THE BEST AQUARIUM ON PLANET EARTH

If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in the water – Loren Eiseley 

I don’t profess to be an expert on many subjects.   The art of cooking pasticho, yes. Car dancing at red lights, double yes. Professional tennis watching (my professional playing career was limited to an amazing 20 seconds back in 2002 culminating in a reverse smash that I have not stopped reminding people about) – are you kidding me, this is my favourite thing to do, preferably while eating éclairs at Roland Garros. Receiving a JCrew catalogue in the mail and maintaining actual dollars in my savings account – it’s difficult, but I’ve got this people. Winning at Mario Kart on the Nintendo 64? Again yes. I play Peach, to the irritation of many, but I can and will beat anyone, aside from Beth who has a long time history of pipping me at the post.

Of all my weird loves though, one stands out. I love sea monsters and while I am no expert, what I lack in knowledge is made up for in unbridled enthusiasm. I love reading about them. Love a good sea monster documentary. Love youtubing them, not to mention google-imaging-them.   Love sending emails to friends with amazing creatures of the deep sea facts, because I love those facts. Love finding articles about unknown sea creatures washed ashore.  I love them for their beauty, for their mysteriousness, for all that we don’t know about them and obviously, for their amazing names (long before there was North West, there was the Vampire Squid From Hell, which is not my nickname for Kim Kardashian, but an actual real life deep sea squid).

Most of all, I love seeing them in the actual flesh, which of course, is a bit of a conundrum, considering they most often live very deep in the actual ocean.

Enter the amazing Monterey Bay Aquarium. My favourite part of our Cali road trip and the absolute best aquarium I have ever visited.

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THE OLD MONTEREY INN

When I think of Monterey, the iconic Californian town about halfway between Big Sur and San Francisco, certain things come to mind – the legendary Pebble Beach golf course, Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (oh so stylish and filmed in and around Monterey), the world-renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium and the seafood, the glorious seafood (if it’s chowder you’re after, it’s Monterey chowder all the way).

So heading to Monterey, the last stop on our road trip before San Francisco, expectations were high.

We left Big Sur after lunch at Nepenthe’s, stopped into the Big Sur bakery for the essential road trip supplies (flat whites, a long black and a jar of seeded mustard, which seemed like a logical purchase at the time), hit go on our playlist and continued up the coast.

Arriving in Monterey feels like you’ve happened upon a real life Cabot Cove (sadly lacking Jessica Fletcher, but happily lacking the dangerously high Cabot Cove murder rate), making the Murder She Wrote aficionado in me super happy.

You know you’ve arrived when you spot the very pretty marina

The architecture and streetscapes really do seem so familiar.

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When in Monterey for the night, there is no other place to stay, no better option, then The Old Monterey Inn (I mean, technically there are plenty of other places to stay but this place is the pick).

Oh! We made it!

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BIXBY CREEK BRIDGE

Oh Bixby!

Let’s talk bridges (not a sentence I’ve ever used before but one that I may use again because more and more, I’m really learning to appreciate the beauty of a good bridge).

Now I don’t mean those bridges where you forgive people and then all is well and I’m not thinking the card game bridge, mainly because our Yiayia thought I was too chatty and my concentration too lacking to deal me into any card game.

I’m talking actual physical bridges. I’m talking Bixby.  The Bixby Creek Bridge to be precise, which I’ve always mistakenly thought of as the Bixby Canyon Bridge, I think because of the Death Cab song.

When embarking on a Highway 1 road trip, there are so many beautiful and unexpected surprises, but Bixby is something you’re waiting for, a sight you’re anticipating and even in a way, something you expect will feel a little familiar, because you’ve seen it so many times in photos.

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YES THIS PLACE IS REAL – THE MCWAY FALLS

The McWay Falls are probably the most photographed sight along Highway 1. And no wonder. They are GORGEOUS.

To get to this amazing spot, head off the highway into Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park when you see this sign –

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Isn’t the bear a nice touch?

The Waterall Overlook Trail is an easy walk, being only about a kilometre round-trip.

It begins from the same carpark as the Ewoldsen Trail, a fantastic hike, which we LOVED and covered here.

Our tip? Do the big hike in the morning, maybe take a break and head somewhere nice for lunch with a view, and visit the waterfall in the afternoon when the sunlight hits the cove in spectacular fashion.

At the start of the trail you will walk though a tunnel under the highway. Soon you will emerge to the incredible view of McWay creek spilling onto the beach.

Behold – the McWay falls –

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OUR TOP 3 PLACES TO EAT IN BIG SUR

You’re living it up in Big Sur. All this hiking, beach-going and general exploring has made you hungry.

