First off, Big Sur is both a place and a state of mind. The famous Highway 1 takes a turn for the spectacular once you head south from Monterey Bay. As such, make sure you carve out several days to spend here or you’ll miss a lot of what Big Sur has to offer. Bordered to the east by the Santa Lucia Mountains and to the west by the Pacific Ocean, California’s central coast provides numerous state parks for hiking, camping, and beachcombing.
- Bixby Bridge, a landmark that towers nearly 270 ft across a canyon floor
- McWay Falls, an 80-ft. cascade over granite cliffs into the ocean reached by a short hike through Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
- Pfeiffer Beach, distinguished by its purple sand
- Redwood groves on the headlands and in the foothills that offer hiking, horseback trails, and rustic campgrounds
Kirk Creek Campground
A few miles north of Plaskett Creek are a couple of first-come-first-serve campsites that are tailor-made for Escape Campervans. Kirk Creek is the ONLY campground along this stretch situated on the western side of the highway. Bring your own water as there are no amenities, but it’s a fantastic place to watch the sunset over a roaring, legal campfire and fall asleep listening to the waves crash below you for $20.
If you prefer not to pay the $20, cross Highway 1 and head directly up Nacimiento Fergusson Drive. It’s paved, liberally dotted with car pullouts, and free. Even if you’re just driving through, head up this road anyway because the views are spectacular. Alternatively, Lime Kiln is located in a steep ravine just south of there and, if you’re lucky, you can snag one of the few campsites located right by the ocean.
Plaskett Creek Campground
This campground has some of the friendliest campers you’ll encounter on your entire trip. It’s right across the road from the often-missed Sand Dollar Beach, perfect for an afternoon walk. Access to the parking area at Sand Dollar will run you $5 but you can park on the road and walk in for free. (There is free camping up Plaskett Ridge Road, but remember, your insurance isn’t covered when driving on bumpy dirt roads).
Last, but not least! Nestled among the redwoods with the Big Sur river running through the middle, this is an idyllic place to take a breather from the road for a couple of days. There is a great little hike just behind the stage that takes you into a large stand of redwood trees to the north. It’ll be tourist-free and a nice breather from driving the crowded roads of Highway 1.
Directions: West side of the road 1 mile (2 km) north of Pfeiffer Big Sur Campground. It’s just south the Fernwood General Store and Cabins. Tell Diana we said to take care of you.
Best Side Trip
Hearst Castle — It took 28 years to complete William Randolph Hearst’s lavish estate, which includes 165 rooms on 125 acres. There are a variety of tours available.
Location: Can’t miss the entrance on the right up Highway 1 outside the town of San Simeon.
- Nepenthe Restaurant – We’ve road tested this restaurant with several Escapees and the feedback has been 100% positive. A major dining destination for the jet set, this converted house (that used to be owned by Orson Welles) is a great spot to park it for a while, enjoy a beer or two and catch a sunset…or two. Splurge on a fancy dinner or hang a left at the fire pit and wander out to the viewing area below the restaurant for free.
- Big Sur Bakery – Located just north of the town of Big Sur is a bakery that is a ‘must-do’ for any person in the know along this stretch of highway.