Covering a coastal area about 180km south from San Francisco to 400km north of Los Angeles, Big Sur and environs offers some of the most stunning scenery in California. Defined by the Santa Lucia Mountains which rise dramatically from the sea, this rugged romantic underpopulated coastline has inspired writers and artists - from John Steinbeck to Joan Baez, Henry Miller to Jack Kerouac. Iconic Highway One, considered one of the most scenic driving routes in the world, hugs the contours of the mountains, rarely losing sight of the Pacific Ocean. As well as the views, people come for the hiking and birding, there are also a few beaches and nine State Parks.
Charming and low-rise by decree, Carmel-by-the-Sea is sheltered between a spur of land at the south of sickle-shaped Monterey Bay and Point Lobos State Reserve, and marks the northern extremity of Big Sur. Deliberately village-like in feel and very pro-canine, the characterful town boasts a lovely sugar-white beach, and has no street numbers or parking meters. Residents all seem to know each other; shopping and dining, gallery-hopping and the arts are practiced here with enthusiasm; visitors are welcomed.