Big Sur Grassy Field

The road from Carmel Highlands to Rocky Point Restaurant is a convincing argument that it is, indeed, the journey and not the destination.

Big Sur Coast MapNote: If you want to join SSCS on this journey at its start, last week’s blog is the place for you.

Once you pass Point Lobos, you only have to travel a fraction of a mile before you arrive at the Carmel Highlands, the last true vestige of civilization before the Big Sur Coast begins.

The Carmel Highlands is (are?) an unincorporated, but high end residential area. Most homes are off the main highway and somewhat hidden. The seclusion is no doubt why many celebrities past and present have established vacation and permanent homes here.

You’ll know you’re in the Highlands when you round the bend and the Carmel Highlands General Store comes into view, the last place you can fuel up before Big Sur.

(For another taste of the Carmel Highlands, although a somewhat dated one, you might want to check out the thriller Play Misty for Me with Clint Eastwood. A centerpiece of the movie is a house in the Highlands. The movie is suspenseful in large part because of the remoteness of the area. When it gets dark at night, it gets DARK.)

camel_highlands_general_storeKeep going past the general store and you’ll pass one of the more romantic hotels on the whole peninsula, the Hyatt Carmel Highlands. You’ll have to crane your neck upwards to see it from Highway 1, however, as it towers over the northernmost part of the Big Sur Coast, affording guests spectacular room and restaurant views.

Hyatt Carmel Highlands

I guess you could say it’s a honeymoonin’ kind of place. Here’s the view from across the road looking down into and across the Pacific Ocean.

Big Sur Coast Across from Hyatt

As we move south of the Hyatt, we say goodbye to civilization as we know it, at least for awhile. Highway 1 curves to the left, a vista opens up, and you’re confronted with all of the beauty and promise that the Big Sur Coast has to offer (in case you’re interested, our car will eventually travel the perimeter of that mountain in the distance jutting out to the right):

Big Sur Coast Vista

This first look will not disappoint. For the next 15 miles we’ll weave back and forth on a ribbon of road that winds between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Lucia mountains abutting it. If you had to pick one attribute that makes the Big Sur Coast uniquely memorable, it is this legendary juxtaposition of earth and water. Our next stop, Garrapata State Park, is the perfect opportunity to experience this convergence firsthand. The park’s hard to miss, not only because of the surfeit of cars you’ll find parked nose in on the left (going south), but because of this landmark farmhouse (at least everyone says it’s a farmhouse):

Garrapata Farmhouse

Garrapata is prime hiking territory and highly recommended for those staying on the Peninsula, partly because it doesn’t take that long to get there. It’s also notable in that it offers two distinct kinds of experiences to those on foot. Take a walk on the “mountain side” and it won’t take long before you find yourself nestled within ferns, pines, and other greenery that form an insular setting creating a world far removed from the coast. If you’re in good shape, you can make this adventure as challenging as you like by continuing up the Santa Lucia mountains as far as you can go (if the sun is out it can get plenty hot on the mountainside, so make sure you bring lots of water).


If your preference is trekking out in the open with panoramic views of the ocean, just cross Highway 1 to get to any number of trails that allow you to do just that. Watch your footing, though. You don’t want to tumble down the steep bluffs leading to the raw, natural beaches below.

Garrapata Beach

Time to get back in the car. Just so you know, we’re going to keep our mouth shut for awhile and let the scenery speak for itself. After that, we’ll probably be pretty hungry and we have a good idea where we might pause for lunch. In the meantime, keep your eyes open and enjoy the views, both on the mountain side…

Santa Lucia Mountains

…and the ocean side.

Big Sur Beach

Okay, we’re almost half way to Big Sur, so this is probably the perfect time to replenish ourselves. Out here, when you’re talking lunch (or dinner) there’s only one option, the Rocky Point Restaurant. It’s a nice sunny day, so maybe we should sit out on the patio. It looks pretty inviting, don’t you think?

Rocky Point Patio

If you’re in the mood for some lunchtime conversation, maybe we’ll tell you about the Dark Watchers, who some say roamed the wilds of Big Sur long before the Esselen Indians. Does that sound interesting? We thought so.

Oops. Our tale is going to have to wait because we just overran our blog word limit! Now you’re going to have to wait a week to find out just who these creatures might be. That’s okay. Now you have something to look forward to. See you then!

To continue to Part 3, click here.