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Travel Tuesday | News from Big Sur, California


Travel Tuesday

Travel Tuesday | News from Big Sur, California

Big Sur, a rugged stretch of California’s central coast, enchants visitors with its dramatic cliffs plunging into the Pacific Ocean and panoramic vistas that captivate the soul. The region's natural beauty is complemented by redwood forests, pristine beaches, and iconic landmarks like Bixby Creek Bridge and McWay Falls. Its serene atmosphere and scenic allure make Big Sur a quintessential destination for those seeking tranquility and breathtaking landscapes.

Big Sur | California

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Merle Mullin has traveled from Scotland to Bhutan and once owned a castle in Umbria, Italy. But her favorite place of all is California’s Big Sur coastline. There, she and her late husband, insurance mogul Peter Mullin, owned a roughly 54-acre oceanfront estate with 13 houses on it, including a cliff-side home accessed by a funicular.

“Big Sur was the place of his heart,” she said. “It takes your breath away.”

A mountainous stretch of coastline in central California, Big Sur is known for its views of the Pacific Ocean and redwood trees. The Los-Angeles based Mullins used their Big Sur property as a getaway for nearly 30 years.

Peter died last year at the age of 82, and Merle is putting the estate on the market as two separate listings. The larger of the two, Bien Sur, is 44 acres and priced at $21.5 million, while an adjacent 10-acre property called Dragon House is asking $3.99 million, according to listing agents Nicole Truszkowski and Zak Freedman of Sotheby’s International Realty. The couple also owned a nearby commercial property with an art gallery, gift shop, cafe and sculpture garden, which Merle is currently listing for $2.85 million.

Peter co-founded the life insurance and financial-services company M Financial Group and was the founding chairman of the Oxnard, Calif.-based executive-benefits company Mullin Barens Sanford Financial. An avid car collector, he also launched the Mullin Automotive Museum in Oxnard with Merle.

In the 1990s, Peter started assembling four parcels to create Bien Sur. Merle declined to comment on the purchase prices. The couple, who married in 2000, bought the Dragon House property in 2015 for roughly $3.1 million, according to public records.

“Peter treated it so lovingly,” Merle said of the estate. “He was like a homing pigeon, he always had to get back there.”

The sloped Bien Sur property straddles a public road and has around 19 waterfront acres, said Truszkowski. The ocean side of the property, where the houses are located, also has a private rocky beach and a Zen garden.

Built in 1971, the main house at Bien Sur measures roughly 2,600 square feet and overlooks a sea otter preserve, Merle said. Located midway down the face of the cliff, it sits adjacent to the funicular, which runs to the top of the slope. The house is a rare find, Truszkowski said, because the local building code no longer allows construction so close to the water.

Bien Sur also has seven guesthouses ranging from roughly 500 square feet to 1,800 square feet, as well as a tea house and a stand-alone glass Pilates studio.

When on her mat in the Pilates studio, Merle said, she often sees dolphins and pelicans flying north.

On the Dragon House property, the main home has curved redwood walls and spans about 1,300 square feet, according to Truszkowski. The property gets its name from the home’s main staircase, which has a hand-carved redwood railing shaped like a dragon. The railing was designed by the late artist Edmund Kara, according to Merle, who said Big Sur has long been a haven for writers and painters because of its natural beauty.

Merle said she and Peter had always loved the Dragon House estate, so when they had an opportunity to buy it, they took it. They used the property, which has four guesthouses, mostly for dinners and special events.

The Mullins’ properties are two of seven homes for sale in Big Sur, according to Freedman. The most expensive home ever sold in Big Sur traded hands for about $32 million around a decade ago, Freedman said.

Article by Libertina Brandt, Wall Street Journal


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