Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, United States

Beautiful Big Sur CA

Nepenthe, Big Sur CA
Sculpture at Nepenthe in Big Sur


You don’t need me to tell you that Big Sur is a beautiful place to visit.  There’s a reason it’s one of the top destinations in California.  However, I do need to tell you about a few of my favorite places along the way.


Nepenthe is at the northern end of Big Sur, a little ways south of Carmel.  I have a hard time explaining this place to people. It’s mostly a restaurant, except that it’s not just a restaurant. The view is remarkable and the food is good, but it’s more than that.  When I pull off the road and into their parking lot I always feel like I’ve been granted entrance into another world. There are all sorts of legends attached to the place and at least one movie was filmed on site. You just have to go. That’s all that I can say.

Phoenix Gift shop, Nepenthe, Big Sur CA
From the Phoenix Gift shop

A part of the attraction, for me, is the Phoenix Gift Shop. It’s bigger than a mere gift shop or at least it seems that way and they don’t carry your average souvenirs. I’m sure you can buy t-shirts and ball caps with Big Sur splashed all over them, but that’s almost beside the point. They have handcrafted musical instruments, artisan jewelry, lots of books, unique wind chimes and the list goes on. Don’t neglect to go downstairs. That’s where they have the clothes.

I aspire to buy all my clothes at The Phoenix. Everything is handmade, unique, unusual and/or exotic, but none of it is weird. Does that make any sense? It’s the sort of thing that makes people want to ask where it came from, but not for the wrong reasons. It’s all out of my price range – not in the sense of couture pricing, but it costs more than it makes sense for me to spend, when I don’t have any room for anything else in my closet. It’s like if my house burned down, I’d go there with my insurance money to start all over, because most of what I’d buy doesn’t go with what I have.

However, I usually buy something.  This trip it was a t-shirt.  It had been marked down enough times for me to feel like I stole it.  Now that I’m home I love wearing my find.  People always comment on it and when I tell them where I bought it, they’re always jealous.

Ragged Point, Big Sur CA
The Cliff at Ragged Point from Highway One

Ragged Point

At the southern end of Big Sur is Ragged Point.  It’s sort of an inn/restaurant/gas station/snack shop/photo opportunity.  Call it what you will, I always stop.  I’m usually in need of a break and Ragged Point has an absolutely jaw-dropping view.

I have eaten at the restaurant, but I didn’t on this trip.  It’s been an uneven experience.  Great one time, horrid the next.  While we were there, someone said it had new ownership/management and was going through a sort of Renaissance, but don’t hold me to that.

There’s a nature trail that wanders down to the edge of a cliff – that’s where your jaw will become unhinged.  We sort of stroll down there and back. A nice little break.

San Simeon

Most people go to San Simeon to visit Hearst Castle and that’s a darned good reason to go, but I saw the sprawling estate frequently when I lived on the Central Coast, because everyone who came to town wanted to see it.  The tour takes a lot of time and the price of admission discourages casual visits.

Elephant Seals, San Simeon CA
Elephant Seals on the Beach at San Simeon

Just north of the Hearst Castle is a scenic overlook that looks over more than just sand and sea.  Elephant seals have chosen it as their home.  They aren’t very pretty and the smell is somewhat foul, but the sight of all the huge animals laying on the beach is pretty amazing.

The Day Draws to a Close

We woke up in San Francisco and at day’s end we were drawing close to Cambria, where we had reservations for the night.  Come back next week and I’ll tell you about one of my favorite places in the world:  Moonstone Beach.

3 thoughts on “Beautiful Big Sur CA”

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