Beyond the Highway, Big Sur
Highway 1 along the California coast is a drive to be enjoyed, to be savored. Don't treat it merely as a place between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Take your time and soak in the sunshine...too much driving is never a good thing anyway.
Mission San Antonio de Padua was constructed in 1771 and was the third of 21 Spanish missions in California. The original location was a few miles away, but the facilities were moved to the current location in 1773. The missionaries built the mission much as you see it today, with a large quadrangle, mission church, a mill, and reservoirs. Though the 1830s the mission was very successful with large herds of sheep and cattle. In the 1830s the missions were secularized by the Mexican government, and Mission San Antonio was maintained by a few priests until the 1880s. By 1906 the elements and earthquakes destroyed most of the original mission, leaving just a few walls and the original church facade. When William Randolph Hearst bought the property he gave significant funds for rebuilding the mission, and after the US army purchased the land, restoration continued.
Today Mission San Antonio de Padua is one of the only Spanish missions in California that exists in a similar natural environment as during the Spanish times. This is a beautiful mission in a secluded valley that is very welcoming to the rare visitors who make this trek. We loved the little cats that run around the mission just begging to be petted by anyone who comes near. Visiting the mission, gardens, and surrounding grounds is free, but the museum asks for a small entry fee.
This is the most off-the-beaten path of the missions. From Big Sur, take Nacimiento-Ferguson Road through Los Padres National Forest to Fort Hunter Liggett, then drive through the base to Mission Road. From Hwy 101 head to Jolon and enter Fort Hunter Liggett. Take Mission road to the mission.
The Fort Hunter-Liggett is a decommissioned army base just east of the Santa Lucia Mountains, occupying a large hidden valley. The area has never been subject to modern agriculture therefore the landscape is pristine with idyllic oaks, creeks, and rolling grasslands. Within the base lies well-preserved Mission San Antonio de Padua, one of the more successful 18th century Spanish Missions. The sense of isolation and history of this place is amazing.
To go to Mission San Antonio, take Nacimiento Road from Highway 1, approximately 60 miles south of Carmel. The road climbs up the coast ridge to about 3800 feet, providing incredibly ocean views. Then drive further east along a pristine canyon with creekside campgrounds. Next you will enter the Fort, (do not carry illegal items, and make sure have your car registration and driver's license with you), and follow signs to the Mission. Within the fort you cannot leave the road until you're at Mission San Antonio. To leave the fort there is also an eastern exit (Jolon Road) which leads to King City on Highway 101.
Sure you can pay $20 or more and hang out with thousands of tourists at the world famous Hearst Castle. But did you know Hearst had another mansion near Big Sur called the Hearst Hacienda? Even better, this second mansion is far from the throngs of tourists, and free to visit.
Before he constructed the massive Hearst Castle, William Randolph Hearst, a huge newspaper baron, built this much more modest hunting lodge and ranch. It was designed by Julia Morgan, the same architect who built the Hearst Castle, and was designed after Mission San Antonio, less than a half mile away. In the 1930s, the entire ranch including the hacienda was sold to the US Army to become Fort Hunter Liggett.
Today the military has priority on hotel rooms at the Hacienda, but any of the remaining 14 rooms in the small hotel are available to the public. Also in the building are a nice bar and a restaurant.
If you're based in Big Sur, you can make side trips to visit the following towns and other tourist attractions:-
17-Mile Drive/ Pebble Beach
Hearst Castle, San Simeon.....
Just to name a few....
Photo Below: Hearst Castle. That's a candid shot of me standing next to the huge outdoor swimming pool.... on a chilly and FOGGY summer morning. Brrrr...
Everyone knows you get to Big Sur via Highway 1, but few seem to know about the back way to Big Sur via the Nacimiento-Ferguson Road. About half of this route runs through the Los Padres National Forest, while the other half goes through Fort Hunter-Liggett, an active US Army post.
The main gate at Hunter-Liggett is near Jolon, just off Highway 101. To get on post you must have a photo ID, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance. Once on the post you can visit the historic sites of Mission San Antonio, the Hearst Hacienda, and the ancient Native American art at La Cueva Pintada (The Painted Cave) . Also on the fort you are likely to see soldiers training, hundreds of vehicles in motor pools, and even tank targets out on the ranges. The fort was created to provide a training ground for soldiers, and its 165,000 acres provide plenty of opportunity for that! The majority of the base was purchased from William Randolph Hearst. Fort Hunter Liggett was under control of Monterey's Fort Ord until it closed in 1993. Today Fort Hunter Liggett falls uner the command of Fort McCoy, WI and is used mainly to train guard and reserve forces. Cone Peak, at 5,155 feet, is the highest peak within the fort.
From San Francisco.............................175 south on Highway 101. Take the exit marked Jolon Road (G14). There is also a historical sign announcing this exit.
