It’s no secret that Big Sur is one of the most beautiful areas in the United States. With dramatic, craggy coastlines, deep blue waves, and lush forests, Big Sur, and nearby Pebble Beach and Monterey, are perfect for a coastal road trip. Since Gray recently wrapped up shooting these stunning aerials, we couldn’t help but think how beautiful this area is from the ground as well. With so much to see and do in a span of only 90 miles, you’ll want to add this road trip to your travel bucket list ASAP.
Keep reading for our best tips on how to get the most out of your coastal adventure…
While we happen to think California is pretty beautiful year-round, certain seasons are better than others when it comes to Monterey and Big Sur. To avoid morning fog, which can sometimes creep into midday and ruin the views, the best months to visit are September and October. While the weather will be a little cooler than in summer months, the unobstructed views are worth it. Also, make sure to download your maps before you drive, as cell phone reception can be spotty near the nature preserves.
To make the most out of your vacation, we suggest following this general route:
Since this will likely be the first stop on your journey, fuel up at Old Fisherman’s Grotto for fresh seafood, or check out Alvarado Street Brewery for craft beers and snacks like truffle crawfish mac n’ cheese.
From there, head down the coast to 17 Mile Drive, which winds through Pebble Beach. A quick tip if you’re planning to stop along the way: while you’ll pay a per-car entrance fee to drive along the scenic road, if you spend more than the minimum printed on your receipt at a restaurant in the area, you can deduct the charge from your bill.
Make sure to plan plenty of time to take photos and admire the view at scenic overlooks along the way. This is one trip where it really is about the journey just as much as it is about the destination.
Once you’ve made your way along the drive and into Carmel-by-the-Sea, you can find lots of incredible dining options. Our personal favorites are Casanova, a romantic spot once visited by Van Gogh, or Il Tegamino for al fresco dining and Italian comfort food. For ultimate luxury, splurge on the tasting menu at Aubergine for a coastal-inspired culinary experience you won’t forget.
When it comes time to call it a night, the Quail Lodge and Golf Club is just a short drive away and a great pick for golf aficionados and nature lovers alike.
Once you’re rested and recharged, you can start making your way down the rugged coast, stopping at the Point Lobos State Reserve for a glimpse at the “crown jewel” of California’s state parks. From there, you’ll pass Bixby Bridge, one of the most iconic images of this area. While it’s gorgeous at sunset, heading over earlier in the day ensures less traffic.
As you meander down the coastline, make time to stop at Point Sur State Park for a trip to the expertly preserved lighthouse and a scenic hike. Make sure to pack layers, as it can get windy.
Swing by Pfeiffer Beach and the nearby state park for even more stunning blue waves. Inside the park, you can find McWay Falls, an 80-foot waterfall leading into a bright blue cove.
The Post Ranch Inn in the heart of Big Sur boasts spectacular ocean views from their secluded luxury cabins, and their Sierra Mar Restaurant makes for an ideal lunch spot. Or head over to Nepenthe for the famous Ambrosia burger and gorgeous views.
When it’s time to move from ocean to forest, venture into Limekiln Forest, home to massive redwood trees and a roaring waterfall.
Finally, end your day with sunset at Sand Dollar Beach—maybe even stopping to grab dinner at nearby Lucia Lodge Restaurant while the sun goes down over the water.
That’s our ideal way to end a spectacular road trip!
Which of the spots are you dying to visit?
Xx Team GM
Photos: Gray Malin