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California Honeymoon: Sonoma and the Coast. Too Ambitious?

California Honeymoon: Sonoma and the Coast. Too Ambitious?

Feb 21st, 2011, 09:34 PM
  #1  
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California Honeymoon: Sonoma and the Coast. Too Ambitious?

Greetings! Could use a little advice about our upcoming honeymoon in early October of this year.

We'll be spending Monday through Saturday in California, then flying out Saturday for a week in Mexico. What we do in California is up in the air right now.

Sonoma/wine country is a "must-do" for us - have never been, seems very romantic. More of a foodie than a wine enthusiast and would love to visit a Thomas Keller restaurant at some point. We'd like to use Healdsburg as a base.

Thing is, my fiance also has his heart set on a "dramatic" coastline drive - I'm thinking he means something like through Big Sur.

So, here are my thoughts, and I'd love some feedback! (Keep in mind that I really hate "backtracking," which is why we're flying into Sacramento. It's also cheaper than SFO.)

Monday: arrive in Sacramento in AM; rent convertible (yes, we're tourists; drive through Yountville/Napa, lunch and winery or two. Arrive in Healdsburg in evening.

Tuesday: Healdsburg

Wednesday: Healdsburg

Thursday: (this is where it gets fuzzy): Leave Healdsburg, drive to Carmel. Stay in Carmel.

Friday: Leave Carmel, drive through Big Sur to LA. Stay at inexpensive airport hotel Friday night (flight leaves from LA Saturday morning.) (Worried this leg may be too much driving?)

OR: Do we do a late lunch in Carmel Thursday and chug through to stay somewhere in Big Sur? Or do we stay in Carmel Thursday, Santa Barbara Friday night and attempt the drive into LA on Saturday morning?

Anyway, let me know what you think! I'd like this leg of the trip to feel relaxing and romantic, but I"m not *so* worried about that since we'll have a week in Mexico to luxuriate after it all.

Thanks so much...
butibeentoOklahoma is offline  
Feb 21st, 2011, 11:55 PM
  #2  
mjs
 
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You do not have much time for the territory you want to cover. I would spend 2 nights in Napa/Sonoma. Book as soon as you can for French Laundry but be prepared with your wallet. Bouchon and Ad Hoc more reasonable in price. Fried chicken at Ad Hoc on monday is terrific. Head to Carmel on wednesday. leave carmel on thursday afternoon through Big Sur.
Stay near Hearts Castle if you are interested or Santa Barbara. Drive to Lax friday evening and stay at a LAX airport for flight out saturday morning. Do not attempt to drive saturday morning to catch a am flight at LAX from Santa Barbara unless your tickets can be changed if you do not make it.
mjs is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2011, 06:05 AM
  #3  
 
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Agree with MJS two nights in Napa fine for two great dinners and a gourmet lunch if you wish. Also consider Cyrus. The next night could be Carmel or Monterey (lots of inns and B&Bs, including Green Gables Inn which looks so cute) or keep driving and splurge at one of the famous resorts in Big Sur (like Post Ranch Inn or Ventana), with the next night in Santa Barbara (San Ysidro Ranch is luxury lodging and offers a wonderful meal), and the final Friday night in LA (lots of high-end restaurants in LA you could try). Consider Melisse in Santa Monica or Craft in Century City so you don't have to travel too far from your airport hotel.

You might have trouble with two night minimums on the coast but hopefully they will relax that given its October and your Honeymoon.

