Driving Route One through Big Sur, California: Highlights along One of America's Most Famous Roadways

The stretch of coastline, loosely referred to as Big Sur, has something for everyone. Some highlights are featured here from south to north.

Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle is a National Historic Landmark and destination for one million visitors annually. Built for William Randolph Hearst beginning in 1919, major construction continued until the middle of the century. In 1957, Hearst Castle was donated to the State and is currently maintained as a state historic park with tours available.

Elephant Seal Rookery

The elephant seal rookery located on the ocean side of Route 1 near San Simeon is the largest on the West Coast of the United States. It is free to visit.

Piedras Blancas Light Station

Piedras Blancas Light Station is located at the northern entrance to San Simeon Bay. First activated in 1875, the light was automated one hundred years later. The station has been unmanned ever since. The property is now maintained by the United States Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management. Docent-led tours focus on everything from the history of the light to the natural history of the surrounding land.

Salmon Creek Falls

Salmon Creek Falls is located near the community of Gorda. It is a 120 foot waterfall, which is easily reached by way of a path on the inland side of Route 1.


Henry Miller Library

Henry Miller stated: “It was here in Big Sur I first learned to say Amen!” The Henry Miller Library is the repository of both books and artwork by Henry Miller, including an impressive collection of first editions. There is a peaceful lawn and sculpture garden where tech savvy travelers can even take advantage of free WiFi.


Nepenthe is a restaurant with spectacular views of the coastline. Once owned by Orson Wells, the property became a restaurant in 1949. Lunch is served every day, and dinner is available year round except Thanksgiving and Christmas. There is also a café called Café Kevah, as well as a shop called the Phoenix Shop.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is maintained by California State Parks. The main attraction is McWay Falls, a waterfall which plunges 80 feet directly into the Pacific. This is the only perennial waterfall in California which falls directly into the Ocean.

Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn

Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn was founded by Helmuth and Helen Haight Deetjen. Administered today by the Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn Preservation Foundation, the property is operated on a non-profit basis. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and guests can stay in cabin-like rooms tucked beneath soaring redwoods. There is an excellent restaurant.

Point Sur Lighthouse

Point Sur Lighthouse is the only complete turn-of-the-century California lighthouse open to the public. Completed in 1889, the light sits atop a 361-foot tall rock. The light was automated in 1972. The property was transferred to California State Parks in 2004, and three-hour, docent-led walking tours are offered.

Bixby Bridge

Bixby Creek Bridge opened Big Sur to automobile traffic in 1932. It is 714 feet long and 24 feet wide. At its highest, it is over 280 feet high. The main span is 320 feet long, and the bridge is one of the most photographed sites in Big Sur.

Point Lobos

Point Lobos was called “the greatest meeting of land and water in the world” by early California painter Francis McComas. Today it is considered to be the crown Jewel of the California State Park System. The Park is a destination in-and-of-itself and may be explored at length.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.