In which we ate a lot of avocado toast, dug our toes into purple sand and had the greatest day in San Francisco.
Days 2 & 3 of our trip were particularly eventful and equally as lovely as Day 1.
Day 2 – Big Sur
We made our way bright and early to Pfeiffer Beach, known for arching rock formations and purple sand (seriously). It was a gorgeous morning and we got there early enough that there weren’t too many other people around. Thing to note: there’s a $10 entrance fee to the beach – have cash!
After frolicking on the beach, (and being photobombed by excited dogs) we drove to Big Sur Bakery to eat a delicious brunch. We sat outside in the glorious sunshine and ate breakfast pizzas sizzling with melted cheese and runny eggs and avocado toast topped with shaved radishes. We washed it down with some fresh squeezed OJ and headed off on our day.
We drove down the coast on Highway 1 with our convertible’s top down, wind in our hair and sun kissing our cheeks.
There were more people on this trail than the Tanbark from Day 1 so we had lots of company as we made our way deeper into the majestic redwood forest. Like the Tanbark Trail, the full Ewoldsen loop isn’t easy. The majority is uphill with crisscrossing inclines and narrow passageways.
We had to stop several times to catch our breath, but the climb was worth it when we were rewarded with a stunning view of the Pacific Ocean. Along the ridge at the top you could look all the way down to highway 1 and see the itty bitty cars winding along the coast.
From Ewoldsen, you can take a creepy tunnel to the other side of the highway where walkways guide you towards the ocean and overlooking McWay Falls.
This iconic waterfall gushes out from the cliffs falling directly onto the sandy beach below. McWay Falls is synonymous with Big Sur – seriously, Google search Big Sur and see how many photos of McWay Falls you get (hint: so many!). It’s pretty cool to see a waterfall landing on sand instead of sea but I will say it was slightly underwhelming considering you can’t actually access the beach itself. Still, it’s not a hot spot for nothing.
On our way to San Francisco, our final destination of the trip, we passed Carmel-by-the-Sea. It’s a gorgeous coastal town with rich history – Clint Eastwood actually served as the mayor at one point and has done much with the community (Not bad for a man with no name). We stopped at the Carmel Mission and explored the little Spanish style church and grounds founded by Saint Junipero Serra in the 1700s. Its gorgeous rosy stone was lit beautifully by the late afternoon sun and the grounds were simple and elegant.
Day 3 – San Francisco
We spent our last day in San Francisco hanging with friends. Having visited the city before, we wanted less of a tourist gadabout and more of a leisurely deep-dive into some local favorites. First stop, the Ferry Building for artisanal cheese breakfast sandwiches, fresh baked scones and (duh!) mounds of avocado toast. Honestly, I can’t explain to you how good avocados are in CA. Must be all that damn sunshine.
After breakfast we checked out Hayes Valley which has boutique shops, trendy restaurants and coffee shops. Our first stop was the cute French candy and cookie shop, Miette.
Swathed in bright pink and cheery florals, it’s impossible not to smile when you see it. Plus, the sugary goodies are so temptingly arranged that I dare you not to find something to purchase. Next, La Boulangerie de SF to sample melt-in-your-mouth creme puffs.
The pastries are delectable and the wafting aroma of sweet baking coupled with strong iced coffee is heavenly. Lastly, we stopped at a nearby park to rest our legs and take in the woodcut gazebo smack dab in the center of the greenery. Pens and markers had been laid out encouraging people to draw/write/graffiti all over the wood and personalize it as their own art installation.
After Hayes, we wandered to Pacific Heights and dug in at Pizzeria Delfina for some fantastic wood-fire oven pies and chilled rosé. They provided an amazing chili oil to slather onto the pizza and it was the best crust dipping sauce everrrr! Nomnom.
Stuffed and content, we meandered around Cow Hollow and North Beach in an attempt to walk off our food babies. As we crested a (typical SF) hill, we caught a dazzling view of the San Francisco Bay as it sparkled below us. Wowza – wish that was my view every day!
After that, we waved goodbye to the golden coast and hopped on a red-eye, homebound and happy. Visiting California is a must for any nature-lover/foodie/beach bunny/sun-fan. Seriously, go there.
Top tips and takeaways for Big Sur:
Where to stay?
- Ventana Inn & Post Ranch Inn – luxurious & smack-dab in the middle of Big Sur
- Monterey – affordable options within an easy distance of Big Sur. More opportunity to enjoy the ride down Highway 1.
Where to eat?
- Nepenthe – Lunch with a magnificent view
- Big Sur Bakery – fresh and tasty. Includes a coffee shop w/ baked goods to enjoy on the go.
Not to miss?
- Bixby Bridge – go at sunset.
- Pfeiffer Beach – purple sand and cool rock formations. Get there early to beat the crush.
- McWay Falls – despite the crowds, it’s an iconic spot not to be missed.
- Enjoy driving Hwy 1 – stop at turnouts along the road for amazing coastal views.
Great informational site for hiking the Big Sur trails: www.hikinginbigsur.com
Do plan ahead. Bring plenty of water and snacks, particularly if you’re hiking.
Do your research. If you’re hiking, bring a map or print online. Not everything is clearly marked. It’s worth reading up on where you’re going before you get there. But…
Don’t limit your trip to only what you read online. There are many ways to take in the natural beauty so explore a little; chances are something will catch your eye. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!