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5 Day Tour From San Fran to Santa Barbara - Suggestions?

5 Day Tour From San Fran to Santa Barbara - Suggestions?

Apr 30th, 2005, 08:08 AM
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Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 429
5 Day Tour From San Fran to Santa Barbara - Suggestions?

Hi Everyone - I am looking for some suggestions on a 5 day trip from San Fran to Santa Barbara in July. I am early in my planning for all of this, so needless to say I have a few questions. Once I get to Santa Barbara, I will be there for a few days, so I am really looking more for some advice on the first part of the trip - San Fran and where to make stops along the way before I get to SB.
1) How long would you recommend staying in San Fran - I was thinking 2-3 days.
2) Where should I stop and stay overnight on the drive down?
3) What stops should I make along the way that are good to check out for a few hours, but not necessarily stay overnight - especially considering the amt of time I have? I have heard Santa Cruz, Monterey, Carmel, San Simeon, & Big Sur are all areas to check out, but I don't think I will have time to see them all. There are a lot of postings on this site re: Pacific Coast Drives, but most people seem to have more time than I will Thanks for your help!!
lmavolio is offline  
May 6th, 2005, 12:05 PM
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Can anyone help me with this??
lmavolio is offline  
May 6th, 2005, 02:56 PM
Join Date: Nov 2003
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Monterey and Carmel are very close to one another. I enjoy both places very much. If you have not visited this area before, you will be very impressed, it's gorgeous.

We like the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa in Monterey, located right in Cannery Row. www.woodsidehotel.com In the Carmel Highlands area, the Tickle Pink Inn is very nice. If you want to stay right in Carmel, La Playa sounds very nice. I'll be staying there soon myself for the first time. Hope it all works out for you. ***kim***
kimamom is offline  
May 6th, 2005, 03:26 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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There is a great deal to do and see between SF and SB and yes people with more time can do more so that means you will have to be more selective. First remember you can't see everything; and second think about what kind of things you like to do (i.e. do you want to go for long hikes or go shopping or exploring art galleries). If you are the kind of person who wants to explore a place in depth trying to see Santa Cruz, Monterey, Carmel, Hearst Castle and Big Sur in one overnight trip will probably not satisfy you. If I was driving down the coast with an overnight stop, I would leave SF in the morning, and stay in Carmel (exploring it and Pacific Grove), then drive continue driving down Hwy I the next morning with stops at Point Lobos, and a couple of the State Parks in Big Sur, skipping Hearst.
SAB is offline  
May 6th, 2005, 05:27 PM
Join Date: Apr 2005
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San Francisco to Santa Barbara is only a 5-1/2 hour drive on the 101. Do your 5 days include the time you wish to spend in SF or is it time available to make the journey?

1) Recommended stay in SF – depends on how much you enjoy city life. There is more then enough to keep you busy in SF, and outside of the city in surrounding areas such as Mill Valley, Sausalito and Tiburon, not to mention islands in the bay. I have seen travelers who don’t know what to do outside of a big city, so keep in mind everything south of SF along the coast is smaller and slower in comparison, even though extremely beautiful. Per your request:
2) Recommended overnight stops – if you truly have 5 days (4 nights?), I would take hiway 17 to:
a) Santa Cruz and spend a night there. Then take my time driving south with overnight stops at:
b) Carmel/Monterey/or Pacifc Grove
c) Cambria
d) San Luis Obispo or Avila Beach

That takes four nights. There is plenty posted on this board of things to do at each location.

