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California Coastal Trip April

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Feb 7th, 2013, 11:38 AM
  #1
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California Coastal Trip April

Hello,

My husband and I are arriving in LA on 4/19 for a 10 day trip of coastal California.

The first day we arrive at 11am and plan to get into our rental car and start on our way to get out of LA. I was planning to try to spend the 1st night in Cambria/San Simeon area as we wish to visit Hearst Castle Sat (4/20) morning.

Is this too much for the 1st day for driving? I am sure we will stop and take pictures along the way and have lunch etc...would we be better off staying in the Pismo Beach area for the 1st night and then head up to Hearst castle in the morning?

Thanks so much!
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Feb 7th, 2013, 11:46 AM
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I think the answer depends on several things, one of which is how long your flight(s) are to LAX - also how good of a traveler are you? Short flights and/or someone who is not fatigued by air travel means you can drive farther your first day. Also, the pace of your whole itinerary is important - how many days do you have for the drive north and how far are you ultimately going?

If your flight arrives at 11, figure an hour to get out of the airport and your rental car (assuming this is a domestic flight), puts you on the road at about noon.

LAX to Pismo Beach is about a 3 hour drive - this is as far as I would go on the first day. If you have a fairly relaxed itinerary, I probably would spend the first night in Santa Barbara though, which is only about a 90 minute drive.
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Feb 7th, 2013, 12:08 PM
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LAX to Cambria/San Simeon is very doable, unless you are tired...it can be a long 3 hour drive especially if you plan on stopping along the way. Cambria used to be a sleepy little town but it has become really popular. Look for hotels along Moonstone Drive.

like november_moon, I'd recommend staying in Santa Barbara..its much prettier than Pismo, in my opinion. I'm from an area where a lot of people vacation in Pismo Beach but I just don't find it that attractive in general. Santa Barbara is more quintessential "California".

Another alternative would be Morro Bay, which is a little north of Pismo, and I think nicer. From there it is a short drive to San Simeon/Hearst Castle. (you could stop in Cayucos and eat a really good breakfast at the Sea Shanty restaurant right along the north end of the main drive and then take a walk down the pier.)

I spent a lot of my childhood vacationing along the Central Coast and I still go frequently to Cayucos (a friend owns a beach house there).
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Feb 7th, 2013, 01:58 PM
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Welcome to Fodor's, cutiepebbles75!

Maybe you could mention where you're flying from, and also provide a general overview of your itinerary and timetable. If you need to get all the way to San Simeon or Cambria the first day because you have commitments north of the Hearst Castle the next, letting us know about it will be quite helpful.

Otherwise, if this trip has a more flexible schedule, then I'd also agree that Santa Barbara might be a preferable overnight stop. Claiming bags, shuttling to get a car, navigating the San Diego and Ventura freeways, stopping for lunch... it's more than 3 hours to Cambria, and if you're operating on some other time zone, well...

Santa Barbara is gorgeous, plenty of nice places to stay, places to eat. Visit the Mission, and drive around town while you decide which bank to rob so that you can afford to move there.
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Feb 7th, 2013, 02:59 PM
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"LAX to Cambria/San Simeon is very doable, unless you are tired...it can be a long 3 hour drive"

?? Nope. LAX to Cambria is almost exactly 225 miles. It would take 4 hours in just about perfect conditions - and that is w/o any stops.

W/ an 11:00 arrival I wouldn't plan on getting underway before about 12:30 and later is a possibility (the rentals are all off-airport and you have to catch a shuttle)

It is doable but how long is your flight? If cross country that will be one hellaciously long day.
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Feb 7th, 2013, 04:46 PM
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I actually really like Pismo Beach and the surrounding area. I wasn't not recommending it. It is different from Santa Barbara, but they both have their charms and are both representative of different aspects of California. Santa Barbara is a good option and given the timing of the flight and the length of the drives, it may make more sense as a first stop. I wouldn't push to Cambria, which is another hour or so beyonf Pismo Beach, unless my flight into LAX was pretty short - like from Denver or something.
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Feb 7th, 2013, 05:32 PM
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Thank you everyone for all the replies...sorry i should's gave more info. This is my first post so bare with me
We are flying in from NY so I believe the flight 5.5 hours I believe but there's also the time difference as well.
My husband travels for work so he is OK with driving long distances but I don't want him to be exhausted on vacation either.
Our plan is still in the works but so far looks like this:
Day 1 (4/19) Arrive LAX, get car...start on drive...make some stops along the way for site seeing and maybe lunch.
Spend the night in Pismo Beach or Cambria or Morro Bay etc...

