We did the drive through Big Sur last week. Aside from the usual wows, the following is some of what we discovered:
1. Julia Pfeiffer park is NOT to be missed. The very short walk to the small McWay Falls rewards you with one of the most beautiful coves I have ever seen. Easily rivals any beauty on the Mediterranean. Wow. Contrary to what anyone says, you cannot legally get down onto the beach here. And bring loose bills ($5's & $1's, since there's no one to collect day use fees, a process which is not seemingly well managed).
2. Pfeiffer Beach is another gem. A very scary drive down here gets you to a small parking lot and a large (for the area) and nicely sandy area with great rock formations and large crashing waves. Perfect place for a picnic.
3. View from Nepenthe is great. But SO much cheaper and SO much more relaxed is the cafe just downstairs - with literally the same view. People were waiting upstairs for a table with the view. Downstairs we got a small bottle of wine and had the place nearly to ourselves.
4. Traffic on a weekday in August was no problem. I was within 100 feet behind someone while driving less than 10% of the time, free to go any safe speed I desired, slowing down when needed, and cruisng along when not.
5. The Redwoods in Big Sur do not compare to those in Armstrong Park (see below).
I also posted this in the Sonoma forum but it was answered here as well: Puter suggested Armstrong Woods, and that was one of the best suggestions of all. Once I saw the "Muir Woods Parking Full" sign after the GG Bridge and said to my wife, "wel'll drive the extra hour each way out of the way and go to Armstrong instead." What a great idea - and we also got to have a great meal in Guerneville, as well. Yeah, a very gay-friendly town (my wife said she was the only woman at the place we ate, BobnBoy, with the best burger I have had in years), but we thought it was super friendly and idyllic in its beauty.
Again - wow.