Playing, swimming and sunbathing sea otters can be seen in and around the waters of Big Sur kelp beds. They dive for food, (mussels, clams, abalone, sea urchins), bring their catch to the surface and roll on their backs using their tummy as a serving table. They bite their prey with their strong teeth breaking the shells and then dine on the meat within. Sometimes they have been seen bringing rocks to the surface with their catch and cracking them open on the rocks. (I found this particularly interesting since isn't using tools the hallmark sign of higher evolution?)
California, or southern, sea otters reside within the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary which emcompasses 276 miles of shoreline and 5,322 square miles of ocean. They are protected under the Endangered Species Act after they were almost hunted to extinction by fur traders in the early 1900's. By the 1930's most people believed that this subspecies of sea otter had vanished, but in 1938 a small group of otters was discovered living near the mouth of Bixby Creek along California's Big Sur coast. From those few survivors, the otter has increased its numbers to more than 2,000 today. Growth has been particularly impressive during the past decade, when otter numbers increased by nearly 50%.
The otter's dramatic recovery is due in no small part to the dedication of Margaret W. Owings, long time resident of Big Sur, who founded Friends of the Sea Otter in 1968 to champion the otter's cause. Friends of the Sea Otter (FSO) is an advocacy group dedicated to actively working with state and federal agencies to maintain, increase and broaden the current protections for the sea otter. Protected since 1977 as a threatened species, the otter is still vulnerable to oil spills and illegal killing. To increase the chances for survival, some otters were relocated in the late 1980's to remote San Nicolas Island off the California coast.
The California Sea Otter Game Refuge on Coastal Hwy 1 (see map) and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary are home to many sea otters, seals and sea lions and is open to the public to view these magnificent creatures up a little closer. It is loud as they seem to "talk" constantly but once children adapt to the sounds it's a great learning experience for everyone.
DID YOU KNOW? Sea otters have incredibly fast metabolisms; a 60-pound adult sea otter eats at least 15 pounds of food (25% of its body weight) each and every day. That's the same as an average teenager eating 120 hamburgers.
From the same parking area for the walk down to Jade Cove, there is a trail that splits from the Jade Cove trail off to the right. This trail goes for about 1 mile along the cliff. I felt this was a much better attraction than the walk down to the cove. The trail is easy to find but it is unmarked. It was a great hike and didn't see another person.
Carmel By The Sea is just a Small Hamlet in the Monterey County Area but it packs a punch since it has a lot of Art Galleries, Shops, Strip Malls located in the small downtown area which you can walk though and the area boast of more than 100 art galleries located in the roughly one square mile downtown area where you can buy assorted works of art by the artists. Carmel also has a number of Bed and Breakfast inns for the weary traveller. It is also close to the famous Pebble Beach and Monterey and Pacific Grove and is the gateway to the Scenic Part of the Ca Highway One to the Romantic Central Coast of California and you will pass by Carmel By the Sea Before arriving at Big Sur, which is 26 miles away.
Point Piedras Blanca Elephant Seal Vista Point is a fun and interesting activity, which is free of charge and well worth a stop. Look on the ocean side of highway 1 after passing the lighthouse if traveling south, or after passing the Hearst Castle if traveling north. There is a huge parking area that you cannot miss. Pull off and park. Here you will have the opportunity to observe elephant seals, which use the beach year round. A fence borders the beach to protect the seals from human interference. A series of signs will give you information about the lives of elephant seals, as well as explaining which elephant seals can be seen during the different times of the year. When we were there in March the beach was filled with wieners, which are young elephant seals wiened from their mothers, but not yet ready to travel out to sea.
Pigeon Point Lighthouse has been in operation since 1872 and is amongst the tallest in the United States. The name of the point on which it is built comes from the wreck of the a clipper ship named Carrier Pigeon in 1853. The area around the lighthouse is particularly scenic and the waters are rich in marine and bird life. Sea lions are easily spotted on the rocks adjacent.
It is not currently possible to tour the interior of the lighthouse due to renovations but the California State Park system does free half-hour guided tours of the grounds.
Slightly North of Hearst Castle towards Piedras Blancas there is a substantial colony of elephant seals who reside in the area. On our visit in early May I was somewhat confused as to whether these were elephant seals or sea lions, but a little recent research has clarified things.
What had confused me was that none of the seals had the characteristic hooked trunk which are illustrated in the signposts around the beach, but this is in fact a feature that only adults have and the adults leave the area in mid-March after completing their breeding. The adults do return at various times during the summer for moulting, before heading off to sea again until the following December's start to the breeding season.
Thus the seals at Piedras Blancas in early May are all juveniles, despite their mature appearance and are, in fact, elephant seals - glad I sorted that one out!! (With a little help from site below)
The Ewoldsen Trail provides a moderate to strenuous hike in the morning or afternoon. The 4.5 mile loop trail begins with a walk through the redwood forest by McWay Creek and climbs to incredible coastal views. (I think I saw a Condor fly over when I got to the top)
Doud Creek is near/in Garrapata State Park, about 15 minutes south of Carmel. It's hard to finding parking in the area, so try arriving early, or late in the day. At Doud Creek, a trail leads about 1/4-mile through wildflowers and chapparal into a tiny canyon carved out by the creek. It's a picturesque spot, with wildflowers dotting the bottom of the canyon, and the ocean nearby. You can walk from there to a small beach.
William Randolph Hearst, a famous publisher, in collaboration with architect Julia Morgan, built this 165 room estate, which is now a historic site. This is one of the largest estates in the United States and was donated to the public. The house, guesthouses, and gardens are filled with art treasures from France, Italy, Spain, Greece, England, and Egypt. The rooms of the main house and three guesthouses have the same tapestries and furniture that was present when the Hearst family lived there. Three tours of the castle are offered daily and reservations are strongly recommended, especially during the busy season. We went in March without reservations as we wanted to take a leisurely drive along hwy 1. We did get the tour we had wanted, but one of the others was filled, so it was a good thing that was not the tour we had hoped to take.
For additional information and photos of the Hearst Castle please visit my Hearst San Simeon State Historic Monument pages.
This is one of my favorite places in the world to meditate. On this particular day, the sea was violent and the waves were huge. I sat for hours watching them strike the rock outcroppings, each time creating a new spray formation; nature's art.
A lot of artists live in Big Sur, and I can sure understand why. There are a few galleries with their works to check out in case you're into art. There's also Henry Miller museum and library.
We stopped at the Coastal Gallery and had coffee in the cafe there.
Visit the Henry Miller Library if you have some time to spare.
This famed Library is located right along Highway 1, south of Nepenthe here in Big Sur.
Opening times: Thursday - Sundays 11AM to 6PM.
Photo Below: The late Henry Miller who loved Big Sur so much! And I really don't blame him... because I looove this place too!!!
The beach is south of Big Sur just before the road straightens. The sea lion colony in the wild is a mile or so after the road straightens.
The campground we chose was on a big grassy knoll, high above the water so when you woke up you could just unzip the tent and cozy up in your blanket while gazing out into the sea.
Slow down and stay awhile...pull off the road...have a picnic...take a picture...soak in the beautiful Pacific Ocean
This hotel is incredible, beside the location, rooms and restaurant the people who work there are so...more
Enjoy dramatic scapes, invigorating hikes, wine service, and a "clothing optional" pool. This is a...more
Highway 1, Big Sur, California, 93920, United States
Good for: Business