Driving Highway 1 through Big Sur is one of my favorite California experiences. Last year, I made the stunning trip north after visiting my family in Santa Barbara for Thanksgiving. Fall is one of the best times to visit because the cold fog that often cloaks the coastline has already given way to California's "Indian Summer" sunshine.
I usually stop at the Henry Miller Library and the Big Sur bakery and try to reserve enough time for a trip to the beach (Pfeiffer and Andrew Miller are two favorites) or a hike through the redwoods (Limekiln State Park stands out.)
In the evening, I'll grab a casual dinner or drink at Fernwood and be tempted to stay for the night. If you can't afford Post Ranch and Ventana Inn, a cabin at Deetjens or a yurt at Treebones are wonderful alternatives, as is a campsite at Kirk Creek. And no Big Sur trip is complete without a middle-of-the-night dip in the hot springs at the Esalen Institute.