"Why is it called a library if it doesn’t lend books?" It’s a great question to ask the library’s friendly staff. Built in 1966 by Emil White, Henry Miller’s personal secretary, the library pays homage to one of the most renowned Big Sur writers and artists. Indeed the library does not lend books. Rather, it stores and sells Miller’s writings as well as other local writers’ books. It also serves as a community center, art gallery and outdoor venue for a remarkable array of performances, lectures and concerts—many of which take place in the summer. These are favorites among locals, so if you want to tap into some Big Sur culture, inquire about the current events. The library’s annual short film festival held each summer is also not to be missed. Fleeing war-ridden France, Miller arrived to Big Sur in 1944. He was already recognized for his autobiographical writings, especially Tropics of Cancer. During his time in Big Sur, he lived in a home on Partington Ridge, and wrote many books that were responsible for attracting a whole generation of Beatnik writers and poets to the area. The best known of these books is Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymous Bosch.
HOURS: 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. (Closed Tuesdays)
DIRECTIONS: From Ventana, drive south on Highway One for 1 mile. The library is on the east side of the highway.
INFO: 831.667.2574; www.henrymiller.org
No other place has fashioned Big Sur’s culture more than Esalen. This institution is an Integral aspect of Big Sur’s—some would even say America’s—history. Founded by Mike Murphy and Dick Price in the early 1960s, Esalen is a retreat center dedicated to the exploration of "Human Potential," a phrase coined by Aldous Huxley who once taught there. The institute has long been a leader in alternative and experiential education, and the list of renowned figures who have taught seminars here is endless. Henry Miller, Allen Ginsberg, Hunter S. Thompson, Fritz Perls, Alan Watts, Joseph Campbell, Timothy Leary, Gregory Bateson and even Boris Yeltsin have been part of the Esalen programs.
The institute offers seminars and workshops on mysticism, religion, psychology, Gestalt therapy, quantum physics, UFOs, and shamanism, as well as acupressure, art, economics, dance, yoga, pilates, massage, bodywork, couples therapy and many other topics.
Esalen is well known for its hot springs perched on a cliff above the ocean. The Esalen pools, as the hot springs are called, are available only for use by registered guests.
DIRECTIONS: From Ventana, drive South on Highway One for 12 miles. Esalen’s entrance is on the west side of the highway.
INFO: 831.667.3047; www.esalen.org
The Spirit Garden is a unique botanical garden devoted to awaken creativity and inspiration through cultural, musical, artistic and educational programs, classes, workshops and events. At the garden, visitors find a variety of exotic succulents and plants, local and international fair trade sculpture and art for sale. If looking for a musical event while in Big Sur, the Spirit Garden is one of the best bets.
HOURS: Vary, call ahead
DIRECTIONS: From Ventana, drive north on Highway One for 0.3 mile. The garden is located on the west side of the highway next to the Big Sur Bakery.
INFO: 831.667.1300; www.bigsurspiritgarden.com
Carmel has a rich history in California art and architecture, and has been a mecca for artists, photographers, writers and actors. In the European-style village, there are over 100 galleries, and each year there are many diverse festivals and events.
For more information, visit www.carmelcalifornia.org
The Carmel Mission was founded by Father Junipero Serra on August 24, 1771. When Serra died in 1784, the Mission was still a humble adobe structure. Father Fermin Lasuen, Serra’s successor, completed the construction of the buildings you see there today. With the labor of the Rumsien, the local Costanoan tribe, and the guidance of Manuel Ruiz, a master Mexican stonemason, Father Lasuen built what is considered to be the most beautiful of California’s mission chapels.
HOURS Monday – Saturday, 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.;
Sunday, 10:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.
DIRECTIONS From Ventana, drive north on Highway One. After you cross the Carmel River Bridge, turn west on Rio Road, and drive 0.7 mile to the corner of Lausen Drive.
INFO 831.624.3600; www.carmelmission.org
The rolling ranch land of Carmel Valley was once the home of many dairies, ranches and farms. In the case of Earthbound Farm, it is still is. But most of the historic family properties have evolved into eclectic shopping villages, world-class golf courses, unique resorts and award-winning wineries, such as Bernardus Vineyards & Winery. For more information, visit www.carmelvalleychamber.com and www.montereywines.org
Set on a 30-acre organic farm, the casual and welcoming Farm Stand and Organic Kitchen offer farm-fresh produce, freshly prepared organic entrées and special events, including harvest walks and garlic braiding workshops.
HOURS: Monday – Saturday, 8 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.;
Sunday 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
DIRECTIONS: From Ventana, drive north on Highway One to Carmel. Turn right at Carmel Valley Road. The Farm Stand is just 3.5 miles east of Highway One.
INFO: 831.625.6219; www.ebfarm.com
For some of the best Central California wines, visit the tasting room at Bernardus. Since the early 1970s, Dutch winemaker Ben Pon has been growing Bordeaux-style varieties and has been producing exceptional vintages of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Sauvignon Blanc.
HOURS: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
DIRECTIONS: From Ventana, drive north on Highway One
for 43.2 miles; turn right on Carmel Valley Rd. for 11.7 miles.
INFO: 800.223.2533; www.bernardus.com
Monterey has much to offer anyone who wants to dip into California’s history, including several museums, more than thirty carefully preserved historic buildings, Old Fisherman’s Wharf and the legendary Cannery Row. In addition to the world-renowned Monterey Aquarium, the city also boasts a lush urban forest, gardens and special events throughout the year. For more information, visit www.mpcc.com
This historic waterfront district made famous by author John Steinbeck’sCannery Row offers attractions and recreation, restaurants, accommodations, shopping and nightlife.
DIRECTIONS: From Ventana, drive north on Highway One for 45.8 miles. Take exit 399B toward Monterey for 0.4 miles. Merge onto Munras Ave. Turn left on Soledad Dr. Turn right on Pacific St. Merge on Lighthouse Ave. Turn right at Foam St. Turn right at Reeside Ave. Reeside turns left and becomes Cannery Row.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of the largest and most respected aquariums in the world. It has an annual attendance of 1.8 million visitors and holds an astounding 35,000 plants and animals representing 623 species.
HOURS: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. daily (Closed Christmas)
DIRECTIONS: See directions above. The Aquarium is located at the end of Cannery Row.
INFO: 831.648.4800; www.mbayaq.org
Monterey also offers a wide variety of other fantastic attractions including:
Mission San Antonio de Padua
The Santa Lucia Peak (also called Junipero Serra Peak) and the rugged Santa Lucia Mountains are the backdrop for this historic mission that was founded in 1771. In its secluded location, and on land virtually unchanged for over two centuries, the mission is comprised of a fully restored church (completed in 1813) and adobe buildings, a garden and a museum.
HOURS: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
DIRECTIONS: From Ventana, drive south on Highway One for 11 miles. Turn east on Nacimiento Fergusson Road for 24.4 miles (this is a narrow, winding road). Turn left at Mission Road for 0.9 miles.
INFO: 831.385.4478; www.missionsanantonio.net