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There are very few people and places in Big Sur. For the 3,000 square miles, there are not many more than a thousand people What there are of people and places, however, is quite exceptional. Everything is along an 80 mile stretch of Hwy One.
Most of the highlights are on this page, going south from Carmel.

River Inn, left, is a favorite way station to ease into Big Sur. Big stone fireplace, dining room, decks, rooms to rent, and chairs in the river among the redwoods.

Big Sur Village Pub is a local’s place. The Pub shows fresh, energetic local art. And, as if it is not enough just being a British pub in this quintessentially, American pioneer setting, they unabashedly serve good pizza and tacos. Big Sur Art Center is next door.

Heart Beat gift shop is part of the River Inn complex. It’s a Big Sur No Age kind of place.


A new favorite for locals is the Bonito Roadhouse (left). The Big Sur Cuisine restaurant is named after the ship which used to bring supplies to the settlers at Partington Cove. It is across from Glen Oaks Motel in the old Glen Oaks Restaurant and have a killer homemade chicken pot pie.

Big Sur Lodge at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park has the acumen of a national park hotel, while keeping a laid back, campy Big Sur appeal. The Park has a wild and scenic river, old growth redwoods, super trails, waterfalls, complete campground, natural history center, historical landmarks, restaurant, expresso bar and store.

The Lodge at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

A half-mile south of the park is Big Sur Station, a worthwhile information center for visitors.


Big Sur Bakery is a kind of Big Sur drive up love in. It’s spread along a rise where Hwy 1 emerges from the Big Sur Valley –out of its repose between the sea and the mountains. Wood fired pizzas. Rustic dining room with a large fireplace.

(See a larger version of this photo)
On this high point, looking over the massive mountain scene, aromas stream through the air currents. Warm breezes of sage and fruits stir senses. Loma Vista is a rustic place, and laid out so you can hang out awhile and get a Big Sur feeling.

“There is,” says Gayle O’Neill, a Big Sur Park Aide, “a wonderful little shop at Loma Vista called the Garden Gallery (very untouristy and filled with art and crafts made by Big Sur people, a co-op run by three Big Sur women and very Big Sur.

“You can buy carved jade necklaces, beads from all over the world, unusual jewelry, antique light fixtures handmade goods, paintings, etc. and it has vintage clothing and fun old stuff. It used to be the Begonia Gardens but has been transformed into something else although they still have plants. They also have some nice iron work (fireplaces etc.)It’s a really fun place to visit and there are lots of places to sit and linger.” If you see Shannon, one of the owners, you can talk about hiking in the Big Sur Country, too.

There are two country inns, each in a veritable wilderness, across the road from each other, that are among the best little luxury hotels in the world.

Post Ranch Inn is an ecological and architectural delight. Just to see it justifies a trip to Big Sur. So, if you have some art and nature in your soul, go. Although exclusive as a little luxury hotel, it is open to the public for viewing its gardens and architecture. Tours daily, 2 p.m.
See more at PelicanNetwork Big Sur Inns

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Partington Cove & Canyon

Molera State Park

Nacimiento Road

Pfeiffer Burns SP

Birding in Big Sur

Ventana Inn is the way Hollywood people came to know about Big Sur. This winsome splash of art and nature brings out the soothing beauty of Big Sur — and it changed those folks before they could change Big Sur.

Now, Ventana, remains on the leading edge of world class luxury resorts. This is an enduring work of ecological harmony. The Inn is softly sewn into the bold, rusticity of the landscape. There is a prevailing sense of timelessness.

Nepenthe, a restaurant created by Lolly Fassett, grand daughter of a Carmel founder, is a destination, and a whole new trip. World famous for the views, chimes, bonfires, moonlight dancing, and ambrosia burgers, Nepenthe is remembered mostly for rare ambiance.

It may seem the 60s got stuck in a groove here, but as the views are absorbed, the truth reveals itself:

There is no time here.


There is simply the pleasurable sensation of the earth moving about in the galaxy. The Sea is so far below, but so compelling, you feel like you are riding on it. It seems so distant, it appears soft and harmless, like a big mattress.

The wind whispers through the canyons up from the ocean and into the forest. Colors change around the hills all day long, and the sage, berry, pine, canyon creek and sea mist scents strafe around.


View from Nepenthe south deck

Originally the sight was a private lodge, the Coastland Trails Club – Or, The Trail Club of Jolon. Orson Welles bought it to build a love nest for his bride, Rita Hayworth, or, at least, that’s what the Big Sur folks heard.

