The vacation destination of the month for August is the Big Sur area of Central California. I recently spent 10 days in central California. After seeing the breathtaking coastal views and exciting tourist attractions I couldn't believe I haven't spent more time in Big Sur. This area of California really has something for everyone!
Accommodations range from beautiful inns along side the water to spectacular ocean front campgrounds perched high up on cliffs above the Pacific. While in Big Sur we camped at the Andrew Molera Campground just south of Carmel and we camped at the Kirk Creek Campground more centrally located between Hearst Castle and Carmel. If you are not much for camping, Ragged Point and Gorda, within Big Sur, both have cute inns that are overlooking the ocean from cliffs high above.
From these inns or campsites there is so much open land to be explored. "Day Hikes Around Big Sur," a book written by Robert Stone, highlights 80 hikes in this area. For my first hike in probably 5 years my husband decided that 10.5 miles round trip was about the right length! We hiked from Kirk Creek to Vicente Flat, a long, but beautiful hike with ever changing landscapes that capture everything from low lying desert vegetation to beautiful Redwood forests. Another great hike is Salmon Creek Falls. You can reach the first waterfall in about 10 minutes and the pools, large boulders and sound of the rushing waterfall make this a great stop right off of Highway 1. For more ideas on hikes throughout Big Sur you can visit: http://www.hikinginbigsur.com/hikemap.html
After a long day of hiking who wants to cook at their campsite? If you lack motivation to eat peanut butter and jelly or something wrapped in tin foil and cooked on an open flame, may I recommend two great restaurants with breathtaking views. Rocky Point Restaurant, located on the north end of Big Sur serves up soup and sandwiches for lunch and a gourmet menu of items for dinner. The food is tasty but the best feature of the restaurant is the view. The restaurant is perched atop a rocky point overlooking the Pacific ocean with a view to the south for miles (if you catch a day without fog), also be on the lookout for otters in the ocean below. Ragged Point Restaurant and Inn is located at the southern end of Big Sur serving up great sea food and extra large burgers! Be sure to leave enough time to explore their windy and very steep trail down the adjacent cliff to the private beach far below. A specialty of both restaurants is exquisite outdoor dining on their open patios. Be sure to get there early so you can enjoy the sunset before returning to camp (or the comfort of your mattress).
Tourist attractions and scenic overlooks can be found all along Highway 1 in Big Sur. Starting at the south end of Big Sur just above Cambria you will find Hearst Castle in San Simeon. An amazing display of the limitless possibilities of architecture and team work. This historic California State Park offers 5 tours and features an IMAX film to inform visitors of the history and hard work that surrounds Hearst Castle. Be sure to plan enough time to do at least one tour and see the IMAX film if it is your first visit to the Castle.
Just 7 miles north of San Simeon you will find one of the most amazing wildlife refuges in California, the home of the Northern Elephant Seals. The males use this area for molting and sparring before they actually begin to fight for females during mating season. While I was there a docent shared with me that the male Elephant Seals will spar with other adolescents from birth until they are 10 years old, when they will finally fight each other for mates. The guttural sounds made by these giant creatures is disconcerting but fascinating. When a docent is present you can get up close and personal with these beasts (males can grow up to 16 feet long, weighing more than 5,000 pounds.) This is a must see for everyone. To find out more information about the Northern Elephant Seal and the work being done to preserve this amazing species please visit: http://www.elephantseal.org
To the north of Big Sur you will reach Monterey, probably most famous for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and for good reason! The Monterey Bay Aquarium is celebrating 25 years of Ocean Conservation this year. The exhibits at the aquarium are overwhelming. The Jellyfish exhibit is always a favorite (as I remember seeing it when I was just 7 years old) and right now they have a special exhibit featuring Sea Horses and Sea Dragons, unbelievably tiny yet detailed creatures that you won't be able to forget. The aquarium caters toward children giving them plenty of places to play and enjoy themselves. You can visit: http://www.montereybayaquarium.org to find out more about their schedule, ticket prices, and conservation work.
This is only the beginning of the adventures you can have in Big Sur. From accommodations to food to outdoor activities to tourist attractions there really is something for everyone. Whether you are traveling as a family with small children or teenagers or enjoying the fruits of retirement or a well deserved vacation, Big Sur should definitely be on your list for adventure and beauty!