglers to land liquor here and is sometimes called smugglers cove. It was also used as an equipment drop when the nearby highway was being constructed. Today there are still the remains of apparatus on the rocks. There is no direct driving route but a large pull-out on highway one enables drivers to park and gain access by walking.
9. Spirit Garden
The Spirit garden is an international arts and cultural centre is Big Sur. It hosts musicians, performers and artists from across the world and features dances and other productions. There are three outdoor stages surrounded by spirit nests, water features and sculptures, all decorated with colourful murals. A cool and spiritual place to visit. Outreach projects have reached many corners in the world for collaborations including Africa, Cuba, Brazil and India. There is also a small shop where crafts and other items can be browsed and purchased. Located 26 miles south of Carmel at Loma Vista.
8. Limekiln State Park
Featuring awe inspiring views of the West Pacific coast and dense redwood forest the park is popular for hikes and campsites. A great place for families to take kids for a fun camping experience. There are 716 acres of land and 24 campsites to choose from. Camps on the creek and in the redwoods are tent-only sites. Availability can be checked and bookings made online. Park kiosk hours are 9-7pm in high season and 10-5pm during low season. Drive in camping costs are $35 and holiday rates or discounts may apply.
7. Hawthorne Gallery
The design of the building is a work of art itself, purposefully designed it provides a great location to appreciate the art. The Hawthorne family are acclaimed artists in different formats. Along with work from other artists the gallery contains a mix of eclectic work. Installations can be enjoyed both inside and outside. The family promise to continue to produce art for generations to come. The Hawthorne gallery is open every day from 10am to 6pm. As well as this gallery there is another location in Port Orford Oregon.
6. Pfeiffer Beach
Described as one of the top 10 beaches in California, this coastline beach is not the sweeping pure white sand that may come to mind. Best known for the keyhole arch and cove the location is a photographers dream. The garnet from the cliffs above will sometimes turn the sand a beautiful purple colour which makes for a romantic atmosphere. The sea will also turn a gorgeous turquoise in the sunshine. This natural beauty makes it among the most majestic places to visit in Big Sur. It can be difficult to get to as it is tucked away but as long as the signs are followed it can be found.
5. Henry Miller Memorial Library
The Library is an arts centre named in honour of late local writer and artist Henry Miller. Here in this cultural hub you will find books, music art and more. The building serves as a social centre for the community. During the winter visitors can grab a cup of coffee and browse books. However, from May until October the library comes alive. There are many events to enjoy such as intimate live performances from famous visiting artists. The Annual International short film screening series also takes place here around the coastal cabin.
4. Point Sur State Historic Park
Home to the Point Sur light station which is the only complete lighthouse of its kind open to the public in California. It has been continuously in operation since 1st August 1889. Then families lived at the site to ensure the light station did its job, this was until 1974 when it was automated. It sits on top of a volcanic rock 361 feet above the sea offering amazing views. The only way to visit is by guided tour, they are available at the weekend year round and lasts three hours.
3. McWay falls
This waterfall in McWay Creek falls 80 feet year round and is close enough to the sea to be classed as a tide-falls. The falls are fed by an underground spring from the creek and the flow is much more powerful in the spring months. It can be viewed from a trail above, however the small beach and cove below can only be accessed by boat. When the tide is in the waterfall falls directly into the ocean. Incredible views are offered over the landscape and is a perfect place for nature lovers, photographers and hikes with friends.
2. Bixby Creek Bridge
The bridge was built and opened in 1932 in order for the residents here to have access during the winter months as the old coastal road became almost impassable. The concrete bridge is one of the highest of its kind in the world. It is one of the most photographed bridges along the Pacific coast, there a various turnout points allowing drivers to pull over and admire the view. Particularly beautiful at sunset it has become somewhat of a regional landmark. Driving across affords scenic coastal views and it is free.
1. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State park
The park is named after pioneer Julia Pfeiffer. Featuring redwood, tan oak and a beautiful 80-foot waterfall hiking the trails here will not disappoint. From the higher trails trekkers can enjoy a panoramic view across the ocean and coastline. During December and January at the end of the overlook trail visitors can spot gray whales migrating south passing close to the shoreline. The park is open ½ hour before sunrise until ½ hour after sunset. Although camping is permitted at two sites in the park, no vehicles are permitted to enter.
Although the weather is generally good, most of the things to do in Big Sur are outdoors and it is advised to bring clothing to be prepared for changing conditions. The best way to get around is by car as there is a large area to cover, not only that but driving the scenic roads are an attraction in themselves.