The ephemeral beauty of the Big Sur coastline is one that can’t quite be captured in a photograph. The dramatic seascapes along the winding length of Highway 1 south of Monterey are the sort you have to absorb in person. The Big Sur vistas are those that demand you to linger, and let the periphery slip away.
My foray into minimalist camping, although new, was successful. My memories of camping with my family as a child always involved intensive packing, the car filled to the brim, and exhausting set-up. Overall, it was a huge amount of labor for something that should be relaxing and bring you away from the materialism of modern life. I wanted to try it differently. We reserved a site at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park for a long weekend, and fit everything we needed into the trunk of our compact car.
The most important thing to consider when exploring any form of minimalistic travel is to think of your needs rather than the ‘just in case’ items. This applies not only to your wardrobe, but also to your gear. For example, I skipped packing camping chairs because I knew our campsite had a picnic bench, and I knew we would be spending most of our time away from the campsite. I’m a personal fan of The Minimalists axiom: if it’s a ‘just in case’ item that will cost you less than $20 or 20 minutes of your time, leave it at home. The vast majority of the time, you won’t need it! My one exception? A first aid kit, which as a Registered Nurse, I wholeheartedly recommend you bring!
Camping simplistically freed up ample time for exploring Highway 1 and the Big Sur coastlines. Around seemingly every corner was another stunning view to behold, and the afternoon slipped away in a fog-laced glow of dramatic seascapes. In addition to iconic spots like the Bixby Bridge and McWay Falls, simply pulling off the side of the highway promises both panoramic vistas and a peaceful atmosphere. Bonus: Point Lobos in Carmel is less than an hour away from Big Sur!
Eating a simple charcuterie dinner at Pfeiffer Beach was a perfect way to wrap up the day. From atop a bluff of sand, we watched daring souls climb huge rock formations as the sea pounded the coastline. A stunning sunset followed, and we lingered until the last pink hues faded from the sky.
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park offers basic camping accommodations. I can comment positively on their central location, but having visited some years ago other aspects have declined somewhat. Although there are noise curfews, they are not enforced, and I had to be that person who shushed our drum circling, guitar playing neighbors at midnight while trying to sleep. Sites are also small, though inexpensive. Based on the proximity to Pfeiffer Beach and other Big Sur landmarks, I still do recommend the State Park, however.
Overall, Big Sur is both a short drive, and a world away from the San Francisco Bay Area hustle. The views of the sea are true dreamscapes.