Photos of the Big Sur Coast

Why is Big Sur so photogenic? Maybe it's the cliffs on the edge of the continent plunging straight toward the sea - or the misty, layered look it gets. Or the plucky little highway clinging to the hillsides, looking like it might let go at any moment?

No matter what the reason, Big Sur is a great place to take the kind of photos that will make your friends say "Wow!" 

I hope you enjoy your quick tour to one of California's most beautiful places.

01 of 11

Bixby Bridge

Bixby Bridge in Big Sur

The Rabbit / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

This iconic Big Sur picture shows Bixby Bridge. 

Bixby Bridge is one of the world's highest single-span concrete arch bridges at 260 feet high and 700 feet long. The name "Bixby" is for Charles Henry Bixby, an early Big Sur settler

Continue to 2 of 11 below.
02 of 11

Big Sur View

Big Sur Coastline and Bixby Bridge

Betsy Malloy Photography

This spot is just south of Bixby Bridge, on a windswept overlook. It's one of my favorite vista points, a typical view of the Big Sur landscape, with mountains plunging toward the ocean on the edge of the continent.

Continue to 3 of 11 below.
03 of 11

Cliff Hanger

House On a Cliff in Big Sur

Betsy Malloy Photography

This house is a real cliff hanger, wedged into the rocky hillside, so far below the road that you'd never see it as you drove by. I found it while peering over the cliff's edge just north of the Big Sur River.

Continue to 4 of 11 below.
04 of 11

Big Sur River

Mouth of the Big Sur River

Betsy Malloy Photography

The Little Sur River runs from its headwaters in the Santa Lucia Mountains into the sea, ending at Big Sur. I love how the river meanders through the sand, its winding path across the beach changing often. The ocean always seems impossibly blue from this view, especially when the sky is free of clouds. 

Point Sur and its scenic lighthouse are just a little further down the coast around the bend.

Continue to 5 of 11 below.
05 of 11

Point Sur Lighthouse

Point Sur Lighthouse
Chris D 2006/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Point Sur Lighthouse, built in 1889, was one of California's loneliest light stations.   Today, it's a historic landmark that's open for tours.

To get this kind of close-up view of it, you'll have to take one of those tours. Otherwise, it's partly hidden on the back of the rock it's built on.

Continue to 6 of 11 below.
06 of 11

Nepenthe Restaurant

Patio at Nepenthe Restaurant, Big Sur
TravelingOtter/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

The most pleasant place on the coast to have lunch, Nepenthe sits in the perfect spot.

It has gorgeous views down the coastline, a warm California ambiance, a good restaurant and a gift shop that's always fun for puttering around in.

Read about visiting Nepenthe

Continue to 7 of 11 below.
07 of 11

Pfeiffer Beach

Hole in the Rock at Pfeiffer Beach

Betsy Malloy Photography

Pfeiffer Beach is a hidden beach, little known to tourists and not visible from Highway One.  

On the right day, it's one of our California favorites. It's a family-friendly place with beautiful views and unusual purple sand. Other times, it's windy and unpleasant.

You could zip right by the turnoff if you don't know where it is. Use this guide to visiting Pfeiffer Beach to find out what you need to know before you go.

Continue to 8 of 11 below.
08 of 11

McWay Falls

McWay Falls, Big Sur

Betsy Malloy Photography

McWay Creek drops 80 feet over a cliff onto the beach in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, creating a type of waterfall called a tidefall. It's a short walk along the Overlook Trail to the spot where this picture was taken.

Views of McWay Falls from here are beautiful, but it's the only place you can see it from. As tempting as it might seem, it's not possible to get down to the beach here.

Continue to 9 of 11 below.
09 of 11


Traffic in Big Sur

Betsy Malloy Photography

You may want to take your time while driving in Big Sur, but others may not. It's one of the reasons that the 65-mile drive between Hearst Castle and Big Sur can take two hours.

According to California state law: "If you are driving slowly on a two-lane highway or road where passing is unsafe, and five or more vehicles are following you, drive into the turnout areas or lanes to let the vehicles pass."

You count 'em and figure out if this guy needs to pull over and let the others pass.

Continue to 10 of 11 below.
10 of 11

Winding Road

Highway One in Big Sur

Betsy Malloy Photography

This is a typical view of California Highway One along the Big Sur coast - on a sunny day. Most of the really pretty photos of Big Sur are taken on days like this, but not every day presents the same look.

You'll see what Big Sur looks like on a cloudy day in the next photo.

Continue to 11 of 11 below.
11 of 11

Cloudy Day

Cloudy Day On the Big Sur Coast

Betsy Malloy Photography

I always hope for blue skies and ocean when traveling on Highway One, but it doesn't always happen. The day this photo was taken, the weather went from blue skies to fully overcast just after noon, turning gray and chilly in about half an hour.

Was this page helpful?