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"Little" trip report (day trip down the CA coast part-way)

"Little" trip report (day trip down the CA coast part-way)

Aug 30th, 2009, 09:44 AM
  #1  
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"Little" trip report (day trip down the CA coast part-way)

I thought about adding this to the Monterey-big Sur thread, but it turned out its more trip-report-ish than I intended, so I decided to make it into one in case it might help someone. Yesterday was broiling hot in NoCal, we decided to take a trip (have convertible, will travel). We got in the Z and left home (a suburb just south of SFO) about 10:15, and returned home around 8:30 p.m.

Fist stop - Capitola - cute little beach town. I think I 've only been here once before, despite living in NoCal for 36 years. The water itself didn't look so great (kelp beds?), but the beach is nice, the atmosphere pleasant, the town "adorable". We didn't end up eating at any of the beach restaurants because we decided to head out of town after a little more than an hour. Unless you're actually spending time on the beach, which we were not, I wouldn't really plan for more than an hour or two. We ate at Gayle's Bakery (on the way into/out of Capitola). Very confusing service - take a number, order, pay, sit (sounds right, but it wasn't that easy!) - but good food. My DH had a tri-tip sandwich, I had 3 salads (sold by weight) - fruit, green beans and chicken/potato - that were tasty.

Next up - coastal drive. We just kept driving, and knowing about how far Nepenthe is, we decided that would be the "terminus" of our trip (after all, we weren't planning on staying over, and home is about 1-3/4 hours north of Carmel). It was a spectacular day, the coast was gorgeous. For those concerned about this drive, I can only speak for (to?) the part from Capitola to Nepenthe. Yes, it's very curvy, but it's not particularly narrow (the lanes are "full-size") and there was not a single hairpin turn in that stretch (maybe there are farther south, although I can't fathom why, but there definitely were not on this stretch). There are tons of turn-outs if you want to stop and admire the view.

Nepenthe - We haven't been here in a million (at least!) years. Oh my god, the views are phenomenal. We had a snack at the Kevah cafe, then went upstairs to the restaurant to see the views from there (even better), took a spin through the gift shop (which has some local items, and some non-local, which honestly annoys me -- if you're going to sell jam in Big Sur, does it really have to come from Washington State?), and headed north, in search of Pfeiffer Beach.

Pfeiffer Beach - wow, this was as hard to find as everyone said, even with the very specific (.6 miles south of the Ranger Station) directions we had. Contrary to what Stu said, there is not a single sign in either direction indicating the beach is there (maybe there used to be signs). I guess you just have to be a Fodors' member to know. So, heading south, the turn-off is .6 miles south of the Ranger Station (which is on your left, the turn-off, of course, is on your right). It's a downhill road and the only sign say something like "Steep Slopin Road". Heading north, it's just north of the Loma Vista "rest stop" (restaurants and shops) and immediately past a yellow sign that indicates there's an intersection coming up. The road down to the beach is 2 miles long, all downhill but fairly gradual, but not in great condition, and very narrow (about 1-1/2 lanes wide, so you do have to be aware of oncoming vehicles). It's $5.00 to enter, and American the Beautiful passes are not accepted. It was so worth the $5.00. OMG, this place is magnificent. The beach (which does shimmer purple -- it's not like the beach is all purple sand, but there's a definitely "tint") , the rock formations are stunning, the water is dramatic and the waves awesome. This is NOT (at least yesterday it wasn't) a place to swim. It's a place to sit on the beach, admire, but not swim (anyway, we were walking along the beach and got hit with the water, and it was beyond freezing!).

Decided to drive into Pacific Grove, having never been there. We got there a little too late (oh no, we have to go back) as most of the shops were closed. But we were hungry, and remembered that there were restaurant recommendations on here a few days ago. Thank goodness for portable internet. We found Passionfish, but didn't think we were appropriately dressed (shorts and tank top) so we went in (it was 5:10 and I asked -- they said yes we are serving dinner, and you are dressed just fine), so we sat down. We were so surprised - by the time we left at 6:30, the place was practically full (everyone was casually dressed, by the way, many in shorts). We loved this restaurant. The attitude is just so friendly, it was very appealing. Very nice owner (the woman who told us we "were fine"), excellent server, even nice co-diners. Most of all, the food is outstanding. My DH said he thought the salmon was the best he'd ever had. He had the summer squash soup and I had the heirloom tomato salad. Then we shared the two dinner specials - wild coho salmon (isn't that really trout ?) and some local specialty called sea spot shrimp I think -- never had them before. Messy like eating a whole lobster, but worth it! Dessert was raspberries with vanilla ice cream in a cabernet sauce -- the sauce was scrumptious. Even the butter was delicious (honey infused). The ONLY negative was that the vanilla ice cream was too hard to eat at first. Really really enjoyed this place. We didn't have any alcohol, and the bill (with sparkling water, coffee and tea) was $91.00.

