There may be no road trip in America that is as awe-inspiring, soothing and restorative as a drive along California’s beautiful Big Sur coast.
Tucked away from the state’s major urban areas, a drive through this stretch of rugged coastal countryside is a unique opportunity to revel in California’s most striking seaside scenery.
The main road through the Big Sur area is state Highway 1, an iconic stretch of asphalt that snakes along the base, or in some areas is carved into the side of the Santa Lucia Mountains, a mysterious looking and mist-covered range that rises some 5,000 feet above the rocky coastline.
Motoring along this winding roadway as it twists on the edge of towering seaside bluffs is at one moment relaxing and refreshing — then as the next curve in the roadway approaches — exhilarating, exciting and at times, just plain scary.
Recalling details of my first drive on the highway during a summer road trip are memories I’ll forever cherish.
But later journeys — the most recent with my girlfriend and partner of now several years — and trips in between where the sound of the tires gripping the roadway was my only companion — have been comparably refreshing.
“Yes, let’s go,” my girlfriend exclaimed when I told her I was going to write a story about Big Sur.
“No, sorry, sweetie, it’s due tomorrow,” I said.
My first trip through Big Sur is especially memorable because it was part of a driving vacation with my father and brother — the first long distance family trip since my troublesome teenage years.
Departing from my then home in Southern California, Dad, my brother and I left urban life behind us and headed north.
Rolling through the pastoral countryside of California’s Central Coast, we eventually came to the tiny seaside community of San Simeon — the last stop for those venturing north into Big Sur.
In the steep hills overlooking San Simeon towers the Hearst Castle — the former home of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst — now a historic landmark.
With tours of its opulent rooms and expansive grounds providing a glimpse of how the “one percent” lived during America’s Great Depression, it is a stop I highly recommend.
My father, my brother and I were duly impressed, but with the late summer sun breaking through the coastal mist, we were glad to get back on the road again and head into Big Sur.
For the next 90 miles or so, as we wound our way through the region, the three of us soaked in the splendor of panoramic ocean vistas, while regaining a family bond that had been lost for years.
My father has since passed away, and my brother is married now and lives in a distant state, but whenever I return to that magical stretch of coast, recalling even the most minor details of that trip warms my soul.
DRIVING TO AND THROUGH BIG SUR:
Approximately 90 miles of curvy, winding but stunningly beautiful roadway. Enter the region on Highway 1 beginning in San Simeon in the south, or from Carmel in the north.
San Simeon is about 230 miles, or about four hours north of Los Angeles.
Carmel is about 120 miles, or about two hours south of San Francisco.
For more information, including where to stay: