We arrived to Big Sur in the afternoon, checked into our hotel, picked up some snacks from the general store, and then drove down to the beach in time to catch the last warm rays of afternoon sun. The kids, who had become restless on the 3-hour drive up the coast, played happily together in the sand and waves while Michael and I enjoyed a rare quiet moment on our beach blanket surrounded by beauty in every direction. No phone or internet service, no urgency and nowhere else to be. It was the first time on this journey that we looked at each other and had a ‘this is what we were hoping for’ kind of moment. There is something magical about Big Sur that goes beyond the stunning vistas and natural beauty. There’s a slowness, a sparkle, and a sense of adventure evident in all the places you go and people you meet. It’s a magic I can’t quite describe.
My friend Jenna from Ace & Jig spent some time in Big Sur with her two kids this summer and had sent me an extensive list of recommendations and tips before we visited. I saved screenshots of her email on my phone (since there’s almost no mobile reception in Big Sur!) and kept referencing her email for suggestions of where to go/do/eat, etc. It was so helpful, especially since we hadn’t done any research before we arrived. I thought I would share some of her tips and ours for anyone who is considering visiting Big Sur (and because I know if I don’t write it all down I will forget it, and we definitely want to go back again!).
- We stayed at the Big Sur Lodge in the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. It was the only place with availability for our dates, but it turned out to be really convenient and family-friendly. It was nice to be inside the state park for pretty walks up to Pfeiffer Falls and to be surrounded by so many giant redwoods! Plus, the kids were happy to have a pool. 🙂
- Jenna said her favourite place to stay was Deetjen’s. We tried to stay here, but they were fully booked. (They don’t allow kids under 6 in the old ‘main building’ so families have to book a chalet and they book up very quickly.) It’s such a pretty place with a cabin-like feel and loads of pretty flowers everywhere. Next time!
- Jenna also spent a few nights at Ripplewood which has really basic, rustic cabins along the river (riverside cabins are better than roadside ones).
- Another friend recommended Glen Oaks, but again they were fully booked when we tried to make a reservation.
- Another option (though not for children under 6) is Treebones Resort for ‘glamping’ in yurts with amazing views. (This is located down the coast, quite far from everything else, so the location isn’t as convenient.)
- Big Sur Bakery: A MUST!! Good coffee and apparently the best chai tea and hot cocoa on the planet! Such a pretty setting with cacti and plants everywhere. Great for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
- Deetjen’s – Great brunch & dinner – gets busy!
- Fernwood: Super casual pub-style food. Our kids liked the juke box!
- Roadhouse: Delish. (Similar menu to Deetjen’s). It gets busy, so you have to book.
- Nepenthe: The best views! Good kid’s menu. It gets super busy on weekends.
- Treebones: Sushi bar on a cliff – sunset!!
- Pheiffer Beach (as pictured above): This is kind of hard to find as the road is unmarked, but it’s just a mile down the road, just south of the Pfeiffer State Park. You drive down a 2-mile road toward the beach and can park (for $10). It’s so, SO pretty with cool trees, stunning cliffs, big waves, and cool holes in the rocks (famous for sunset shots!). Magic!
- Henry Miller Library: This was booked for a private party so we didn’t get to go, but it looked so good. Apparently, they have a quiet courtyard and free wifi (if you’re desperate!).
- Limekiln State Park: Kid-friendly walks, waterfall, historic limekilns, etc.
- Andrew Molera beach: Another family-friendly beach option with good walks.
- Pfeiffer State Park: Some nice walks/hikes (Pfeiffer Falls as mentioned above) and giant redwoods.