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BAB Jul 25th, 2014 09:50 AM

Help w road trip from Huntington Beach to SF, skipping LA area
My husband and I will be in Huntington Beach for a family event in early October . We have never been to California before and would like to drive up the coast and spend our last three days in San Francisco and fly home from there. We have 7 days, not including the day we fly home. We will leave Huntington Beach on a Saturday and fly out of San Francisco the following Saturday. We would like to drive straight to Santa Barbara , skipping the LA area, and start from there. Suggestions for what to see from the Saturday we leave Huntington Beach to Wed when we hope to arrive in San Francisco.

tenthumbs Jul 25th, 2014 11:08 AM

What are your interests? Hiking? Museums? Shopping?

NorCalif Jul 25th, 2014 11:11 AM

So some possibilities I like (not knowing anything about your specific interests) are:

Santa Barbara - I like the mission and the courthouse

San Luis Obispo -walking around the older downtown area and along the creek, also another mission

Cambria - pleasant little town

Elephant seal rookery (viewpoint right on Highway 1)

Hearst Castle - this may take too much time, depending on your interest level and what else you want to do on your trip

in the Big Sur area - stop at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and take the short walk to a viewpoint above the waterfall that drops onto a beautiful beach. (Although given our current drought, not sure if the waterfall is running?) Still lovely views though. Also stop at Nepenthe (either the outdoor cafe or the upper level restaurant) for more great views.

Carmel - the downtown art galleries and the beach. Also like to walk through some of the surrounding neighborhoods a few blocks south of the main downtown street.

Monterey - the aquarium, having a drink or meal on the terrace at the Monterey Plaza Hotel

Have a wonderful trip!

BAB Jul 25th, 2014 11:29 AM

Those are great ideas. We are looking to see the highlights of the coast. We would like to know what we can cover in a day and which towns to see, what to skip, and what would be the best towns to stay in for the night. I was thinking we would see Santa Barbara, Hearst Castle, Carmel, Monterey and Big Sur but don't know distances between towns and how much time to spend in each.

jamie99 Jul 25th, 2014 11:46 AM

How many nights are you planning for the Highway 1 drive?
If only one night, you will have to be very selective on what to see and skip. For example you would not have time for Hearst Castle, Monterey Bay aquarium, Point Lobos and kayaking in Monterey Bay or Elkhorn Slough so you have to pick and choose.

BAB Jul 25th, 2014 12:01 PM

Thanks for your response.We will have 4 nights once we leave Huntington Beach Sat-Tues. We would like to be in San Francisco for Wed night. We are not interested in kayaking or Elkhorn Slough(don't know what that is). Yes, I agree we need to pick and choose. That's why I am looking for input into what is and isn't doable from all you knowledgeable Fodorites!

NorCalif Jul 25th, 2014 06:47 PM

Well if you drove straight from Santa Barbara to Monterey along the coastal Big Sur route (Hwy 101 and Hwy 1) it would only take about 5 hours total, without stops. Of course you want to stop, but that gives you an idea of the time you have to work with. Then the drive from Monterey to San Francisco is about 2 1/2 hours depending on your route, again without stops.

This is what I would do (and have done.) It is a little bit hurried, especially on Monday, but packs in most of the sights I like the best:

You can spend Saturday night in Santa Barbara. Depending on what time you arrive in SB, you can tourist around there on Sat. afternoon/evening and Sunday morning.

On Sunday afternoon/evening drive to Cambria (~2 hours nonstop), and spend the night there. Cambria is a lot nicer place to spend the night than San Simeon, which is the nearest town to Hearst Castle. Cambria is only about 20 minutes south of San Simeon.

Monday will be a busy day - you definitely want to do it all in daylight, because of the views and in October it's starting to get dark earlier. Try to reserve an early tour of Hearst Castle (you will have to make reservations for a tour.) As soon as you finish the tour, head up through Big Sur, stopping at Julia Pfeiffer Burns waterfall and Nepenthe, as well as many turnouts. Spend the night in the Big Sur area somewhere.

Tuesday, continue on up to Carmel, where you should stop and look around some, then on to Monterey to spend Tuesday night. On Wednesday, go to the aquarium and see some sights in Monterey.

Head to San Francisco Wednesday afternoon/ evening for the 2 1/2 hour drive. I would recommend heading up the coast,through Half Moon Bay, rather than inland, from Monterey to SF.

Jean Jul 25th, 2014 09:19 PM

Even in October, many hotels in Santa Barbara have a 2-night minimum stay on the weekends.

If you can't find Saturday night availability for the type of hotel or rate you want, book something you can cancel but keep checking the preferred hotels as your date approaches. The hotels will watch their bookings and at some point decide they'd rather sell a room for only one night rather than risk it sits empty all weekend.

mlgb Jul 27th, 2014 11:19 AM

I run into that problem in Santa Barbara all the time (plus the overpriced hotel rooms in general). So I usually stay instead either in Buellton/Solvang or even Lompoc, which are not really that much farther.

That be said I admit to finding Santa Barbara a little boring, and don't usually do more than half a day there.

MichelleY Jul 27th, 2014 02:19 PM

Most of the places along the coast from Santa Barbara up to Monterey will require a 2night minimum on weekends.

I agree with mlgb, I find Santa Barbara a bit boring and only worth a day at the most.

Mlgb: I am relieved. I thought I was the only one.

NorCalif Jul 28th, 2014 09:36 AM

The OP mentioned they wanted to start this portion of their trip in Santa Barbara on a Saturday. Actually I stayed in Santa Barbara for just one night on a weekend last October, so it is possible, I believe, unless all the hotels have changed their rules since last year. But it is definitely a good point to keep in mind, and such requirements may lessen the possible hotel choices.

The weekend minimum stay requirements shouldn't be an issue for the remaining places on their trip, as they will not be staying on weekend nights.

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