Listened to the Giants all the way home - perfect end to a great day!!
sf7307 is offline  
Aug 30th, 2009, 10:04 AM
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Hello, sf7307. I so enjoyed your mini trip report as my husband and I would so enjoy heading that way (from the SF/Bay Area) and we always had the most delightful times. A good way to relax and best of all..no packing!
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Aug 30th, 2009, 10:08 AM
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Yep - there are no signs directing you to Pfeiffer Beach from Hwy #1. Like I stated in another post:

>>There are several signs on the road to Pfeiffer beach - facing the "opposite" direction so you can only see the back of the signs (one is a stop sign, I believe).<<

The signs can only be read when you are LEAVING the Pfeiffer Beach access road and getting back on Hwy #1 again. The "stop sign" is the stop sign for Hwy 1. My previous post was a little vague, now that I've read it again. The signs were there the last time we visited Pfeiffer Beach - which may have been 5-10 years ago. We're headed to Big Sur in a few weeks - I'll see if the signs are still there or not.

Stu Dudley
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Aug 30th, 2009, 11:01 AM
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Ah, Stu, I thought you meant there were signs in the "other direction" meaning heading north on Hwy 1. Anyway, thanks for the tip -- we'd never been there before, and it was an A+++
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Aug 30th, 2009, 11:13 AM
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I am another fan of Passionfish...and Pacific Grove. There are some wonderful anitque stores in town and it is a great area to go on nice, long walks along the bay and ocean. Thanks for sharing your day out with us.
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Aug 30th, 2009, 01:14 PM
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Perfect timing for me! After our day and a half in San Francisco in 2 weeks, we're headed down to the Monterey Bay area for 4 days. We're staying in Pacific Grove with a drive to Big Sur. I have a few questions, but I'll save those for a separate thread, but I sure enjoyed reading this, and will print the directions to Pfeiffer Beach! Thanks for taking the time to write this up!
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Aug 30th, 2009, 01:47 PM
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You'll love it. I'm going to upload some pictures, but they were all taken with my cell phone, so quality won't be too great. But they'll give you an idea anyway.
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Aug 30th, 2009, 03:26 PM
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Sharie, here's a link to the pictures I took with my cell phone yesterday.

http://picasaweb.google.com/dmlove51/CaliforniaCoast#
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Aug 30th, 2009, 03:50 PM
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sf7307 - Nice little report and pictures, but where are you?

Passionfish has been recommended to me in another thread. Would you drive there from Carmel for dinner (after dark) or should we eat closer to where we're staying?
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Aug 30th, 2009, 04:57 PM
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The pictures should have captions, no? The first few we're in Capitola, the next few at Nepenthe and the last bunch at Pfeiffer Beach.

Passionfish is only a few miles from Carmel, and yes, I would drive there for dinner, after dark or otherwise. But I have no knowledge of Carmel restaurants so I can't really compare. But we really really liked this place.
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Aug 30th, 2009, 05:25 PM
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<< Nice little report and pictures, but where are you? >>

LOL - I meant why aren't you in any of the pictures?
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Aug 30th, 2009, 05:26 PM
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Oh, where am I? Ha ha, my DH always says we have 30+ years of pictures and I'm in none of them because I'm always the one taking them!
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Aug 30th, 2009, 06:35 PM
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Fun, beautiful pictures, even with a cell phone! Thanks for sharing! And I know what you mean about not being in them! I never am either! When we come to San Francisco we're meeting up with a business friend our first evening, so maybe he'll take some pictures of DH and I together! We're celebrating our 16th anniversary on this trip!
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Aug 30th, 2009, 06:37 PM
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<< Nepenthe - We haven't been here in a million (at least!) years. Oh my god, the views are phenomenal >>

My DH and I thought about going here, but the views are phenomenal all along Big Sur, so we're trying to figure out what's special about HERE?
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Aug 30th, 2009, 06:41 PM
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It's just the best combination of views in the most comfortable setting -- of course, you can see the views from a turnout in the road, but not while sitting eating a hamburger, or nursing a beer. It's just spellbinding.
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Aug 30th, 2009, 06:46 PM
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I'm convinced! I'm having lunch there. What's the difference between between the restaurant and the cafe as far as lunch goes?
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Aug 30th, 2009, 06:49 PM
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HaHa, well, maybe that's our problem... we're vegetarians (there goes the hamburger) and don't drink beer! Is the coffee and hot chocolate good?!
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Aug 30th, 2009, 06:52 PM
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We didn't eat! (just a cookie and an ice tea -- you can do that too, sharie )
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Aug 30th, 2009, 07:25 PM
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It was SOOO hot on Friday & Sat. in SF!! Thanks for sharing your "mini trip report"
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Jul 25th, 2010, 09:50 PM
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Sf7307, we looked for Pfeiffer beach today according to the directions given to us in a print out from the Big Sur state Lodge. Couldn't come near to finding it. When you say "the turn-off is .6 miles south of the Ranger Station" is that the Ranger Station that's north of the Big Sur state park, as there is a ranger station at the state park as well?
If time was limited and you had to make a choice, would you choose Pfeiffer beach or Point Lobos?
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