Also, if you end up three nights in Napa/Sonoma or have to use two nights in Carmel, you can always make it from Big Sur to Santa Barbara or even LA in a day if weather conditions are good and you are willing to take a long drive with limited stops(though the views are amazing).
POlson is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2011, 06:14 AM
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Google Maps times the drive from Carmel through the coastal route to LAX as a little over 6 hours. However, that's if you drive straight through without stopping for anything and it also does not include delays from possible traffic jams on LA freeways. Most likely you will be stopping for meals and to see the scenic sights, so it would take you longer. IMO, it would be more relaxing and more enjoyable to make this drive in two days, staying perhaps in Santa Barbara or San Simeon or Cambria. You might want to consider giving yourself more traveling time by cutting your stay in Healdsburg to one night. Healdsburg is a charming town but for me one night would be enough.
Have fun!
montereybob is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2011, 06:41 AM
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Why don't you spend all of your time vacationing north of San Francisco? There's beautiful coastline at Point Reyes National Seashore and Sonoma Coast State Park. They both have gorgeous coasts and you'll spend a lot less time driving and more time enjoying the coast than if you went to Carmel. It's about an hour drive from Healdsburg to Sonoma Coast State Beach and about 1.5 hours to Point Reyes. Spend a few days there and then fly out of San Francisco or Oakland.

http://www.nps.gov/pore/index.htm
http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=451
Shanti is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2011, 06:44 AM
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I almost forgot. And on your way from Healdsburg to either Sonoma Coast or Point Reyes, stop at Armstrong Woods to see the redwoods.
http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=451
Shanti is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2011, 07:04 AM
  #7  
 
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I'd stick to northern CA. If you leave Sonoma county, drive to Carmel, and the next morning leave Carmel you'll have little free time in Carmel/Monterey (you'd have to leave Healdsburg after 9:00 or 9:30AM to avoid horrible Bay Area traffic.)

Then From Carmel to LA -- you would not have time to stop anywhere at all.

If your flights are already booked into SFO and out of LAX - then spend Tues/Wed in Healdsburg, and Thurs/most of Fri in Carmel/Monterey. Leave Carmel early Friday evening, drive to SFO, drop the car and fly to LAX. Stay the night at an LAX hotel and fly out Sat AM.
janisj is online now  
Feb 22nd, 2011, 07:31 AM
  #8  
 
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The north coast is beautiful (more dramatic to my mind than even Big Sur) and the stretch just north of Jenner is particularly spectacular. Healdsburg is an excellent choice. I'd also spend two or three nights in Mendocino.
bon_voyage is online now  
Feb 22nd, 2011, 10:10 AM
  #9  
 
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I've lived in California all of my 63 years, and the Sonoma to LA drive in 2 nights is something I would never do. You'll hit commute traffic from Sonoma to San Jose, and from SLO to LA if you do this latter drive on a Friday.

Stay in Healdsburg and dine at Cyrus - not French Laundry. If you're flying into Sacramento to save money - French Laundry will eat up a lot more money than you'll ever save on the flight - think $600-700 for 2 with wine. If you have lunch at French Laundry, that will kill most of a sighseeing day (not sure they serve lunch). If you have dinner there - well, don't. The 1 1/4 hr drive back to Healdsburg is a very long drive at 11pm after a 3 hr dinner. Cyrus is a LOT better than the other Thomas Keller restaurants.

As others have stated - just stay in Northern Calif. The drive from Sonoma to LA takes WAAAAYYYY to long for your short schedule. I would give the Hwy 1 drive from Carmel to San Simeon an A+, and the drive from Bodega Bay north on Hwy 1 an A-. The drive from Bodega Bay south to SF is a B (not enough water views). Pt Reyes an A- if you get out of the car & explore on your own. So - no need to drive all the way from Sonoma to Carmel (4 to 4 1/2 hrs incl. hitting commute traffic) to see some pretty coast - it is quite scenic north of Bodega Bay.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is online now  
Feb 22nd, 2011, 01:08 PM
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I think we are unanimous - or as close to it as we ever get on Fodors. The north coast will absolutely satisfy your desire to see dramatic coastline, and be less driving and more time sightseeing, hanging out, and being romantic
november_moon is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2011, 04:05 PM
  #11  
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Yes! You guys are incredible. Our flights are not booked yet, so no worries there. To be honest, I would *much* prefer to stay in northern California for our trip - I was just trying to accomodate my dearheart's desire for some cool cliff-lined coastlines. (Was talking myself into the San Francisco-LA drive, but not 100% convinced.) Will do more research on Point Reyes, etc.