3) Recommended stops along the way –
a) On your way south from Santa Cruz, you can stop and have a look at Moss Landing. It’s on Hiway 1.
b) Depending on how much you like scenic farmland, between Moss Landing and Marina is Hiway 156 east to Prunedale (makes for a somewhat scenic loop). Then South on hiway 101 to Salinas to tour Steinbeck country.
c) From Salinas, loop back towards Monterey on hiway 68. We like to take Monterey Road southwest out of Salinas and take the G-17 cut-off that takes you west, right into Carmel Valley. It’s a unique entrance into Carmel that people traveling north and south sometimes don’t see. http://www.pelicannetwork.net/carmelvalley.htm
d) You can hike Garland Regional Park in Carmel Valley for a walking break.
e) Just before the intersection of G-17 and hiway 1 on the right hand side, is The Barnyard. It is a tri-level well-landscaped outdoor shopping area. Take a peek at the Thunderbird bookstore and eat at “From Scratch”, both popular and not too crowded.
f) Drive across hiway 1 into Carmel village. On Rio Road is the Carmel Mission and is worth touring. After touring the village, I would venture north on hiway 1 just a few minutes into Pacific Grove and Monterey. They are all close to each other and any would be a good place to stay overnight. PG has a nice walking area and a lighthouse. You can start the scenic 17-Mile Drive of the peninsula from entrances at PG or Carmel. I would recommend the Carmel gate for the 17 mile drive if you take this route. A must do! Monterey has a Steinbeck historical walk that is also worth doing. There is also a museum, aquarium, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Cannery Row in Monterey.
g) Point Lobos – save this for you exit from the peninsula and plan a half day to hike the trails. Take a picnic and water. Other then restrooms, there are no amenities there. It to, is a must see. It is just south of Carmel on your way south.
h) From Point Lobos, drive to Big Sur. Limekiln and Ragged Point both have waterfalls, though the falls at Ragged Point may have dwindled by July. Limekiln will have to hike to see but a better waterfall.
i) San Simeon/Hearst Castle is a good stop. Purchase tickets in advance and plan to take a good portion of the day touring. I would stay in Cambria rather then San Simeon. Cambria has a nice boarded walkway along Moonstone Beach. Although there are better restaurants, The Hamlet at Moonstone Beach has an interesting succulent garden and you can purchase a glass of wine to stroll through the gardens with. They also make an interesting lemon ice-cream. http://www.incambria.com/hamlet/
j) Cambria/Harmony//Cayucos/Morro Bay are all worthwhile stops along the way south and you will find much published here about them.
k) Montana de Oro Sate Park south of Morro Bay is also well-worth seeing. It has some easy trails along a rather rugged coastline.
l) I recommend San Luis Obispo as an overnight stay because there is much to see there also. It is a historical town with the Mission and Plaza along a nice creek. Many people mistakenly try to drive through SLO and see it. Parking is tough, but there are a couple of garages. I encourage walking and exploring downtown Marsh, Higuera, and Monterey streets.
m) Avila Beach – stop at Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort. You can rent a private hot tub under the oak trees to soak and relax and even get a massage there. I like to walk across the bridge, and walk the Bob Jones Trail to Avila Beach and back. Some people bike and roller blade the trail. Plan half a day, or stay overnight here instead of SLO.
n) Shell Beach is quite scenic and worth pulling over to see. You have to drive the frontage road and turn down an older residential neighborhood to see the nicer cliffs.
o) If you stay on the frontage road, you can also visit Pismo Beach and Oceano Beach.
p) For a good hearty meal with no frills, stop at Jocko’s in Nipomo.
q) For a sort of “Sideways” wine tour - On the south end of Santa Maria exit hiway 101 at Betteravia. Exit and turn left onto Betteravia. Head east into farm country and turn left onto Foxen Canyon Road. Stop at Zaca Mesa winery and hike one of the trails. Fess Parker winery is also along the way with other wineries in-between. Exit Foxen Canyon road at Los Olivos and have lunch at Mattie’s tavern, an old stage coach stop. Then take Alamo Pintado Road from Los Olivos into Solvang. Chumash Casino is just outside of town as well.

From Solvang, you can head east on 154 (Cachuma Pass) and visit Cachuma Lake.
http://www.sbparks.org/DOCS/Cachuma.html Hiway 154 is our preferred route to Santa Barbara. If you want to skip the wine tour, you can take the Solvang exit off the 101, and still hook up to hiway 154 through Solvang. There is also another exit before Solvang on the 101 to catch 154 and it will take you to Los Olivos, by-passing Solvang. So you have several options this route.

Enjoy, and ride on!

