A Big Sur Thanksgiving

You are absolutely right, I’m a bit off schedule. We are in the middle of December right now and I’m blogging about a Thanksgiving visit to the Big Sur coast. I’m hoping you understand … sometimes life just happens. Hope everyone is fully enjoying the holidays and getting a chance to appreciate our great outdoors.

I’m always looking for special, nature-inspired, memory-invoking places to visit during the holidays. Big Sur sure didn’t disappoint! Unlike all of our previous trips, this trip wasn’t planned months in advance. This trip happened because of the kindness of strangers who canceled their reservations the week before Thanksgiving. Rain was predicted that week and it probably played a role in the cancellations. We were able to snag a couple of amazing spots at Kirk Creek campground and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park campground. It was a short, but sweet, two-nighter along the coast with a mix of weather conditions, but plenty of dry weather for a breath-taking sunset and some heart-pumping hiking.

Loving the Big Sur coast

If possible, a campervan Thanksgiving for us still means eating turkey and all the trimmings. So, before we left we dedicated some time to pre-cook a Thanksgiving dinner to bring with us. For me, the cooking with my family part is just as fun as the actual eating part, so it was already shaping up to be a great Thanksgiving.

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Thanksgiving dinner to go please!

Heavy rains predicted for the Wednesday before Thanksgiving helped us make the decision to leave for Big Sur on Thanksgiving Day rather than earlier. We took it a bit too leisurely Thanksgiving morning and left later than we wanted (don’t do what we did!), so we didn’t have as much time to explore on the way. However, the sun was out, the air was fresh and clear after the rains, and we fully enjoyed our afternoon drive along the Big Sur coast.

My daughter had a camera pretty much glued to her face the whole trip. I love that she has taken to photography though!
Don’t forget to explore the many paths and nooks along the way
Big Sur on a sunny day seemed like paradise
Lots of places to scramble around on the rocks and explore tide pools (wish we had more time)

DSC_6418.JPGDSC_6450DSC_6458.JPGDSC_6471DSC_6472So, Big Sur is probably NOT the place to go during Thanksgiving if you want to get away from the crowds. I’ve been to Big Sur a number of times before, but have never seen so many people in the area. However, everyone was in good spirits because of the holiday and it never felt too crowded. Parking may be a hassle at times, but I love that everyone is out here appreciating our beautiful California coast.

Many people stopped to take a picture of the iconic Bixby Creek Bridge

Kirk Creek Campground
This campground was the one that started off my bucket list after we decided to get a campervan. I remember seeing it featured in a magazine and dreaming about the day that I would be just like those lucky campers who were sitting in front of their RV watching the sunset and sipping wine. Until now, I haven’t been lucky enough to reserve the ocean front sites on our free weekends (I’m sure weekday reservations are different), these campsites are hard to get. Kirk Creek campground is as amazing as everyone says. It’s a campground on the coast side of Highway 1 and the views are absolutely incredible! It has only 33 sites ($35/night) on a bluff overlooking the ocean, and is part of the Los Padres National Forest so you can make reservations through recreation.gov.

We had maybe 30 minutes before the sunset (darn winter sunset times!), so sorry my picture-taking of the campground/campsite was limited. I wanted to make sure to have a little time to relax and watch the sunset. Forget setting up a sunset Thanksgiving dinner, we ate our meal in the dark under the stars with our headlamps, so fancy! … and yet so, so thankful.

Campground info with ocean view in the background
Setting up the chairs to watch the sunset on site #12  (we never used the picnic table and fire pit which was located in front of the van)
My “crossing off of my #1 bucket item list” moment
View from site #12. The campground road passed in front, but hardly any cars went by
Closer look at the ocean from a campground trail
Thanksgiving Day sunset reminded us of how thankful we are to live in a world where we can see such beauty
The camp host’s super cute tree!
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A playing cards and chocolate kind of thanksgiving night

The rain came later on in the evening and it really poured. Close inspection of the penthouse top in the morning showed no leaking, and the Reflectix that we put on the windows and sides of the penthouse top kept everything nice and warm. We’ve had the campervan three years, and as far as the penthouse top, so far, so good.

What a different view to wake up to, couldn’t even make out the ocean.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
The first place we wanted to visit was Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, the park with the famous waterfall, McWay Falls, that empties to the beach. We drove by it on the way to Kirk Creek campground, but didn’t have time to stop. The state park was about 30 minutes north of the campground and when we pulled into the park, there were even a couple of parking spots left, completely different from the chaotic scene the day before. So, even if it was raining a little, it made it a much easier day to travel. The many people on the trails, however, reminded us that this was still a very popular place. A short walk from the parking lot/restrooms through a tunnel under Highway 1 led us to a viewpoint for McWay Falls. Another short walk from the parking lot led to a structure with a Pelton wheel (it’s a water turbine in case you were wondering) and information about how they generated electricity using it.

McWay Falls
The turquoise color of the ocean was still visible on a cloudy day
A short walk from the parking lot led to a structure that housed a Pelton wheel


Our campground for the next night was at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. So, we continued our way up north, stopping along the way.

Coastline had a mystical feel at times
We didn’t see any condors, but keep a lookout for them
Stopping to take pictures… again
The weather provided different moods for the scenery

I’m going to post about Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park in my next post, but overall the Big Sur Coast was a wonderful place to spend the Thanksgiving holiday. Personally, I prefer the weather to be sunny and warm, but the day that it rained turned out to be a great day because of the ease of travel and lack of crowds. If you want to camp or stay in the area during Thanksgiving, you should definitely come prepared with a reservation. Make your reservations early or watch out for those cancellations. However you experience the Big Sur coast, you won’t be able to help but be thankful for seeing such beautiful scenery all around you.

If you’re interested, check out our experience camping and hiking at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park (Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park).



5 replies to “A Big Sur Thanksgiving

  1. Anywhere in a California beach park is golden. My beach camping has been limited to South Carlsbad and San Onofre, yet every beach I’ve hiked or enjoyed the ocean has been salubrious. Big Sur is still on my radar screen, in terms of camping. I have been through there twice, thus far-breathtaking!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope you get a chance to camp in Big Sur! You’re right though, anywhere in a CA beach park is amazing. SoCal’s waters are so much warmer than up here, must be nice to be able to actually go IN the water 🙂 I need to put SoCal camping on my list.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It looks like a wonderful way to spend Thanksgiving. I’m so glad you were able to get a bucket list campsite due to a cancellation. I know how that is! The sunsets look beautiful! We never made it to Big Sur when we visited the CA coast because the bridge was out at that time. Now it’s on the bucket list for another time. I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Just wonderful! I know we both have teenagers, I’d be happy to see your daughter with her face in a camera rather than a phone or tablet. My son loves photography too.

    Liked by 1 person

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