In October, Justin and I head out to California for a long weekend to celebrate our second anniversary. We flew into San Jose, rented a convertible and drove down Highway 1 to Big Sur. I want to preface this city guide with the fact that our trip was completely unplanned upon arrival. We booked our hotel day-of and we quite enjoyed driving back and forth with the wind blowing thru our hair in the convertible. That being said, we drove all around the area and if you actually followed our footprint you would laugh at how we’d drive back and forth depending on what we felt like doing. Instead of providing a day by day that would not be very location savvy, I’ve decided to break out my recommendations by area.
KORi Wines- A small tasting room for local wine, cozy and intimate, located within the walkable downtown area
Albatross Ridge Tasting Room- A larger tasting room for local wine, located within the walkable downtown area
Folktale Winery and Vineyards- This was a bit more in-land than ‘Carmel-By-The-Sea’, but TOTALLY worth it. This was my favorite spot of the whole trip. It is actually a vineyard where they grow their grapes and produce wine. They have a beautiful outdoor winery area with live music and great wine.
Bernardus Winery- Tasting room in Carmel Valley
Cowgirl Winery- Tasting room in Carmel Valley with a large outdoor area. They have chickens and cats! Oh… and wine.
Yeast of Eden– Restaurant and bar, we stopped in for local beer on their patio.
From Scratch Restaurant- A cute little casual breakfast spot with tons of options. They serve breakfast all day long.
La Bicyclette Restaurant- European bistro in downtown Carmel-by-the-Sea. They do not take reservations and get super busy, pop in early. We shared a pizza and salad with wine. A cute date-night spot.
Pescadero- Mexican food for dinner. Mediocre food, but kind service and a great location within the downtown area.
Dametra Cafe- A cozy Mediterranean spot in the downtown area. The food was pretty yummy with huge serving sizes. The owner is very friendly and kind and they burst out in song with musical instruments during our meal. They had everyone in the restuarant dancing!
There is a lack of street lighting in Carmel at night. It can be a little nerve racking as a driver and we were disappointed to find that we couldn’t see the beach at night, but the view of the stars is absolutely breath-taking.
You can also drive along the roads right by the beach and find that these beautiful multi-million dollar homes sometimes don’t have addresses! They are locally known by adored names such as ‘The Glass House’. We are still unsure how they receive their mail.
We tried to drive in-land to where the large wineries are, but unfortunately they were all closed because their power had turned off as a precaution of the fires. If they were open it would have been a blast… it’s essentially a long road full of wineries!
Bixby Bridge- A beautiful lookout point to park your car and enjoy the view. This is the most photographed bridge in California!
Big Sur Reserve, Julia Pfeiffer Burns- A $10 fee allows you to visit any of the Big Sur State Parks that day.
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve- A part of the Big Sur State Parks group, it’s 6.7 miles all the way around and a beautiful stroll right on the beach. We spotted endangered falcons and harbour seals on our walk.
17-Mile Drive- This scenic drive is a must! We debated biking it… 17 miles I can handle… but it was on the road with cars and lots of hills… which I cannot handle. It’s $10.50 per vehicle, but if you make a purchase of $35 or more at a Pebble Beach Resorts restaurant, you’ll be reimbursed your vehicle fee. You are provided a pamphlet with information on different look out points and you can choose to get our of your car to enjoy the views along the way. Justin and I loved snooping through the Pebble Beach Golf Resort.
Cannery Row- A waterfront street in Monterey that is SUPER touristy in an obnoxious and over-priced way. Feel free to skip this area of town. We stopped into Old Fisherman’s Grotto for too expensive (maybe) local fish.
We stayed at Monterey Tides which was right on the beach. We could hear the ocean from our room! It was pretty cheap and from the oustide does look a bit motel-ish, but the rooms were clean and updated. The location was right off the higway and across from a Target which was helpful to pick up snacks for the day, a forgotten hairbrush, etc.
Overall, it was a very spontaneous and low-key vacation with spectacular views. I hope you enjoy your stay!