~ ben
bear900 is offline  
May 8th, 2005, 05:58 PM
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Thank you SO much for this info!! To answer your question - I do ONLY have 5 days TOTAL to see both San Fran & drive down the coast before I get to Santa Barbara. So, if I stay in San Fran for 3 days, I will only have 2 more days/nights to drive down the coast and stop off in different spots. As far as my interests go, I love beautiful scenery & the outdoors. I can take or leave shopping (I live in NYC, so I do enough of that here!!) I always love great restaurants and cute quaint towns. If anyone else has any other recommendations based on this info, I'd love to hear them. With this revised timeline (5 days total to see both San Fran & the coast), any other suggestions. You Fodorites are unbelievable!!! Every trip I plan, you all always come through. Thanks!!
lmavolio is offline  
May 8th, 2005, 08:11 PM
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 20,841
Might I just say politely that here in the Bay Area we don't refer to San Francisco as San Fran? If you want to abbreviate the city's name, just say
S. F.
Underhill is offline  
May 9th, 2005, 12:15 PM
Join Date: Apr 2005
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<So, if I stay in San Fran for 3 days, I will only have 2 more days/nights to drive down the coast and stop off in different spots. As far as my interests go, I love beautiful scenery & the outdoors. I can take or leave shopping >

<chuckles> That was probably just an abbreviation, but another nickname they don’t like is “Frisco”. San Francisco, or “the City” same as NYC are preferred. Funny…In San Luis Obispo, we see license plates bragging about living in “SLO Town”, and SLO is often preferred over the three-worded name.

Imavolio, thanks for the insights to your preferences. Based on those and having 5 days total, I would try to get in a visit to Golden Gate Park, and especially The Arboretum there. I would say it’s one of the best in California. Here’s a link to the park. http://www.sfgate.com/traveler/guide...s/ggpark.shtml
The site also has links to The Haight and The Castro, which may interest you. Based on your interests, I would definitely visit nearby Mill Valley and Tiburon for quaint scenic towns, both just minutes north of the GG Bridge, which you can do in one day if you’re driving.

Having perhaps just two nights left, I would focus on Carmel/Monterey and Pacific Grove. Try to get in the 17 mile drive on the Monterey peninsula, and perhaps Point Lobos south of Carmel for some of the best outdoor scenery. You will want to spend at least half day at each, to absorb all the beauty there. We will be spending several days there this week ourselves.

Big Sur, Cambria, and Morro Bay are great to see, but…your timing is going to be short unless you don’t mind spending a chunk of time driving. Monterey peninsula will be hard to beat for overall scenery.

You can take two routes from the peninsula towards SLO and SB: hiway 1 (much more scenic and slower driving) or hiway 101, (not a whole lot of scenery, away from the coast, and faster). Your timing can dictate which route you chose. From SLO to SB, it’s hiway 101 all the way or 101 and the 154 cut-off as I mentioned in my earlier post.

In SB, I would definitely visit the botanical gardens and the hilly drives around Montecito for scenery. You have some great destinations picked and can’t go wrong with places in-between.

The land scenery stays basically the same but restaurants sometimes change. I think Fodor’s does a decent job in rating restaurants from other readers in the Restaurant section.

Frisked in SLO Town,

~ ben
bear900 is offline  
May 9th, 2005, 07:51 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 9,491
Wow!! A blast from the past! Montana de Oro and Sycamore Mineral Hot Springs were our big make-out places in college!!! Thanks for the memories!

MichelleY is offline  
May 11th, 2005, 04:06 PM
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 1,022
So many choices so little time I would drive down Skyline Blvd to Hwy9 and see the Redwoods along the way as well as the views of the Ocean, lunch at Santa Cruz or better yet Moss Landing move on to Monterey\Carmel area and spend night at Big Suror Monterey. Move out early driving down the coast to San Simeon,take the quicky tour if possible to book then cut over to 101 at San Luis Obispo and drive down to Santa Barbara stopping off at Santa Ynez or Solvang on the way. Two long but packed days you will never forget.
JoanneH is offline  
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