It’s not difficult to see why Big Sur regularly appears on lists of top destinations to visit. Magnificent mountain scenery, towering redwood forests, wildlife encounters, and a beautiful wild coastline along the mighty Pacific Ocean, make it a treat for the senses. It was a warning on the State Park website that most appealed to me though. Big Sur is a place where getting a mobile phone signal is almost impossible.
Here, just a few hours drive from the tech hub of San Francisco, you can leave the digital world behind. We decided to embrace this idea and headed to the coast for a day of low tech beachcombing … nearby Pfeiffer Beach was the perfect place to start our explorations, even if there’s a $10 fee to visit. Maybe that was why no one else was on the beach.
Pfeiffer Beach is a wonderful crescent-shaped arc of sand, backed by cliffs and hills. Famous for many reasons, it’s mostly known for two huge rocks sitting in the cove. These both have holes in them that look a little like caves. As the Pacific Ocean waves pound into the rocks the water is channeled through the holes and spews out white, foamy spray.
The beach is also famous for having purple-coloured sand, caused by manganese garnet being washed down from the surrounding hills when it rains. We didn’t see the purple sand, but this is a fantastic beach no matter what colour the sand.
We were driving towards Carmel-by-the-Sea and, after a refreshing walk along Pfeiffer Beach, we headed north towards Andrew Molera State Beach. This is where the Big Sur River meets the Pacific Ocean, and is all windswept natural beauty. It has to be one of the most beautiful beaches along this coast. It was also, surprisingly, deserted
We strolled in grand isolation with just the sound of the wind and ocean for company. It’s a short walk to the beach from a nearby carpark. The walk entails wading through the Big Sur River, the water isn’t very deep and the beach definitely makes getting a little wet worthwhile. The short trail passes through a picturesque meadow where, on our return, we came across some deer.
We carried on north, soon passing over the iconic Bixby Creek Bridge. The bridge ranks up there as being (almost) as well known as the Golden Gate, but that’s just about where the comparisons end. Built in 1932, just a few years before the Golden Gate, it carries less than 5,000 cars per day. The single concrete arch has a timeless quality, and is dramatically set into the cliffs overlooking the ocean.
It’s well worth stopping to admire the views from one of several roadside parking spots, but for Jack Kerouac fans this is virtually a place of pilgrimage. It was here, while drunkenly marauding around like a madman, that he wrote the novel Big Sur and the poem Sea.
We decided to stay in the wine region of the Carmel Valley, a short drive from Carmel-by-the-Sea, but stopped briefly to visit the famous Carmel Mission. Our real reason for coming here was to hike in Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. It’s a beautiful place with an abundance of wildlife. The scenery is magnificent, but we also saw several sea otters, seals and sea lions.
This really is a beautiful area, criss-crossed with walking trails with only a handful of people on them. It was the perfect end to a day of Californian beachcombing, made all the more satisfying in the knowledge that we could sample some Carmel Valley wines at the end of our drive.