Big Sur Coast Roadtrip
Big Sur Coastal Drive
11pm the night before: Garrett and I are frantically shoving the car full of gear with arguments on what goes where and cursing that we, once again, are last minute at preparing for another adventure. The car is overflowing with camping accessories, hiking boots, clothes, camera equipment and tucked on top was my excitement. I've always been a sucker for road trips, especially ones that don't require a shower, and this one was my ultimate dream. Pacific ocean meets cliff edges towering over you, making the surroundings comfortable with campfires and S'mores to end the night, yes the s'mores are my favorite part. You're either overlooking the edges watching whales surface for air in the Pacific Ocean, or encompassed by Redwoods over 2,000 years old and taller than skyscrapers. But not to get too ahead of myself, since we have to wake up at 3am to begin the journey..
4:45am: My eyes shoot open and I run into the kitchen to find my oven light piercing through the darkness back at me, two hours late and we haven't even started.
"BAAAAABE! It's 5:00 what happened to the alarm?!" We gathered the last of our protein cookies, took our bathroom breaks and sprinted to the purring car already getting broken in with smokey campfire smells.
As we pulled onto PCH, the sunrise began to peak its way over the mountains, covering the morning light with purple streaked sky as if a painter brushed the morning in vibrant watercolors. I haven't been awake for a sunrise in a while, and it makes me happy to again feel the world begin another day with easing grace. We zip through the curving roads, winding us along the morning ocean edges. I see blue, purple, pink and yellow.
This was a 3 day weekend endeavor, waking up around 5am every morning and exploring all day long until the sun retreated, forcing us to do the same. Our camera is overflowing with Big Sur, and here is our weekend trip along the stunning coast of Southern California. As always, Click to shop my look!
"I'm your tour guide, Kate,” she smiles. “There is little cell service in Big Sur...fun fact, electricity didn't arrive in Big Sur until 1950 and still doesn't reach the more remote areas…” check, I think to myself. I prepared the majority of this trip as efficiently as possible since we only planned it less than 4 days ago. No cell service was the thing that scared me most (I hate to admit), but I managed to print out every possible route to our destinations and how to get to our camp site for the weekend.
For this adventure, I partnered with coastal Big Sur experts who helped us decide where to stop along the way called Big Sur Road Trip. Since part of the Highway 1 coastal route was shut down with no detours, we took the 101 north to Monterey and backtracked down for our roadtrip. This guide leads you through the most popular, scenic and hidden treasures along the Big Sur coast with a playlist to keep the mood right. We were only able to hit around 4 of the treasures because we had 2 days total to explore, plus partial closures made it more difficult. They also prepare you for what you're about to encounter, getting you excited for waterfalls, bluff trails, wildlife or views for days without ruining the experience itself.
Her ideal tracks made it possible to go to Bixby Bridge at 6am and set up a tripod for sunrise. We heard that it can get busy, and shooting photography in a busy spot can be an actual nightmare (either trying to crop them out or just having to photoshop them). We arrived with enough time to enjoy the sunrise and minimal traffic without compensating for images or stress. We also were stunned by the beauty Carmel-by-the-Sea could withhold from the rest of the surrounding areas. We decided to camp (worst decision for two LA city people to do. We ended up getting a hotel after sleeping maybe 2 hours and noticing our neighbor had their newborn with them. NO thank you!), but watching the nature that Big Sur really takes care of made the experience.
Kate introduces stops with facts, history, roadmap directions and what to bring(you should really try it just for this). Some of the destinations she mentions are Bixby Creek State Bridge, Mcway Falls, Point Lobos State Park, Pfeiffer Beach and so many more. This guide includes maps, a pamphlet with what to bring to Big Sur, gas stops, camping sites and of course, destinations. Basically Big Sur Audio Guide will mention about any questions you may have. To check out the guide, click here.
And of course, for my fellow Big Sur beginners, here are some tips that helped us along. First, a phone charger, camera charger and some sort of generator to give your memory makers some life (we chose a car adapter that does it all at Best Buy for $39.99). Believe me, you're going to want photos!
Secondly, you cannot leave your house without a durable pair of hiking books. Big Sur is known for it's rocky cliff overlooks, and the most scenic spots are always a little off the main trail. I chose to wear Cole Haan's waterproof boots $180.
Third, prepare for all seasons; during the day we would get streaks of 85 degrees, but nighttime can easily get below 60 degrees in the summer! Marine layers may make their way in too, so if you're camping bring waterproof everything.
Finally, I recommend not overplanning. There are so many places to sight-see it can be overwhelming, but sometimes its better to just look where the day takes you. Take your time and embrace the areas you connect with most, and pass on the others that are fun and popular but not your style. This entire Southern Coast has something for everyone and you're bound to fall in love with a peticular place without even realizing it. When I explored Garrapata Beach (pictured below) I immediately got a rush of solidarity and balance. We saw whales immediately come up out of the water, blowing water into the air and lifting their gigantic tales out of the water. Not far behind them were a school of energetic dolphins, jumping through the waves. I was sure there would be a large audience to see such grace, but when we hiked down the old wooden stairs with missing steps, the only thing I heard was a silent white noise of ocean and wind. Something about this beach left me with a piece of it, and I hope you find a spot that does just that to you..