Let's be perfectly honest ... Deetjens Big Sur Inn is about as classic Big Sur as it gets ... but it's not for everyone!
Rustic old world charm, basic accommodations, and no door locks in this Shabby Chic decor would send many away. So why do many well-heeled visitors choose to stay here rather than at the much more opulant digs at Ventana or the Post Ranch Inn?
The answer is simple ... Deetjens is the real Big Sur experience and it continues to carry forward all the same traditions that made it popular when it opened in 1937.
The history, the charm and the romantic flavor here, are straight out of an engaging travel novel. The buildings are uniquely named and are clustered around towering redwoods and oaks. The bathrooms are tiny, and the walls are made of timber from the local hills and milled right on site.
The rooms often have pot bellied stoves hauled here from Monterey almost eighty years ago and the caretakers still put kindling and newspaper in the rooms so you can start your own fire.
Try that at the Ventana Inn a few miles north.
In the video below you can hear Doris and the passion in her voice for the place she loves and the region she calls home.
Some of the walls here are even made up of local driftwood sourced from local beaches.
Well thousands of others think so too, and it can be a challenge to book a room here because of it's popularity.
The history here is amazing!
Helmuth Deetjen and his wife Helen from Norway, loved to come to these 5 acres in the early 1930's to camp by the stream nearby.
Eventually Helmuth bought the land and built the "barn" out of timber on site. Later this young couple opened this place in 1937 to acccomodate travelers on dirt roads that had heard about the beauty of Big Sur.
Helmut died in 1972 and bequeathed his beloved inn so that the buildings and barns he built would be remembered.
I stayed here in Grandpas' room many years ago when you had to have a letter of recommendation or a local resident recommend you as a good and reliable guest.
The wood burning pot-bellied stove was a welcomed amenity and is perfect for a rainy November day or foggy summer evening. The floors were uneven, and the room was a bit drafty, but oh so cozy, warm and romantic. Grandpa Deetjen even left his vinyl record collection with classical albums he would listen to after a hard days work in his own Big Sur forest.
It was like a trip back in time for me ... to a more innocent and relaxed reality. This is why visitors return again and again. Things here are simple and the attentive service is reliable and friendly.
My dinner at the Deetjens Big Sur Inn was terrific as well! The English themed furnishings were warm and genuine and almost begged you to relax in them.
The day we were here, bats had found their way into the dining room and were a delight to watch as thy hung on the ceiling rafters ... all part of the Big Sur experience.
No motels for you ...
Of all the rooms at Deetjens Big Sur Inn, these are my favorites, but there are lots of others to choose from:
Grandpa's Room where Helmuth and Helen lived for so many years is a nice place to stay if you like the ideal of a pot-bellied stove and grandpa's original vinyl classical music collection that is still available for you to play.
If privacy is a primary concern, The Castro Cabin is the only stand alone structure on the property and has a private bath and a small deck overlooking the river that Hellmuth was so fond of and that cascades down the Castro Valley hills.
Tiny and priced to match, The Van Gogh Room is very cozy and has an extremely romantic vibe.
Edy's is a small room with a queen bed, a private bath and a view of the garden.
If this is your honeymoon or something close, try the Honeymoon Room, a favorite of return guests, featuring a garden view and shared bath.
No matter which room you stay in, just think back to the days when these structures were built with primitive tools used with great skill by a hardworking man who has a strong work ethic.
Again ... Zagat has acknowledged that the "Award of Excellence" was given to the Deetjens Big Sur Inn Restaurant in 2014.
Chef Domingo Santamaria from Mexico, sometimes tells guests of how his grandmother taught him her cooking secrets, and how she was "tough as nails" in her instruction. It seems that has paid off, as Chef Domingo brings happy guests back time after time.
This is romantic dining inspired by the comfort and English charm that Barbara Blake brought here from England. Together with Helmuth and Helen, they crerated a European flavor here that appealed to the Bohemian travlers that came to Big Sur for the scenery and their own intellectual curiosity.
The food is just wonderful and may be the best of any restaurant south of the center of cuisine in Carmel CA, just north of Big Sur.
At my last visit, dinner was served with candlelight and an innovative menu selection.
You might try the Seared Duck with wild mushrooms and carmelized pineapple and black Chinese rice, or the Dungenes crab cakes ... just outstanding!
Breakfast 8 -12
Dinner 6-9 PM
As charming as Deetjens Big Sur Inn might be, few thought this place would make national headlines.
But in 1990, the United States Department of Interior placed Deetjen's Big Sur Inn on the National Registry of Historic Places citing it's architectual significance.
So not only do you get an opportunity to stay in a Big Sur classic, you can also go home and tell your friends how your vacation included a stay in a historical place....nice!
If this is a surprise, make sure you're traveling companion would appreciate the uniqueness of this collection of rooms and cabins.
It's a delightful place for many, but not everyone would think that venturing out to this remote place is the ideal getaway. After all you can't use your cell phone to update your facebook page or download your kindle books collection.
Yes no cell service, no internet, no television or radio ... just simple quiet.
In an emergency, there is a old fashioned pay phone in the event you really need to call the outside world. Let's hope you don't need to. It's a getaway ...right?
There is just something very friendly about Fabio, the plump cat that finds his way on the chair next to you in the dining room or on the hood of your car. He just wanders around looking for a lap and some attention.
Fabio has seen it all and still is remarkably friendly. He is getting older now and dosen't roam as far away from the restaurant as he did years ago, but see if you don't agree ... that he is such a gentle fellow! When you arrive ask about his own private blog page.
As you might imagine, many interesting people incliuding poets, writers, celebrities and every day folk like me, have stayed here and left a few lines in the journal kept in the office.
You might take a short time out to read what others have experienced here before you get to your room ... your vist will be very much enriched because of their stories!
Deetjens Big Sur inn
48865 Highway 1
Big Sur CA 93920
Phone reservations only!