Words and photos by Kiana Toossi
The thing is, California’s beautiful. It’s a magical land that holds beaches, mountains, forests, and deserts all in one massive state! What a place to be! I’m usually a desert gal but boy oh boy. Beaches are kinda breathtaking.
Earlier this month, I drove up to Santa Cruz with Nick to drop him off at school. I had planned this jam packed itinerary for our drive up north. First stop, Breakfast Culture Club in Santa Barbara for a quick coffee stop and to make sure we were still awake. Next stop was in SLO, where we met with our pal Nick Scott and got some sandwiches for lunch. Then we had a big chunk of driving on the 1, which would lead us to our main stop, Big Sur. The plan was to explore Big Sur and its sights and then stop in Carmel and Monterey on the way to Santa Cruz. Unfortunately the weather was the absolute worst. Rainy and stormy and windy and definitely not ideal Big Sur weather. So we drove the 1 and by the time we got out of Big Sur, it was dark so we couldn’t make our last two stops. It was upsetting that I wasn’t going to be able to see Big Sur in all its glory but I knew I’d be back again soon.
After a few nights in Santa Cruz, we were getting ready for our day trip to Pinnacles National Park, just an hour and 25 minute drive from Santa Cruz. When we were doing some research on where we should go, we realized that the park is closed due to the government shutdown. We instead decided to do a do-over of our jam packed itinerary, only backwards! We got in the car early on a Thursday morning, picked up some donuts (absolutely necessary), and headed towards Monterey.
In Monterey, we stopped at a nice little beach called Lover’s Point. We climbed some rocks and Nick took photos of birds. 10/10 stop. In Carmel we parked by the beach and walked down to the water. Although it was foggy, it was a beautiful brisk morning and pups were everywhere! So many good doggos to wave to. We got back in the car and headed towards Big Sur. This time around, the drive was stunning. It was perfect weather for a nice long drive on the 1. Our first stop was this little turnout that had a long set of stairs leading up to the top of a small mountain. We headed up there and were pleasantly surprised to see these two view points and a few benches waiting for us. We rested and took some photos before heading back down to the car. Our first official stop was Bixby Creek Bridge. Everyone was parked at the turnout and was seeing just one view of the bridge. If you just crossed the highway, there was an amazing view of the bridge from behind where we were hanging out with these other two couples who were also doing it right. Next was McWay Falls, which is the classic Big Sur shot. You turn into this park called Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. You can park your car in the lot there for $10 or just park on the highway right by the sign for free and walk in. You walk down a small set of stairs and are greeted by this neatly maintained path. It’s a 5ish minute walk to the viewpoint of the waterfall. Bonus! There’s a tunnel on the path with the most beautiful view of the ocean once you get to the other end. Then you’re at the waterfall! It’s a quaint little waterfall with beautiful views. Next was lunch time! We went to this restaurant called Nepenthe, which is one of the most famous restaurants in the Big Sur area. We slowly started heading back towards Santa Cruz but made sure to stop at some of the small inns and hotels along the way where we got some little souvenirs to remember our time at Big Sur. It was a lovely little trip and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a day of beautiful beach views. Enjoy my photos below!
120 film taken on Portra 400.