The amazing thing about the West Coast is that it is still mostly wild, open, and astoundingly beautiful country, where you can drive for miles and miles and have the scenery all to yourself.
One of the most popular and long-lived stopping points along the Big Sur coast, Nepenthe (48510 Hwy-1, 831/667-2345) is a rustic bar and restaurant offering good food and great views from atop a rocky headland some thousand feet above the Pacific. Named for the mythical drug that causes one to forget all sorrows, Nepenthe looks like something out of a 1960s James Bond movie, built of huge boulders and walls of plate glass. The food is plenty good—burgers, steaks, and fish dominate the menu—but it’s the view you come here for.
Sharing a parking lot, and taking advantage of similar views, the neighboring Cafe Kevah (831/667-2344) serves brunch all day, plus good teas and coffees and microbrews on a rooftop deck. You’ll find a gift shop downstairs selling top-quality arts and crafts and knitwear by Kaffe Fassett, whose family owns the place.
Right along Hwy-1, at a sharp bend in the road just south of Nepenthe, The Henry Miller Memorial Library (48603 Hwy-1, 831/667-2574, daily) carries an erratic but engaging collection of books by and about the author, who lived in Big Sur for many years in the 1950s.
A half mile south of Nepenthe on the east side of the highway, one of the oldest and most atmospheric places to stay is Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn (48865 Hwy-1, 831/667-2377, $110 and up), a rambling and rustic redwood lodge built by a Norwegian immigrant in the 1930s and now a nonprofit, preservationist operation. Though the rooms are not available to families with young children unless you reserve both rooms of a two-room building, Deetjen’s also serves Big Sur’s best breakfasts and hearty dinners, at which all are welcome.