Nepenthe was expected to be just a roadside sandwich stand, according to Daniel Francis Eggink in Thunderbird Boogie, “However, Rowan Maiden, a red bearded brilliant young architect and disciple of Frank Lloyd Wright, came into the picture with an economical, yet daring, redwood and glass design that exemplified the best of California’s indoor/outdoor life-style. It subtly framed the awesome view of Big Sur’s south coast. Tragicly, in the final stage of construction, Rowen fell from a ladder and his life ended. Under Lolly’s direction the simple sandwich stand became Nepenthe, a cultural and historical landmark restaurant.”

A bronze and redwood Phoenix presides over the upper deck entrance. The view (right) is to the south, toward Hollywood which is still safely far away.

Admirers of Michael Eamons, sculptor and furniture maker, can find his work in this new gallery.

New Gallery across the road from Nepenthe

South of Nepenthe, in a redwood canyon cove, there’s an Alice in Wonderland kind of literature and art hideaway. But, Beware! This place is real.

Harp sculpture

Miller Library Garden

Henry Miller Library is the venue for many important happenings for the Big Sur community.

Emil White, Miller’s secretary and literary con vivant, created the library. But it is possessed and propagated by the community.

The Library is like a rare jewel in a masterpiece setting. The redwoods in this grove grow with accelerated vigor. The peacefulness, coupled with that trademark Big Sur stimulation, is mentally aphrodisiacal.

For a revealing perspective on how people exist here, we refer you to Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch by Henry Miller

Big Sur residents come together at the Watersheds Fair each year at the Henry Miller Library to exchange knowledge about conserving nature and the arts. Magnus Torén works on the mural that is in its fourth year, and Judith Goodman, author of Big Sur Women, teaches others about the unseemly characteristics of invasive exotic plants like the Carrizo. A marvelous artistic and environmental ethic adheres to Big Sur. Visit the Henry Miller Memorial Library online.

Open Poetry Reading happens at the Library every Sunday afternoon. Beginning in April.

Around the next bend is another discovery

  Deetjen's Big Sur Inn is an 
ensemble of barns and
cottages along Castro Canyon.
A babbling brook, deep redwood
forests, an ocean's surf.
     Memorable meals in candle
lit rooms, classical music, log
fires, books and photographs.
It's an old world country inn
at a bend in the Big Sur road.
A place to be discovered.  
It's not funky.  It's not Ventana
Inn.  It's a real time fairy tale.

In the 1930s, when Helmuth began building the old coast road stop over, he meant it to be like his native Norway. But it is now very Big Sur.

Rosalind Sharpe Wall, author of A Wild Coast and Lonely, a delightful and authoritative pioneer history of Big Sur, wrote most of the book at Deetjen’s.

Big Sur Coast Interactive Map   

Coast Gallery is a significant artistic haunt.

Redwood water tanks are the basic structure. It is home to a candle maker, host to artists, and sponsors a summer artists-in-action-program. Henry Miller was not only a great writer, but a prolific and good artist, as the standing exhibit here will show. Nice gift shop and cafe.

Lucia Lodge

Banana trees with no bananas, a Benedictine hermitage, sea kayaking amidst mountains, and a stupendous view all the way past the end of the world are the regular fare in Lucia. Beamed ceiling cabins with antique four poster beds are for rent.

The cafe has a spell binding view deck–you can see along the cliffs and openings of jade coves and out to the dramatic promontory of Cape Martin very good food, and seems to always sport very personable, lively staff.


At the monastery (not pictured) speaking is not allowed. Visitors can stay for up to three days at a modest tariff, with meals. Or, day visitors can buy cakes and crafts This Benedictine monastery, New Camaldoli, is identified on the highway by a white cross a little south of Lucia. This is not an overnight stopping place. This is a place for contemplation.

Call 831.667.2456, or 667.2341 for details, or, online: Hermitage www.contemplation.com

Longing for Lucia – a poem by Paul Sivley


Not many people live in Gorda, only three. But they keep a busy farm, restaurant and store in good fiddle. Distinctive jade gallery. Three cabins for rent. Llamas. Working artists. Goats. A boulder with million-year-old anemone holes. Great setting for gaining a Big Sur coast orientation.

Ragged Point Inn is an awesome scene. In front along the highway, one wouldn’t know it, as it is the most crassly commercial situation along the whole 88-mile coast — almost like being at a beach boardwalk, even has a hot dog stand –and the gas station charges nearly three dollars for a gallon. But the Inn is something else.

It is elegantly situated for an authentic Big Sur experience. The point is like an island garden adrift in the Pacific. Seems to have its own climate, and definitely a distinct ambiance. There are a few places along the southern half of Big Sur that have huge moods –Esalen is another. These are different and treasures unto themselves.

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