Onur and I have been driving to the California coast since we moved here back in January, and have found it to be a special way to connect and discover California together. So far we've been to Santa Cruz, Carmel-by-the-Sea, and Monterey, so when Onur proposed another coastal drive, I got excited about our next prospective destination. I asked him what he thought about taking our usual drives a bit further—a little over two hours—to Big Sur. The pictures and descriptions of the Big Sur Coast Highway in my book, Moon California, looked fantastic, and I had seen lots of scenic spots on Instagram too. Onur was game, so we packed up our usual road trip fare—water bottles, dates, and walnuts—and were soon on our way.
Here are four of our favorite moments from our Big Sur Coast Highway road trip:
1. Breakfast at Feride's. Feride's Bakery, a Turkish Bakery in Santa Clara, has become our go-to stop to kick-off our road trips. Their simit (a thin, frisbee-shaped bagel covered in sesame seeds) is crisp on the outside and soft in the middle, and they serve a variety of savory foods, sweets, and pastries. We usually order a couple simit, eggs cooked with pastirma, a cheese plate, and some tomato and cucumber. If we're really treating ourselves, we'll have their borek, wavy layers of pastry, cheese, and butter. It's almost like lasagna, but more buttery and crisp. It's addictive :)
2. Seaside Monterey. We chose Monterey as our first coastal stop simply because we had just been there a couple weeks ago and had had such a nice experience. We stopped in the Monterey Visitor Center and friendly guides gave us a walking map and marked a 2-mile walk along the Coastal Trail to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. There, we could pick up the trolley, which is free on weekends, and take a scenic ride back to town. It was so lovely to take a breezy stroll and enjoy the views (and sounds of seals) of Monterey Bay, topped off a sweet trolley ride back to town. We did a little window-shopping too, stopping at Monterey's Tasty Olive Bar near the aquarium to taste and buy olive oil. (Our favorites so far are their garlic olive oil and rosemary olive oil.)
3. Coastal cliffs in Garrapata State Park. Early on in our drive, I had told Onur to let me know if something interested him and I would pull over. Just south of Carmel-by-the-Sea, all of a sudden he spotted an intriguing bridge and asked me to pull over to the shoulder. It turned out to be the Bluff Trail at Garrapata State Park and we had the most lovely, spontaneous, coastal walk along the bluffs there. Sheer cliffs were covered in multi-colorful plants and flowers, and the views of the seastacks out in the ocean were impressive. Whale Peak, which has a trail to the top, made it feel Hawaii-like.
4. Lunch at Nepenthe. Onur's radar for places to eat with a view is always primed for opportunities, and Nepenthe was no exception. Perched on a hillside, cars seemed to spill over from the restaurant onto both sides of the highway—this was clearly a population destination spot. Although crowded, we arrived after the main lunch rush and didn't have to wait long for a table. Onur asked for a water view, and it was absolutely worth it. As we lounged on a terrace overlooking the green, mountainous coastline over the dark blue ocean, we both felt like we were back in Yoruk Park in Kemer, Turkey. It was a wonderful break from driving and a rest before heading back home.
Our road trips have been a wonderful way to connect with each other and our new state. Although we did enjoy classic stops like McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, we had the most fun on impromptu stops and hikes, ones that made our hearts skip on the discovery, like Garrapata State Park. Here's to simple sponteneity.