Day 2 (4/20) Visit Hearst Castle, drive to Big Sur.
Spend night in Carmel or Monterey...need to decide between the two.

Day 3 (4/21) maybe go back to Big Sur for hiking then do some site seeing in Monterey/carmel area...we are staying in this area for 3 nights because we wanted to go to Aquarium, hike, kayak....and whatever else there.

Day 4(4/22) Same as above..

Day 5 (4/23) wake up drive to Yosemite
Spend night Yosemite

Day 6 (4/24) Yosemite
Spend night Yosemite

Day 7 (4/25) wake up and drive to San Fransisco...
Stay SF

Day 8 (4/26) Stay SF for site seeing

Day 9 (4/27) Stay SF

Day 10 (4/28) not sure here....this is my wild card....not sure that we will need another day in SF?

Day 11 (4/29) we fly home early morning

Please feel free to offer any suggestions.
We are outdoors people we love to be active and site seeing etc....not looking to shop....

Wouldn't mind fitting in wineries but not sure where to put it in.

Thanks so much!
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Feb 7th, 2013, 06:34 PM
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I think you are racing through the first half of the trip way too fast. The first day, you should drive to Santa Barbara. Believe me, that is far enough. The second day, drive via state rd. 154 to Cambria or Morro Bay. If you are outdoors people you will love that drive. If you are into wine, stop at Los Olivos on the way and have lunch. There are numerous tasting rooms. The third day, drive through Big Sur and either stay there or in Carmel/Monterey for as many days as you can. Then spend the rest of your time in the Bay area. This will not be leisurely but you will see alot and it's not an unreasonable amount of driving.
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Feb 7th, 2013, 07:14 PM
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Do you have space booked in Yosemite? You should be aware (I assume you are?) that spring and summer come quite late to Yosemite, so if you're flexible on this, you really ought to give some consideration to reprogramming that part of your trip. In addition to snow being a possibility (not likely on the valley floor but possible) there are occasional high-water problems in the Merced River. In the event tire chains are required, that would be a problem with most rental car companies.

What you might consider for those days is to base yourselves in, say, Mariposa, on Calif. Hwy 49 about an hour from the Yosemite Valley floor, and visit the valley as a day trip, then use another day to tour up and down Hwy 49, so named because it runs through the middle of the 1849 Gold Rush country in the Sierra foothills. In April this road is drop-dead gorgeous, with spring flowers, trees in bud, rivers full of water, and warm weather, all combined with a number of very attractive and historic Gold Rush towns. It's also an up-and-coming wine production area. So if conditions in Yosemite aren't ideal, you can fall back on the Gold Rush country.
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Feb 8th, 2013, 12:50 AM
  #10
 
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If it was moi - I would plan on driving to Cambria for the afternoon - which really is a pretty easy drive from LAX.

You would be leaving LA and getting through Santa Barbara before afternoon traffic starts - and once you get a few miles past Santa Barbara - the drive is fairly routine/straight up to Cambria. http://tinyurl.com/byk3g5j,

And Moonstone Beach is special. http://www.cambriachamber.org/motels-beach.php

From the Cambria area - you are well positioned to visit Hearst Castle and drive up to/through Big Sur, which is very scenic - with slower driving.

And agree with checking on/getting your Yosemite reservations arranged. I would try to stay on the Valley Floor/the main area - and if for some reason you don't like it - you could always fall back to one of the surrounding towns.
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Feb 8th, 2013, 03:59 AM
  #11
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We have not made any reservations for Yosemite so that is flexible. Originally we planned lake Tahoe and then changed it to Yosemite. I am concerned about the weather conditions in late April....
Thanks for the suggestions about staying on the valley floor....so that would be considered Yosemite Valley, correct?

Thanks to all!
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Feb 8th, 2013, 04:02 AM
  #12
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@gardyloo....thanks for the idea about Gold Rush Country...we never even thought of that.
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Feb 8th, 2013, 04:04 AM
  #13
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@tomsd...I think we might try to drive to Cambria the 1st day....thanks for confirming that it is quite possible. I will look into Moonstone Beach.
Maybe along the way we can stop in Santa Barb. To take a peek around.
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Feb 8th, 2013, 08:28 AM
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Santa Barbara is a nice place - and worth a quick look see. My wife and her UCSB college roomies get together there from time to time, but for someone visiting from outside Cal - I recommend spending most of your time driving/staying further up/along the coast.

