Who wouldn’t want to be best friends with Madeline Mackenzie from Big Little Lies? She’s witty, hilarious, and isn’t afraid to call out the BS when she sees it. (Not to mention, it would be a privilege to raid her chic closet on the reg.) Any true fan of the popular HBO series would love more than anything to walk in her footsteps (Or, shall I say, emerald green pumps) in real life, if only for a little bit. I lived like I was on Big Little Lies for four days, and it’s safe to say I fell deeply in love (His name is Big Sur.), sipped a lot of merlot at sunset, and was ready to become a Monterey local by the end of my trip.
The majority of the scenes in Big Little Lies season one were shot in the picturesque coastal city of Monterey, California. From the seaside cliffs and white sand, to the rolling hills that seem to fade off into the Pacific Ocean, experiencing the beauty of this place in person is mesmerizing — and it’s clear as to why it was chosen as the backdrop for the series.
During my trip, I was able to get a taste of Madeline’s on-screen life (while dressing the part, of course) and check out some of the filming destinations. Here are a few of the highlights of my Big Little Lies-inspired road trip, so you can plan one of your own.
I Stayed By The Sea On The Monterey Peninsula (In The Cutest Millennial Pink Place)
During my Big Little Lies-inspired trip, I stayed in Carmel-by-the-Sea, which is located on the Monterey Peninsula. From the charming boutiques, galleries, and wine tasting rooms, to the cobblestone streets, quaint cottages, and picket fences adorned with vines of flowers, this seaside city is made for true romantics, artists, and travelers who are looking to be inspired.
Painted in the prettiest shade of millennial pink, I naturally fell in love with The Hofsas House upon arrival. Decorated in ivy and pastel-colored hydrangea, the inn depicts its dreamy Carmel surroundings to a T. With a heated pool, dry sauna, cozy room decor, and fresh pastries by the fireplace in the morning, I was in heaven.
The small city of Carmel is easily walkable, so The Hofsas House provides a perfect central location to explore. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to stay while channeling Madeline. The movie star-esque, artsy, regal (but also laid-back) vibes of Carmel showcase the Monterey setting portrayed in Big Little Lies. And even though Madeline’s beach house is located just steps away from the shore in the HBO series, I was about a 15-minute scenic walk away from the surf and sand.
As Madeline ended some of her days with a glass of red, I took my wine down to Carmel Beach at sunset (it’s an alcohol-friendly beach), and toasted to another beautiful day walking in Madeline’s shoes.
I Cruised Over The Bixby Bridge — In A Classic Convertible, Of Course
You likely recognize this beautiful bridge from the opening credits of Big Little Lies. (Madeline and her Monterey friends sure know how to take the scenic route to drop the kids off at school, am I right?) Cruising along Highway 1 as it winds through the crimson-colored cliffs is such a dream; seeing the Bixby Bridge through the TV screen doesn’t hold a candle to experiencing it up close and personal.
With the warm rays of California sunshine kissing my shoulders, and the cool breeze from the Pacific Ocean dancing through my curls, I felt like a movie star driving into the opening scene of my very own romantic comedy. (Of course, being behind the wheel of a gorgeous ’69 Mercury Cougar convertible definitely helped matters.) Naturally, I pretended I was on my way to meet up with Madeline and the girls for a shopping date.
When road tripping through Big Sur (which consists of around 90 miles of California’s pristine coast), you really can’t miss the Bixby Bridge. (You’ll inevitably see a group of starry-eyed travelers on the side of the road, forever swooning behind their Polaroid cameras, snapping away.)
There are a couple of spots to pull over to capture the bridge in all its glory from different vantage points. With deep burnt orange bluffs, vibrant wildflowers, and turquoise blue waves down below, this heavenly spot serves as the best kind of #BigLittleLies backdrop for pics.
I Met Friends For Lunch (And A Gossip Session) At “Blue Blues Cafe”
At the end of the quaint Old Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey, I sipped my coffee at the same exact place Madeline and the Big Little Lies ladies met up to spill the hot tea on the big screen. Even though it’s portrayed as Blue Blues Cafe in the HBO series, I’ll have you know that this charming harbor-side spot is actually an Italian restaurant called Paluca Trattoria, so don’t get confused when trying to make a reservation.
The first thing I noticed is the sweet chalkboard sign by the entrance, noting that Big Little Lies was filmed there. The inside of the restaurant looks like a beach-chic house boat that’s decorated with rustic, Insta-worthy lighting fixtures, and of course, plenty of wine. I enjoyed pesto calamari and lemonade for lunch, and felt #blessed to be spending such a gorgeous afternoon channeling my favorites: Madeline, Jane, and Celeste. (If only I could score an invite to one of their elite coffee dates in real life. Madeline, hit a girl up!)
If you find yourself on Old Fisherman’s Wharf, tell Sal (the owner of Paluca Trattoria) I sent you. You’ll fall in love with the unreal view of a rainbow of boats docked in the harbor. I highly suggest treating yourself to some quality girl time over lobster ravioli, and top it all off with a shot of espresso or cup of coffee, in true Big Little Lies fashion.
I Sipped Wine At Sunset From My Faux Living Room
Imagine wrapping yourself in a cashmere blanket and kicking back on the couch (or relaxing on a chaise lounge, poolside, like Renata Klein) after a long day. You gaze out into the horizon (through the floor-to-ceiling windows) as you pour yourself a glass of rosé that perfectly matches the pink hues of the sunset. Sounds like paradise, huh?
In real life, I sipped this glass of wine from *my faux living room* at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands. I was at California Market at Pacific’s Edge for a delicious scallops and pork belly dinner, along with a side order of views of the Big Sur Coast. My window table gave me a front row seat to the sunset, and was in complete and utter awe. I felt like I was sitting with Madeline and Celeste on Celeste’s gorgeous porch, where they enjoyed cheese, wine, and some much-needed girl time.
It’s safe to say that by the end of my trip, I was ready to call Monterey home sweet home and make this Madeline Mackenzie lifestyle more permanent. When you hit the open road and embark on your own Big Little Lies road trip, I promise you’ll feel the same.
Check out my published article on Elite Daily.