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Riverside Campground and Cabins in Big Sur a peaceful family-run spot

Riverside Campgrounds and Cabins, Big Sur


Riverside Campground and Cabins

Mark Reid and Cindy Warner visit McCaw Falls
Mark Reid and Cindy Warner visit McCaw Falls
Mark Reid and Cindy Warner
Big Sur visitors nestle in peace at Riverside Campgrounds and Cabins
Mark Reid and Cindy Warner

47020 California 1

Big Sur, CA 93920

(831) 667-2414

Rates here: Sites $45 to $55

Cabins $110 - $190

Quiet time 10 pm to 8 am

Big Sur Riverside Campground and Cabins run by a couple named Danny and Amanda makes a perfect getaway for couples or a few friends who want to nestle. Riverside offers a haven for soul searching and for romance under the redwoods, some peace and quiet, a cozy spot amidst the grandeur of the forest and Pacific ocean cliffs. The coziness and privacy, although perfect for winter especially when the river runs the fullest, offers something special year round. I confirmed that with a much-needed getaway with a two-day stay over the first weekend of May. Paralleling my pilgrimage, some straggler whales still migrate through in May. A gray mother and calf swam by the sea lions below the lighthouse at Point Sur.

Soul searching and healing

If you need to spend some quality time with a loved one or do some serious soul searching and reflecting in solitude, this is the place to restore your sanity and sooth your mind and body. Even if you feel like garbage yourself, you can relieve suffering and bring joy to others. It's a joy to see a companion blissed out. Visitors dip into the clear river, take in the Pacific air and bare their souls in the journals placed in each room. Some entries seem like those of a guest book while others read like confessionals whether heart breaking and painful or epiphanies; Private diaries; Last testaments; and notes on life transformations. Visitors hand-write entries and even draw happy doodles.

If you are tired of the noise and screaming at the public campgrounds, this refuge maintains a quiet policy especially after dark when voices carry so easily. Riverside does allow dogs and Cabin One, the Love Cabin, even comes with a fenced deck. If you want to hike around the grounds there really isn’t anywhere to go even though the property encompasses sixteen acres. The staff can direct guests to trails including the dog-friendly places. Plus, the ranger station is just south.

Watching the river run

Our natural redwood cabin let in the sound of the river, clean forest air and the sunlight flow through the windows. The red paint of the exterior gleams in the morning sun. I vowed that when I build a cabin it will have skylights as well. The multi-level ceiling showed beautiful craftsmanship and woodwork. The queen size bed felt wonderful with its quilt and four pillows. The water in the shower ran hot and soothing after a long day of driving and adventure along the coast. Children frolicked in the river and climbed onto the rope swing over the water. The depth ran less than a foot deep and not strong enough to carry anybody away unless they wished.

Sunshine or fog

May brings warmth and sunshine, t-shirt and shorts weather while in June the fog arrives, as our docents noted on our tour of the Point Sur lighthouse that opened in the late 1880s. Visitors may pay for premium vistas from a campsite or cabin only to get lost in the summer mist.

The office offers brochures for the tour of Point Sur and the lighthouse, which is close by. While the perch would make a world-class bed and breakfast, having to fire cannons continually or blast the fog horns would probably be ear and nerve shattering. The intense wind, isolation and continual blasts probably account for the immediate requests for transfer of those assigned.

Live music to inner-tubing and doing nothing

Riverside campground is close to not only destinations such as the lighthouse and Pfeiffer Beach and McCaw Falls, but also lots of restaurants, the Big Sur bakery, the post office, the deli and some nightlife with live music. The Black Crows played at the Henry Miller Memorial Library next to Deetjens restaurant while we were having dinner.

Nevertheless. We brought in our own firewood, groceries, coolers and ice along with a lap top. We filled the dormitory size mini fridge with groceries from the Safeway in Carmel but planned on visiting Ripplewood for breakfast and Deetjens for dinner. The camp store offers all kinds of ice-cream treats, makings for Smores, inflatable river toys, cookware and utensils, coffee and such and use of the microwave. The staff will show visitors books of destinations and restaurants, from McCaw Falls to Nepenthe restaurant. Nepenthe has been family-owned for generations since the 70s and makes sunsets ever so memorable, perched on the cliff where we saw a woodpecker in a nearby tree.

We passed on the internet access offered and managed to get some cell phone and email service along Highway One. We exchanged photography with lots of delighted fellow visitors who stopped their cars along the highway. One pair of friends were so thrilled they said “We look like Victoria’s Secret models!”. A trio of young women speaking Swedish suddenly broke into perfect English with no accent when offered the opportunity to get a shot all together. Most visitors used their camera phones instead of big cameras.

We counted the new Mustangs on the highway and got up to over forty in two days, although we may have double counted. We drove as far south as Lucia and checked out the gorgeous new castle bridge made of stone.

Meanwhile. Danny and Amanda own and operate Riverside with a friendly and knowledgeable staff, mostly women and who live on site. It’s their home while Danny and Amanda live in the hills as most Big Sur residents do.

Nicole works in the office and just made the move for good from the East coast after about twenty years of visiting and working in Big Sur. Petite and animated, she was busy on the phone with somebody in the Netherlands one sunny Sunday morning. She mentioned she’s getting further and further into conversations in French before the other party realizes she’s not a native French speaker.

Nicole pointed us to Pfeiffer Beach for sunset but said she carries a chair in the back of her car to drive north and just sit there on the side of the road, watching. We saw two different newlyweds posing for their photographers in front of the arches. We past a pair of young deer on the dirt road to the beach. We paid our $5.00 at the kiosk, which we were told was probably closed after six but the ranger on duty said “we never close”. The sign tacked to the kiosk window read “It’s always windy and we don’t give refunds”. We put on our jackets and headed down the beach.

The right spot with the right person makes everything new again, untouched and timeless.

The camping/RV sites although right at the river’s edge tend to be small and very close together. Usually it’s a respectful and friendly place though which allows dogs, with the cabins providing privacy and comfort. Everybody gets a fire pit and picnic table. We had a shared area technically but had it to ourselves. Groups may book adjoining sites.

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