We were in Big Sur in mid-October, 2022, as part of Big Trip #4.
The Marina–Santa Cruz-Big Sur-San Luis Obispo portion of the trip is a little hectic because we had to shuffle some planned stops due to a work obligation that came up for J. The chaos worked out great for us, though, because we hadn’t initially booked a night in Big Sur, and we loved it.
The original plan was to drive from Monterey through Big Sur, stopping at vistas along the iconic Pacific Coast Highway, all the way to San Luis Obispo. Now that we were staying a night in Big Sur, we could slow down a bit and explore more. Plus, we got to have a bonkers amazing fancy dinner as an early birthday celebration for me!
Driving the PCH from Monterey to Big Sur
Towing a 28′ Airstream down the Pacific Coast Highway between Monterey and Big Sur was no big deal at all. The only problem we encountered is that we couldn’t always fit into the parking areas for the popular overlooks, like at the Bixby Bridge.
There are no shortage of pull-offs along the way, so we had plenty of opportunities to ogle the cliffs hanging above the ocean on one side, and the steep Santa Lucia Mountains towering over us on the other side.
The village of Big Sur (not to be confused with the larger surrounding region, also known as Big Sur, which stretches from Carmel in the north to San Simeon in the south) is a collection of adorable inns, cafes, and shops scattered along Route 1 about 20 miles south of Carmel.
We stayed at Fernwood Resort in Big Sur, a cute compound in a forest (with redwoods!) along the Big Sur River. The roads in the campground are tight (but manageable) with sharp turns, a steep entrance, and some ill-placed trees; the campsites are close together, and there’s no cell service (at least for Verizon) or wi-fi, but we loved it.
Up the hill from the campground there’s a motel, a restaurant, and a camp store/coffee shop. They do have wi-fi up there if you need it; J was relieved to have it and sat on the motel porch for a morning zoom meeting.
We’d happily stay at Fernwood Resort again!
Eating and drinking
Happy (early) birthday to me! We had an unexpected over-the-top dinner a short drive from the campground at super posh Sierra Mar at Post Ranch Inn. The food, cocktails, service, and sunset view over the ocean were unbelievable.
Before calling it a night, we stopped at the tavern at the top of the hill in our campground compound and enjoyed listening to trivia night (Harry Potter-themed! I killed it) from the back deck in the trees.
After a morning stroll on Pfeiffer Beach, we stopped at Big Sur Bakery for coffee and a sweet treat. It’s a super cute spot with nice outdoor seating nooks, and ding ding ding the Shell station out front was the overall winner for most expensive gas we bought on Big Trip #4!
Big Sur also has a taphouse/deli that was on our radar, but with just one night in town, we weren’t able to check it out.
If you spend the night in Big Sur, you MUST get up early and go to Pfeiffer Beach! And yes–go early, because everyone else in town wants to see Pfeiffer Beach too. (Although I bet sunset there is unbelievable.) It’s an easy stroll along the gorgeous, dog-friendly purple-sand beach; be sure to look out into the water for Keyhole Arch. Entry is $12.
We were planning on an afternoon hike after arriving in Big Sur: Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park abuts the Fernwood campground, and has a couple compelling trails, and we were interesting in seeing McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park nearby. Neither park is dog-friendly, so we decided to stay home and hang out with Bugsy at our sweet campsite.
You may be wondering why everything around here is named after the Pfeiffers: they were important people in the Big Sur community. The Pfeiffers were the first European settlers in the Big Sur area in the 1800s, growing a large family on a large farm, and son John eventually sold the land to the State of California that would make up most of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Daughter Julia also got a state park named in her honor.
Next stop: Napa! Napa? That wasn’t part of our original itinerary. J had a work thing come up and needed to go to Napa, and it wasn’t too hard to twist my arm to join him. We reworked this section of our schedule and had to drop Solvang (I was excited to visit Monty Roberts (The Horse Whisperer)’s training center there), but managed to keep everything else. I haven’t decided if I’m going to blog about our two days in Napa because we didn’t stay in the Airstream while there. Stay tuned!