Deetjen's Big Sur Inn
Deetjen's Big Sur Inn is situated on a beautiful Canyon of redwoods with rustic buildings laced around a horseshoe-shaped drive amidst what feels like an ocean-front wilderness. The inn is so romantic and rustic it seems like the perfect place to rediscover someone or make something important happen.
Helmut Deetjen, a Norway immigrant, came to California in the 1930's and bought several acres of land in the Castro Canyon of Big Sur. Until the new Highway One was completed in 1937, he made his home a stop-over for travelers on the coastal wagon road. The Deetjens welcomed overnight guests and thus the inn was started. Over the years, he added rooms, built in the style of his native Norway, and named each room. All of the work to the inn was done by "Grandpa" Deetjen and his friends with locally milled, scavenged redwood.
The Inn is now a registered national historic site and operated on a non-profit basis by the Deetjen Big Sur Inn Preservation Foundation. The Inn is designed to help guests experience a taste of Big Sur's past in the style and spirit of the coastal pioneers.
Big Sur is the eighty-mile coastline that extends from Carmel to Northern San Simeon. No "town" of Big Sur exists, per se, but on the six mile section of Highway One most known as Big Sur, there is a small post office, many restaurants, shops, stores, resorts, and a gas station.
I suggest you make your drive to this Inn early for two reasons. First, you will not want to miss the stunning Big Sur coastline, the jagged cliffs, and the mystical fog. Also, while this view is sublime in the daytime, at night, the two-lane coastline highway becomes frightening with its winds and turns, as you hear the thunderous roar yet barely see the ocean far below you.
Be prepared for what is here at the Inn. If you are, you should be happy with what you find. Expect old buildings with heating provided safely by fireplaces, woodburning stoves, and electric heaters. Many of the modern comforts of larger hotels are absent here, as explained below. Our room, "The Chalet," was decorated with a simple rocking chair, a desk, vanity, an eclectic display of pictures and lots of lamps. The room contained four beds.
To ensure a peaceful stay for all guests, the inn will accommodate children under twelve only if parents reserve both rooms of a two-story building. The rooms are far from soundproof. We had the two rooms reserved and, therefore, felt okay about my toddler tap-dancing and yelling. I recommend this inn as a romantic retreat more than a family destination for traveling with babies or young children as the Inn does not provide the types of accommodations and conveniences one would hope for when traveling with youngsters. Also, the Big Sur location and the phone inaccessibility made me feel somewhat vulnerable out there with my two very young children should an accident or sickness have occurred. I will say, though, that if you feel secure without modern conveniences and in somewhat remote destinations with youngsters, My two-year old daughter did have great fun hiking the trails nearby with her Dad.
The Inn's isolation might feel a bit daunting to a traveler seeking all the modern comforts, yet I found that once I started to get the rhythm of the place, I did start to feel ready to dispense with these items, at least temporarily. For instance, there are no phones in the rooms, no keys to lock the rooms (but you can latch the doors from within), and no televisions. In this environment there are certainly no fax machines or internet hookups to be found. Neither of my cell phones had area coverage in Big Sur, but there was a pay phone in the Inn's little library. Soon you start a slow down, and consider that perhaps there are more important things to be contemplating.
Most of the guests come here seeking exactly this kind of unique tranquility. While this Inn is rustic, these are for the most part worldly travelers. For instance, to crudely demonstrate, the property is filled with jaguars, BMWs, and shiny Mercedes Benzes. You get the sense that these vacationers could be staying at the Ritz Carlton but have chosen to, like Thoreau, "live deliberately and simply," at least on this vacation.
The Inn's charming, sophisticated restaurant is called simply The Restaurant, and has a bar and four intimate rooms. Good food and wine; a warm, intimate atmosphere; fireplaces; candlelight; and classical music add to this elegant, highly romantic, dining experience. The Restaurant is very popular with guests and locals alike. At 8:00 a.m. when it opened, suddenly a great number of cars (locals from the Monterey peninsula) pulled up for breakfast on this Wednesday morning. The Restaurant is open for breakfast and dinner, but not for lunch, and boasts an impressive wine list with entrees such as New Zealand Rack of Lamb with macadamia nut risotto, pan seared breast of duck with cranberry chutney and gorgonzola polenta, fresh fish of the day, and pasta of the day.
The Inn is situated above a creek and throughout our stay we heard its bubbling noises. The Norwegian-styled rooms and buildings are in a simple, cabin-like style. Our room was on the second floor and it truly felt like we were in a tree-house. The building structure creates an illusion of being up very high, perhaps because on all sides you are surrounded by towering redwood trees.