Backroads Journal

The Magnificent Big Sur

Can you imagine the awe that must have come across the faces of the pioneers as they topped the last of the coastal hills and set their sights on the Pacific Ocean after their many months of arduous journey across the western wilderness?  The joy I felt must have been only a fraction of theirs, but I was elated.  We had driven three and a half days for the view that spread out in front of us.  We joined up with Highway One just south of Cambria heading north; ready to experience the best of the best scenic drives in the country.

Highway One and the Big Sur coastline are all they are hyped up to be and more.  Skipping the tour of the Hearst Castle at San Simeon, we opted to spend our afternoon leisurely driving and stopping at the many pull-offs with view after magnificent view of the dramatic coastline.  We would think we had just captured the most perfect photo, when around the bend there was another view that was even more spectacular!  I questioned the guidebooks when they said to allow four hours minimum to drive from San Simeon to Monterey, just 93 miles, but we could have taken two days.  It’s one of those places that compel you to just stand there and drink in the experience.  The grandeur, the rugged beauty and the powerful emotional experience of just being there is not to be missed!

One of the things that the Internet is good for is providing you with a lot of random information.  We read an article on the Internet listing the 10 places to eat before you die and, wouldn’t you know, one of them was in Big Sur!  Nepenthe, the listed must-do bar and restaurant, is perched a thousand feet up on the rocky cliffs of Big Sur and commands a view that is unmatched.  We stopped there for the famous Ambrosia Burger and an adult beverage, remembering that we still had an hour of winding, cliffside driving ahead of us.  Nepenthe, named for the mythical drug, mentioned in Homer’s “The Odyssey”, that chases away sorrow, is one of those unique, eclectic places that defy explanation.  Part restaurant, part amphitheater, part conversation pit and part outdoor party bar, Nepenthe has been a favorite gathering place on the Big Sur coast for over 50 years.  If you have the time, do stop and enjoy.  Nepenthe and the Big Sur coastline are both places you do need to experience before you die!

Back on the road, overwhelmed by the immensity of the whole day, we headed for Carmel, the Monterey Peninsula and the Seven Gables Inn in Pacific Grove, our personal treat for our road-weary backsides.   

For more information about Nepenthe, go to
For the Seven Gables Inn in Pacific Grove, try