The Most Stunning Stops For Your Big Sur Road Trip.

We may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post. For more information go to Disclaimer & Disclosure.

I had a day-dream of road tripping along one of the worlds most iconic ocean roads, The Big Sur in California, USA driving a convertible Mustang. Wind blowing through my hair as I breathed in the amazing turquoise waters and stunning views.

Reality may have hit when trying to figure out the logistics of taking the drive with three children and our luggage ( I will get the hang of packing light one day).

Cue a mum bus.

Then the weather, in true coast style was overcast and misty.

We couldn’t have had more of a great time.


Most images we see of this stretch of Highway One between San Simeon and Carmel-by-the-sea called the Big Sur, are of deep blue skies and striking turquoise waters. Which is a little bit ironic considering I have been told you are guaranteed to have some mist during your visit, especially in the early morning.

We took our road trip in late August which is a little outside of the recommended best visiting times of Spring and Autumn. I was disappointed when I first saw the clouds and mist but soon realised that these amazing moody skies added such a great atmosphere to our drive and made those deep aqua’s of the pacific ocean shine even brighter.

Bixby Bridge - Big Sur - Higway 1 - California - USA
Amazing scenery around every bend along The Big Sur, California.


Our first stop was to see the Elephant Seals at  Piedras Blancas, near San Simeon. These things are HUGE, noisy and rather smelly. The kids loved them.

Depending on what time of year you visit the colony you might be lucky enough to see the massive blubbery males fighting to impress the ladies of their harem or pups being born.  Just seeing these immense creatures move is something else.

There is easy signage for this site and parking is very close to the walkway area. You can stroll up and down the wooden promenade taking in the views while watching the seals go about their business.

For more information

Elephant Seals - Piedras Blancas- Big Sur - Higway 1 - California - USA
Up close and personal with the Elephant seals at Piers Blancas.

This wasn’t the only sea life we encountered on our trip. We saw sea otters rafting amongst kelp beds and seals bathing on rocks. If you are there at the right time of year you might also be lucky enough to see whales as they migrate past.


Have you ever been somewhere that just seemed like it couldn’t be real?

McWay Falls in Julia Pfeffier Burns State Park is one of those places.

As you enter the park ( There is a fee, but we felt it was much safer to park inside the park then save on a few dollars and park at the edge of the highway. For details check here ) and enter in the South parking lot you are immediately in a different environment from the breathtaking coastal views.

Tall trees surround you and the air is cooler. The falls are along a short, easy access 1km (.6mile) trail. You walk into a tunnel that cuts under the highway then come out to find a view you will treasure forever.

Water cascades year round nearly 25 meters (80ft) down to the beach below. Magically for us the sun seemed to come out just as we visited the falls before disappearing again as we left.

If you are lucky enough you can also see whales and condors from this beautiful spot.

Mcway Falls - Julia Pfeffier Burns State Park - Big Sur - Higway 1 - California - USA
McWay Falls in Julia Pfeffier Burns State Park looks surreal.

There are many other trails to explore in the park which we unfortunately didn’t get to try out as we only had one day to enjoy the area. It is also worth noting you will not be able to get to the beach from taking the short trail we took.


Our next stop took a little finding.

Pfeiffer Beach is not well signposted, but if that keeps it secluded that’s okay by us. To get there take a left onto Sycamore Canyon Road. As this is unsignposted the name’s not going to help much. Instead look for a sealed road between the Big Sur Station and the Post Office.

We managed to find it with only one drive by and turn around. It is well worth heading off the beaten track for, trust me.

The road down to the beach is small and windy which helps build up the suspense until you hit the car park. Spaces are limited so fingers crossed you hit a quiet time.

One of the first things that we saw when we got to the beach was the famous arch rock formation. This landmark is just stunning and a popular spot to take some great photographs.

When we first got the beach I was thinking we had been a little duped as I couldn’t spot any purple sand! It only took a little walk along this rugged stretch of sand to find some though. And it really is purple. All those images haven’t been photoshopped.

The purple is from the manganese garnet that is on the surrounding rocks. This washes up on the beach and you can discover it on various parts of the beach not far from the water’s edge.

Our kids had a great time playing in the sand and dragging washed up kelp around. The ocean is rough here though and I wouldn’t recommend letting children swim.  On the up side there are bathroom facilities near the car park!

For more info click here

A note to those travelling in Rv’s and Trailers unfortunately the road to this location is not for you guys.

Purple Sand - Pfeffier Beach - Big Sur - Higway 1 - California - USA
The sand really is purple on Pfeffier Beach.



If you have seen images of Big Sur, chances are they were of Bixby bridge. This marvel is one of the worlds highest single-span bridges and stretches over Rainbow Canyon.

You can stop on either side of crossing this bridge and get the iconic shot.

Bixby Bridge - Big Sur - Higway 1 - California - USA - CA
Stopping at either end of the famous Bixby Bridge makes for a stunning photograph.

We also stopped at lots of small look outs to get amazing photographs and check out the wildlife. My son was even lucky enough to get up close with a coyote. Around every bend there will be a new view that will take your breath away.

Coyote - Wildlife - Big Sur - Higway 1 - California - USA
We were lucky enough to spot some local wildlife on our Big Sur road trip.

Of course these are only some of the attractions to see. There are lots more places to explore and amazing walks to take. Why not get planning your trip now?

For our top tips to make the most out of your Big Sur trip head here.

If you don’t want your road trip to end, why not drive up to San Francisco?. You can find over 60 awesome things to do in San Francisco here or Learning Escapes has some great ideas for 24 hours in this amazing city here.

Or head out West and make a trip to the Grand Canyon. Read the best way to see Grand Canyon with kids.

Are you planning an adventure to the Big Sur? What stops are you planning on taking? Make sure you share with our readers below if you have an awesome location.



Sharing is caring!

4 thoughts on “The Most Stunning Stops For Your Big Sur Road Trip.”

  1. Great post! Isn’t this a fabulous drive? I have a post with my five fave spots as well, and the Bixby Creek Bridge and McWay Falls made both our lists! ?

Comments are closed.