Big Sur appears to be the iconic section of route 1 that is pictured when talking about the Pacific Coastal Highway. Beautiful views of rocky beaches are around every turn in the road.
Days 66 – 67
October 7 – October 8, 2014
Miles 7820 – 8125
Tuesday started with us exploring Santa Cruz. We walked around the beach and to the boardwalk. Although the boardwalk wasn’t open while we were there, it was filled with carnival rides and an aerial tramway. We also walked to the end of the wharf, a short walk through some restaurants and souvenir shops.
Our main activity for the day was driving through Big Sur on route 1. We started by taking a quick drive through Monterey so Jon could see it. We also stopped briefly to buy groceries for lunch. We hadn’t done too much research about Big Sur and weren’t quite sure where to go; actually we weren’t sure what Big Sur was (a park? a town?) all we knew is that several people told us we had to go there. Well, Big Sur is the area of coast between Monterey and San Simeon. While some of the area is private land, Big Sur also includes 3 state parks and a US Forest.
Our first stop was to Andrew Molera State Park. A $10 parking fee also let you park at other state parks on the same day so we paid. We ate our lunch near the parking lot, then took the 1 mile stroll to the beach. The beach was pretty but we knew we had a lot of ground to cover before reaching our hotel so we took some pictures and moved on.
Our next Big Sur stop was to Pfeiffer Beach. We went to Pfieffer Beach because it seemed to be the most popular beach area on Big Sur. It was disappointing to find out that since it is run by the US Forest Service they don’t take the parking pass we had bought so we had to pay another $10. They also didn’t take our National Park Pass because apparently the US Forest Service is different from the National Forest Service. The beach was pretty and in places windy.
We finished our drive to San Simeon and ate dinner at the Manta Rey Restaurant. I think we were both impressed with our meals. TIP: If you’ll be going to San Simeon, the Manta Rey Restaurant offers a Hearst Castle package but requires 24 hour notice. The package includes breakfast, castle tickets, dinner for 2 and a bottle of wine. We were bummed that we couldn’t buy the package because it wasn’t a day in advance.
Even though we didn’t have the package, we did visit Hearst Castle the next day. The visit starts with a 15 minute bus ride to the castle from the visitors center. The ride is narrated by Alex Trebeck and talks about the history of the estate as a cattle ranch. At the top we took the Grand Rooms tour because it is the one most first time visitors take. We were shown the rooms in which the Hearsts entertained their guests with cocktails, games, dinner, and movies. After the tour you can walk around the grounds including the Neptune and Roman pools. I really enjoyed the grounds and thought they were beautiful. The house was intended to be a museum of European artifacts and is filled with reclaimed church gates, medieval wooden ceilings, and heavy wood furniture. I found the house itself to feel dark and unwelcoming. On the bus rides down the hill, we passed a heard of cattle mixed with zebras descended from those the Hearsts kept in their zoo. At the visitors center we watched part of the 45 minute movie and the got on the road. Before we went further south, we drove north a few miles north again to watch the elephant seals on the beach.