Few would argue that Big Sur is one of California's, even America's, greatest road trips—travelers come from around the world to drive this stretch of rugged coastline with sweeping views.Whether you're coming from San Francisco or beyond, whether it's your first visit or your 10th, pull over at these must-stops along the way.
No need to try the rugged hike down: Snag a photo from the Waterfall Overlook Trail.(Kim Noelle, via @creedboutique)
Located inside Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, right off Highway 1 (just look for the high concentration of cars pulled over on the side of the road), this 80-foot waterfall is unique to the region: It's one of just a few that empty into the ocean. There are several good photo ops from the half-mile roundtrip Waterfall Overlook Trail accessible from the parking lot. Check the California Department of Parks and Recreation website for the latest updates of park accessibility and possible trail closures. // Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, 52801 Highway One (Big Sur), parks.ca.gov
Bixby Creek Bridge
You've probably already seen the Bixby Creek Bridge even if you've never been to Big Sur. That's because the bridge is one of the most photographed attractions in California and has been featured in commercials, movies, and television shows—think of it as the Golden Gate of Big Sur. Coming from Monterey, it's one of the first real dramatic views you see upon entering the area. While it's only 714-feet long, it's the height, arch, and view of the coastline and Pacific Ocean that make it so photogenic. // Highway One (Big Sur); for more info at visitcalifornia.com.
(Courtesy of @nepentherestaurant)
After you climb up the stairs and reach Nepenthe Restaurant, you'll immediately see why it's on this (and every) list: not for the food but rather for the view. From its high perch, the restaurant overlooks the rocky coastline and Pacific Ocean. If you arrive during off-peak times, you should be able to snag a prime seat on the outdoor patio. Order a cheese plate and a glass of wine and take it all in. // 48510 Highway One (Big Sur), nepenthe.com
Keep a keen eye out for Pfeiffer Beach—blink and you might miss it. The sharp turn-off is located just about a mile south of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park; once you pull in, you'll still have a five to 10 minute drive down the narrow, winding road. Actually part of Los Padres National Forest, this is one of the most unique beaches in California, noted for its purplish sand and the famous rock arch, just beyond the crashing waves. Bundle up and stick around for sunset when the light shines through. // $12 parking/day use at Sycamore Canyon Rd. (Big Sur); for a map and details, go to fs.usda.gov.
Henry Miller Memorial Library
A library? Yes, a library, but really it's more of a bookstore and arts center where you can also catch an evening outdoor concert or event amid towering redwoods. Upcoming shows include Mac DeMarco (Aug. 15-16) and Sterolab (Sept. 21). // Library is open 11am to 5pm Wednesdays through Mondays; 48603 Highway One (Big Sur), henrymiller.org; for the events calendar and tickets, go to Eventbrite.