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Art and nature merge on this rugged coast, one of California’s most spectacular settings

Welcome to Big Sur, one of the world’s most unforgettable stretches of coastline. This roughly 90-mile-long stretch of redwood- and fog-trimmed waterfront between Carmel-by-the-Sea and Hearst Castle has no specific boundaries, no urban core, drawing you (and writers like Henry Miller and Beat Generation darling Jack Kerouac) in with a magic allure that is almost palpable. This is, quite simply, a place you want to be—bluffs, sea and sky.

"This is, quite simply, a place you want to be—bluffs, sea, and sky."

Drive Big Sur’s length via twisting Highway One, with plenty of pullovers at places like Bixby Bridge. Another favourite photo op: McWay Falls, a silvery cascade that falls some 70 feet from the sea cliffs to a remote beach below in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. You can see it from the open sections of the park’s Overlook Trail. Look up to see endangered California condors, North America’s largest birds, or look down to scan the swells for migrating whales or sea otters floating among dense beds of kelp, California’s signature seaweed.

Try the famous Ambrosia burger on the deck of Nepenthe, then nurse your beer to watch the sunset. Campgrounds abound around Big Sur, as do rustic cabins at Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn. The region’s beauty also makes it a magnet for splurge-worthy hotels like the cliff-hugging Post Ranch Inn, or Ventana Big Sur, which combines traditional luxury accommodations with fabulous glamping options.

Continue north along Highway One towards your next stop, romantic Carmel and historic Monterey. Along the way, consider a detour to explore Andrew Molera State Park, where you can ride horses right next to crashing waves.

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With cliffs plunging hundreds of feet down to rocky coves churning with foamy surf, Big Sur is one of the most dramatic stretches of coastline anywhere in the world.
Next Stop
Monterey/Carmel (23mi/37km; 57min)