You want to eat somewhere funSomewhere with views. Maybe you’d also like some coffee that actually tastes good, while we’re at it?

Wow. You’re really quite demanding aren’t you?? 

Well don’t worry my friend –  we’ve got you covered.

Here are our top 3 places to eat in Big Sur.

1 – Nepenthe – best view

 

Open since 1949 this is a Big Sur institution with views to die for.

Head up to the rooftop area,  pull up a chair at the bench overlooking the ocean and order yourself The Famous Ambrosiaburger – a delicious steak sandwich, served on a french roll with their famous ambrosia sauce.

With bottles of ketchup on every table and happy staff rushing around distributing baskets of golden shoestring fries, this is a picture-perfect US road-trip pit-stop.

Miss A and I and that incredible view

You will find Nepenthes at 48510, Highway 1. This is right near the ‘Posts’ part of Big Sur.

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SAND DOLLAR BEACH

Sitting below impressive cliffs on the southern Big Sur coastline you will find a crescent shaped stretch of sand, known as Sand Dollar Beach.

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This is the longest, and perhaps easiest to access, beach on the Big Sur coast. And it’s gorgeous.

A perfect spot for a walk or a picnic.

So what is a ‘sand dollar’ anyway? 

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OUR FAVOURITE HIKE IN BIG SUR – THE EWOLDSEN TRAIL

If you’re only going to do one hike in Big Sur – make it this one!

There are so many great things about this trail.

It’s got amazing redwoods and pretty bridges crossing over picture-perfect bubbling streams.

It’s just the right distance that you can fit it in on a day trip to the area and it’s still got a nice amount of elevation gain so you will feel like you’ve completed a good substantial hike.

Your efforts in climbing uphill will be rewarded by truly incredible ocean views.

It’s also super close to other Big Sur attractions, including the famous McWay falls which you can conveniently reach from the same carpark.

And – if you need one more reason to visit this trail here it is – you may even spot a California Condor up here. Now, if you can’t get excited about possibly spotting the largest bird in North America soaring over the coastline with its glorious 3 metre wingspan, then I’m sorry but this friendship is not going to work out.

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BIG SUR – TREEBONES RESORT

Treebones Resort is a wonderful option for a stay in Big Sur.

Here, staying in furnished yurts, you can enjoy that camping feeling of being totally immersed in nature without having to actually organise the full camping logistics.

This is especially helpful if you’re visiting from overseas without camping gear. Or if, like me, you quite like having the option of using a hair-straightener for a few minutes of a morning.  I think we can agree that good hair only improves a holiday. The utility of a simple power-point cannot be underestimated.

Located at the southern end of the Big Sur coast, Treebones is a beautiful property set on the hillside above Highway One, overlooking the ocean.

There are 16 yurts in total, which have been carefully placed into the landscape. Smaller yurts accommodate couples, while there are larger yurts available for groups of up to 5 people.

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HIGHWAY ONE ROAD TRIP – BIG SUR

Big Sur is a stunning stretch of the central California coast where the Pacific ocean meets the Santa Lucia mountains.

Stunning doesn’t quite cut it.

This is a place of rugged mountains, ocean sunsets, glorious redwoods and bubbling streams.

Did we mention the gorgeous beaches and the eagles? They’re pretty amazing too.

‘Big Sur’ is a translation from the original Spanish description for this coastline when it was known as ‘the big south’, being the area south to the city of Monterey.

Stretching from San Simeon to Carmel in the north, this 90 odd miles of coast is easily the most scenic and iconic part of the Highway One drive.

 

 

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HIGHWAY ONE ROAD TRIP – THE TINY BEACH TOWN OF CAYUCOS

Cayucos. A charming, tiny beach town two hours north of dreamy Santa Barbara.

We completed the drive to Cayucos at night, so it was certainly less scenic than the earlier leg of our day’s drive. Less scenic, but no less eventful.  

When Archer, Miss A and I are in a vehicle together you can pretty much guarantee 3 things will happen –

  1. We will blast every hip-hop/ rap track our little iPods can contain;
  2. I will consume my body weight in raw cashews and/or almonds; and
  3. We will find ourselves in some sort of police incident.

There we were, happily cruising into the night down Highway 1 when it happened.

First the flashing lights, then the confusion – ‘us!?’ ‘do they mean us?’ ‘what did we do?’ ‘it can’t be us!’

Then came the loud-speaker, helpfully clearing up any confusion – ‘PULL OFF THE HIGHWAY ONTO THE DIRT’.

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