Town of Gorda Springs, Highway 1, Big Sur, California 93920
Along the rugged (and Ragged Point) Big Sur coast, dramatically positioned above the Pacific Ocean in the Coast Ranges mountains, is one of California's most popular, scenic drives on Highway 1. Tourists from around the globe plan the drive between Carmel in Monterey County and San Simeon in San Luis Obispo County as part of a California vacation months or up to a year in advance.
Gorda is located in Monterey County on Highway 1, a seemingly remote coastal place that somehow escaped the hands of time in many ways (though gas prices in Gorda are some of the highest in the U.S.) The remote look and feel is no accident, but is partially the result of action taken by Monterey County residents decades ago to prohibit billboards and banners along this stretch of coast.
Gorda Springs features one hotel with modest accommodations, the Whaler's Restaurant, Whale Watcher Cafe with a nautical setting, casual dining, and al fresco dining at the garden patios where whale watching is a favorite pastime.
Highway 1 opened in 1937 and Gorda opened shortly afterwards as one of several small villages along the Big Sur Coast. Throughout the years the destination has been more of a stopping point for tourists seeking to access the beach below the hillside location (Gorda sits at 148 feet elevation,) hike on the forest trails and explore the scenery.
While modern access by car, RV, motorcycles and other vehicles is the norm, the town of Gorda Springs also was a traveled route for Costanoan and Esalen Indian tribes that enjoyed the natural spring waters. Later with the arrival of the California Gold Rush, Big Sur Coast became a stagecoach stop and experienced its very own gold discovery in the 1880s. Bordering Gorda and Los Burros gold mines., Gorda took on a new life and grew, becoming an important mining town.
Tourism is the top economic engine in Gorda Springs today, and summer is the prime time in which tourists visits. Many road slides and fires throughout the years have impacted the local economy of some 100 people who live and additional workers who drive into Big Sur. In 1998 a major forest fire hit the region. In 2011 rains forced road closures along Big Sur and impacted the launch of the tourist season. Such is life in the mountains on the coast, where banners are banned, gas is the highest in the land, and people from around the globe clamor to see and drive Highway 1 that hugs the cliffs.