You might also consider a short detour to to Danish themed Solvang (a half hour or so above Santa Barbara) - if you want to have lunch en-route. http://www.solvangusa.com/

Cambria has several nice restaurants - and also - wine tasting nearby if you want to do that.
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Feb 8th, 2013, 08:33 AM
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Oh yes, if you stay at the Valley Floor in Yosemite - you could still enjoy driving out along the Gold Rush towns/hiway 49. Lot's of early California history there, as well as in downtown Folsom/Sacramento.

Figure n hour and a half/two hours driving from Sacto to SF - assuming you don't hit rush hour traffic.

Actually - you could also divert to Napa Valley for a night - or just a look see on the way from Sacto to SF. Maybe use that as your "wild card" night?
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Feb 8th, 2013, 09:12 AM
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"We have not made any reservations for Yosemite so that is flexible"

Not quite sure what you mean by that. If you mean you can book it for any day(s) - it won't be that easy. Yosemite books up months in advance. Contact them NOW - like this very minute. At that time of year Yosemite Lodge at the Falls is your best option and it may be too late.

Many of the places tomsd wants you to drive are very crowded/time consuming. Driving through Sacramento is bumper to bumper from 0700-9:30AM and from 3:30-6:00PM so you have to plan carefully. And the I-80 corridor between Sacramento/Napa/SF has even longer periods of heavy congestion.

he can be wildly optimistic about drive times.

If you do try to make Cambria that first day - don't count on arriving til around 5PM, and much later if you stop for a nice lunch and not just fast food.
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Feb 8th, 2013, 09:25 AM
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If Pebbles is driving from Yosemite to SF, no need to divert thru Sacramento. I would be a waste of your precious vacation time.
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Feb 8th, 2013, 09:36 AM
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The drive to Cambria is very doable and is a good choice if you want to see the Hearst castle the next day. Get north of LA before rush hour starts. I did the reverse drive (Cambria to Irvine) via the coast in the late afternoon/evening and thought I'd never get there. I love driving through Malibu. Since you are arrive in late morning, you should be fine.

I stopped along the way to take pictures and sight-see and it's a lovely drive.

We also visted the central coast wineries around Paso Robles and really enjoyed that. Enjoyed the interior drive to PR past very green hills with lots of Hearst cows. Made me think of the California happy cows ads.

We spent the night at the Best Western at Moonstone Beach in Cambria and really enjoyed it. Good rates, fireplace in the room, free breakfast, a little patio outside the room. Be sure to take time to do the boardwalk walk at Moonstone Beach.
http://book.bestwestern.com/bestwest...ertyCode=05320

I did a similar drive a few years ago and stayed 2 nights in Cambria and 2 nights in Carmel. I think that would be a good split for you. It would give you more time to relax and enjoy the first two days instead of rushing on up the coast.
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Feb 8th, 2013, 09:56 AM
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I totally agree there is no reason to go through Sacramento and Folsom - was just commenting that up hwy 49 and through Folsom, Sacramento, Napa, SF would not be a walk in the park . . .
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Feb 8th, 2013, 12:26 PM
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Different people worry more about driving I guess - but we have driven from Yosemite/Valley Floor - leaving early - and enjoyed the scenic/historic ride along'through Gold Country/hiway 49 - stopping in Sutter Creek for a snack - and getting over to hiway 50 in about 4 and a half hours, including the stop.

I think it is a worthwhile drive for someone visiting California - and we even have a favorite bakery/deli in Sutter Creek we like - (can't remember the name - Susan's? ) - a half a block/north? off the main road - but there are also other good dining options there: http://www.suttercreek.org/sutter-cr...staurants.html

Here are a couple of webpages to tell you more about the route: http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&su...ed=0CD0Q-A8wAA

http://www.allyosemite.com/scenic_drives/highway_49.php

As you get closer to Placerville - if you take the branch/road that winds up heading into Folsom - you could also drive into downtown/historic Folsom in about 10 minutes from the time you reach hiway 50/Bidwell exit - and have lunch there. We have a good friend who lives in Folsom - and have enjoyed a number of tasty meals in the historic/old/Victorian styled town - including some good Thai and Chinese options. http://www.urbanspoon.com/n/36/3518/...om-restaurants

From that point at hiway 50/Folsom Bidwell exit - down to Napa is an fairly easy shot - couple hours max - assuming you get through Sacto by say 3 PM, and downtown Sacto is about 20 minutes from that point on hiway 50. http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&ba...ed=0CC4Q-A8wAA
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