I believe Big Sur to be more a “state of mind” than a destination.  There is no a central downtown,  more like a stretch of coastline dotted with small cafes, bakeries, camping grounds, restaurants, and inns that range from rustic to luxurious.  Driving along the slightly treacherous highway 1, many of these places are hidden behind the mountains, or lie at the end of a very steep driveway that slopes down toward the water. The only hint of their existence are the eclectic wooden signs that line the side of the road.

As you approach this infamous stretch of coastline, slowly winding around the curves of the Pacific Highway, what is revealed before you are some of most jaw-dropping views in California.

The light always seems a bit golden, no matter the time of the day. The air is fresh and scented with salt and  wild sage. Simultaneously peaceful and exhilarating, Big Sur is the place in California I long to return to the most. What keeps it “wild” is a combination of the strictest of land-use plans (no new construction in sight of the highway) and establishment of state parks and nature preserves.  These measures do drive up real estate (and lodging) prices, but you really only need a car and a sense of adventure to explore one of the most beautiful and untamed landscapes in California.

Design*Sponge recently featured a lovely story of how the Big Sur Inn came to be, and how Big Sur’s quirky, wild, and wind-swept style evolved.

[image by Mary Kathryn Paynter for Design*Sponge]