The landmark Bixby Creek Bridge in Big Sur, California.
The landmark Bixby Creek Bridge in Big Sur, California. Thinkstock

TRAVEL: Big Sur should be on any bucket list

THE drive along Big Sur in California is likely to be on the bucket list of every traveller who loves to visit/see/conquer anything that is said to be legendary.

And drives don't come any more legendary than the winding, undulating coastal drive that is Big Sur, a 150km stretch of rugged and natural coastline that runs between Carmel and San Simeon.

San Simeon is a natural harbour, a place used by media magnate William Randolph Hearst to ship in materials to build his ostentatious castle... but Hearst Castle is another story - a big one - for another time.

The name Big Sur comes from its original Spanish name, El Pais Grande del Sur, The Big Country to the South.

This is California's wildest stretch of coastline and probably one of the only places in America where you can drive for a couple of hours without passing a McDonald's.

On one side of the twisting, winding road you have the majestic Santa Lucia Mountains, on the other, a rocky rugged coastline of such natural unspoilt glory, it is impossible not to stop every 10 minutes, get out of the car, say "wow," over and over again - and then take a couple of dozen photos.

Hikers come to Big Sur's mountains for treks and climbs on the ridges of the 1.21 million hectares of Los Padres National Forest.

Californians really do have the best of everything in America all in their one state - it simply is not fair to the rest of the country.

This unspoilt and gorgeous area is where the 1971 movie Play Misty For Me was filmed. Those of you old enough will remember the Clint Eastwood thriller where he was stalked by a crazed fan after a one-night stand. Remember him walking the rugged beaches of Big Sur with his girlfriend (who he had cheated on with the crazed fan) while the song The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face played hauntingly in the background? Although the film was quite thrilling, it was the Big Sur scenery that stole the show in my opinion.

Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor filmed The Sandpiper in this area as well. It is a movie-maker's dream backdrop.

The Big Sur drive takes you over the famous Bixby Creek Bridge, through Andrew Molera State Park, past Jade Cove and through Lucia Plaskett, Mt Manuel, Pfeiffer Ridge, Post Summit and Cooper Point, all small but infinity picturesque locations.

Big Sur is romantically desolate in parts, nothing but sea, sky, mountains and nature to meld together to create wild natural beauty, but the little towns you pass through are home to charming inns, small lodges and inviting camping grounds.

To really experience the true depth of Big Sur's splendour, you should stop in one of the towns, stay a night or even two, get out and trek the mountains, later walk the wild beach like Clint Eastwood did with his girlfriend.

You really should just spend a day letting the natural beauty of Big Sur engulf you - then hightail it back to the comfort of your room for a dinner of local produce and a good bottle of Californian wine.

If a trip to California is not on your bucket list or is not affordable, go to your video shop, ask for the classic movie section and see if you can find a copy of Play Misty For Me. Then enjoy Big Sur's fabulousness from the luxury of your armchair. (You'll love the movie too, very tense, very exciting, quite scary. It was way ahead of its time.

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