Once on Jolon Road, travel 18 miles. Take a right on Mission Creek Road. You will travel through the Fort Hunter Liggett military base entrance gate. Please continue 5 miles. The Mission is on your left with a well-marked sign.
1771 Padre Junipero Serra entered the Valley of the Oaks, to found Mission San Antonio de Padua. In the secluded sierra district, Padres Serra, Pieras and Sitjar journeyed to establish the third mission in California. The date was July 14, 1771. Near the river San Antonio, on the branches of an oak tree, the bells were hung for the first time.
1773 The site of the Mission was changed from the original location to a place farther up Los Robles Valley. By the end of 1773, workshops, a small church and dwellings were established at the new site. The construction was of adobe brick. Some houses of tules and wood were set up to accommodate the soldier and converts who now numbered about 163.
1810 The final church structure was started. Construction progressed rapidly. The large timbers used for the ceiling were floated down from the mountains on the waters of the San Antonio River. The church was finally blessed in the year 1813. It is the same church building which stands reconstructed today.
1834 The beginning of the period of secularization. San Antonio becomes government property. Governor Figueroa on November 4, 1834 issued the final proclamation that took Mission San Antonio from the mission padres and placed the entire establishment under civil jurisdiction. At this time it began to fall into a state of neglect.
1863 The U.S. Land Commission formally returns Mission Lands (c. 33 acres) to the Church on May 31. Abraham Lincoln signed the decree for this return.
1883 The Mission is abandoned. Tiles are taken from the roof. Exposed to the weather, the walls crumble. Only walls of the church itself still stand, along with the brick facade and rows of brick arches along the front corridor.
1903-1908 Public spirited citizens began a limited restoration of the mission. An earthquake destroyed much of what they had done, but the project was begun over again.
1928 Eventually, 84 years after the last original missionary padre left, the Franciscans come back to their beloved San Antonio.
1948-49 Franciscans rebuild the Mission as a training school for brothers of the order. Work continues through the 1950's
Of all Spanish California missions, San Antonio de Padua is the most faithfully restored. This is what a mission really looked like. Artifacts of the missionaries and their neophyte's are on display.
Frescoes of their daily life, and the painstaking restoration of the mission's workings make it a valuable and educational museum.
All that's really different here from the old days is the Indians ...
The mission is in the Diocese of Monterey
Although the Hearst Castle State Monument is located within the limits of San Simeon Township, the center of the township is located about 10 miles south from the huge estate and the township is the nearest hamlet where you can spend the night and eat at the local restaurants and get supplies at the 3 convenience stores in the hamlet. If you want no frills and nearest to the Hearst Castle, then this is you best bet but if you want more good accomodations, I would recommend you stay at Cambria or at San Luis Obispo or Pismo Beach since they have more options like more restaurants or more beach activities and some shopping or even further away at Paso Robles so that you can savor the Fine wines of the Central Coast of California.
Address: San Simeon, CA 93452
Directions: From San Francisco: Take U.S. 101 south to California Highway 46, then west on 46 to California Highway 1 and north about 13 miles (250 miles total, approximately 5 hours)
Paso Robles Wineries are just about a 95 mile 2 hour 15 minute drive from Big Sur via CA Highway 1 then Highway 46 east. Visiting the fable Hearst Castle in San Simeon at the Central Coast of California can be breathtaking and more so if you are fond of wines and vinyards, it is just less than an hour drive from the nearby Paso Robles Wine Region of Central California via California Route 46 and Highway 1 South and if you are touring the Hearst Castle on your own and not on any part of a bus tour group, Paso Robles can be an exciting excursion since they have many fine wines here (although is is much smaller in acreage than Napa valley and Sonoma in Northern California). You will find 26,000 vineyard acres, producing more than 40 wine grape varieties ranging from Spanish to Italian, Bordeaux to Rhône, including the area's heritage variety Zinfandel. The styles of wine are diverse in this very distinct region. Wine Tasting in a local winery in Paso Robles will cost about $ 5 for regular wines and $ 8 for the vintage and premium wines.
Driving along Route 1 affords many places to stop and hike, either down to the shore or through the woods. The scent of the pines is magnified by the damness of the fog. The flora is interesting against the back drop of an angry sea.
Big Sur is a 90 mile stretch of Hwy One from Carmel t o San Simeon...however get off the Highway and discover more of the real Big Sur...check out the hikes....check out the mountains...smell the ocean
the Esalen Indians , who once roamed this area, travelled more west to east than north to south....they knew things!!!
Big Sur and it's nice bridges of the scenic route nr. 1 is often forgotten as time is mainly spend at Hearst Castle, Carmel (Pebbles Beach) and Monterey. Just stop for a nice break of one hour and walk along the coast to enjoy the beauty that is all around.
Gallery One just outside the town of Big Sur, features local well-known artists: metal sculptures, photographers, wood carvers and candle makers.
Guitar player singing his own ballads to the ocean at Esalen. What a surprise to find him tucked away by a tree while we ate our lunch.