Would Healdsburg be a good base for all five days, or too much driving for the coastline? Should we do Healdsburg Mon/Tues/Wed and then Mendocino Thurs/Fri, then fly out of SFO/Oakland Saturday? Or are there any other coastal towns you might recommend?

StuDudley: thanks for the Cyrus recommendation. If we stay in Healdsburg, I think we'll end up doing that (would like to actually enjoy my wine with dinner instead of worrying about driving home!)

Last question: are we ridiculous to want a convertible in October? (Wondering if it'll be too chilly.) Right now, I'm thinking...what the hell, it's our honeymoon

Thanks again for all the help. Love these boards.
butibeentoOklahoma is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2011, 04:13 PM
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Your flights aren't booked yet? Then add me to the chorus of people who think you should stick to Northern California. If you do decide to drive south of San Francisco, you could fly out of San Jose. Are you purposely avoiding San Francisco?
sf7307 is online now  
Feb 22nd, 2011, 04:57 PM
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You can visit the Sonoma and Marin coasts quite easily from Healdsburg. The area between these two places is very scenic actually. Take the small roads - stay off of 101. Occidental is an interesting town to visit - maybe stop there for lunch.

In the entire Bay Area from the wine country to San Jose, there are 2 Michelin three star restaurants and only 3 two star restaurants. Cyrus is one of the two star restaaurants.

We get some of our best weather in early October - but nights are chilly.

Three nights in Healdsburg and 2 in Mendocino would be perfect, as long as the drive to your departing airport gets you there on time & isn't too long.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is online now  
Feb 23rd, 2011, 08:08 AM
  #14  
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Thanks again! sf7307: not purposely avoiding San Francisco, but we've been to the city before (and live in a city) and are hoping for a more out-of-the-way spot for our honeymoon.

And Stu, looks like Cyrus is on the list. Checked out the menu online last night and it looks delicious
butibeentoOklahoma is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2011, 08:17 AM
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butibeen, I was just curious - since you're not planning on visiting San Francisco, I'd follow Stu'd advice of Healdsburg and Mendocino!
sf7307 is online now  
Feb 23rd, 2011, 08:31 AM
  #16  
 
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I agree - especially since you haven't booked flights yet - Healdsburg and Mendocino would be a fabulous duo.

If you truly want to miss San Francisco, you could consider flying in/out of Sacramento instead of SFO.

The drives SMF to/from Mendocino and Sonoma take just a bit less than SFO. SMF is a smaller airport and easier/faster to get your car and on the road.

If the schedules/fares are better into SFO (or Oakland) then great -- but otherwise, SMF would be easier.
janisj is online now  
Feb 23rd, 2011, 08:36 AM
  #17  
 
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Oh - I just noticed in your OP you planned on flying into SMF in the first place. Especially good since you are arriving on a monday AM. I'd do Mendocino first since the traffic will not be bad at all heading north.

Then Sonoma for the last two days - drive back to SMF and fly home.
janisj is online now  
Feb 24th, 2011, 01:22 PM
  #18  
 
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I'd rent a convertible, drop the top, and turn on the heater The views will be fabulous from a convertible. You will have to pack light so that you can get all your stuff in the trunk.

Inland is likely to still be fairly warm, but the north coast is rarely what most people consider warm. We were camping on the north coast on July 4th weekend and I wore a stocking cap at night.
november_moon is offline  
Feb 24th, 2011, 01:58 PM
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>>camping on the north coast on July 4th weekend and I wore a stocking cap at night.>>

Only at night????

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is online now  
Feb 24th, 2011, 04:26 PM
  #20  
 
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If your plan was to fly into Mexico from LAX, return your convertible to SMF and fly from there to LAX (or Mexico destination). If you see the coast and Sonoma first the return to SMF is on I-5 so that you are not driving back over the same highway.
Stop to see Muir Woods while on the coast north of San Francisco
tomfuller is offline  

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