Monterey or Mendocino?

Old May 1st, 2004, 07:55 AM
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Monterey or Mendocino?

Hi Fodorites,
I need your opinion. The first week in June we are going to California. We are spending one night in San Francisco and three nights in Napa Valley. We have two additional nights and would like to see some coastal scenery and some coastal redwoods.
We were planning on leaving Calistoga and driving up to Fort Bragg via Highways 128/101/1, staying at the Surf and Sand Lodge (http://www.surfsandlodge.com/) for two nights and exploring the coast up there before returning to San Francisco for our flight home.
However, after reading many posts, I am wondering if we should go to Monterey/Carmel instead. Is the scenery worth the longer drive from wine country?
Any opinions and advice would be appreciated.
Thanks!
Tim_and_Liz is offline  
Old May 1st, 2004, 08:20 AM
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It is a long road, but we so enjoy the drive from Point Reyes to Mendocino(or visa-versa). We've done this drive several times and never tire of it.
We usually spend the night somewhere halfway and continue on the next day.
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Old May 1st, 2004, 10:28 AM
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Given the choice, Monterey is a lot nicer than Medocino. There's also more to do in monterey as well. From wine country the best route to Monterey is 12/680 south/280 north/17 south then 1 south to Monterey. The 680 and 17 are scenic as well.
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Old May 1st, 2004, 10:31 AM
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Since you are already in the Napa Valley, you will have a shorter drive, so this is a good opportunity to see Mendocino and the coast in that area.

I love Monterey, but I would save it for another trip when you are going to be south of SF.
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Old May 1st, 2004, 10:54 AM
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Thanks much for the replies. What is a realistic driving time from Calistoga-Napa to Monterey?
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Old May 1st, 2004, 10:58 AM
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Tim and Liz, while Napa may be only 11 miles farther from Monterey than from Mendocino, Calisotoga is at the north end of the Napa Valley, so it is considerably closer. Check it out on the map.

Also, the drive to Mendocino is slow, through beautiful country, while much of the drive to Monterey will be through some part of the greater SF area, i.e., freeway through developed areas.

Monterey is wonderful and if that is your choice, great. I just think that since you will be so close to Mendocino, it's a good chance to see it.
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Old May 1st, 2004, 12:02 PM
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We did a very simialar route in the late 1990's. Our last stop was at the Mondavi winery in Napa before going to Monterey/Carmel. We took 101 through San Fran and I think it took 3.5 hours. Coming back to San Francisco we took Hwy 1 all the way north and it seemed to have less traffic and was much more scenic It may have cut off 30 minutes or more from the trip. Let me add that when we went down to Monterey it was rush hour in San Fran area and when we came back up Hwy 1 it was a Friday morning. I loved the area and I truly felt like I saw the best that Northern California has to offer by visiting San Francisco, Sonoma/Napa, and Monterey/Carmel. Have a great time!
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Old May 1st, 2004, 12:06 PM
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Tim and Liz,

Let me add one more thing. You said that you are spending one night in San Francisco. I spent 2 nites there and that wasn't nearly enough. I urge you to spend more than one night there to give it the time it deserves. I know that there are many wineries to see in Napa but I would sacrifice a night there to spend a little more time in San Francisco.
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Old May 1st, 2004, 03:19 PM
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Tim and Liz, You don't say what you want to do while you're in the area. If you are looking for scenic beauty and great restaurants and walks along the cliffs.... Mendocino is great! Monterey, on the other hand, is more like a real city where people live and work and there's a big tourist industry as well.

If I were you, I would probably stay in Mendocino, go wine tasting and visit the redwoods along highway 128, and enjoy the rustic, more peaceful coastline. If you want some restaurant recommendations, say so and I'll give you a few.
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Old May 1st, 2004, 05:19 PM
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My vote is for Mendocino, although Monterey is great, too. Mendocino is quaint, and the coastline up there is beautiful. You can take the "skunk train" in Ft Bragg for a nice trip thru the redwoods. Whichever you choose you can't go wrong, but I would go to Mendocino if I were you. If you do go there, visit the botanical gardens....beautiful.
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Old May 1st, 2004, 05:56 PM
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OK, thanks for all of the suggestions and opinions. I am going to stay with the original plan and head to Mendocino/Ft. Bragg.
Any restaurant and/or route suggestions you have would be great!
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Old May 2nd, 2004, 09:51 AM
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Well, Tim and Liz, do what we do. Just book return trip every year and see it all! Just back from Mendocino, we're going again in Nov. We're doing Monterey next June. Mendocino is a slice of heaven. To see some good redwoods, check out Hendy Woods state park off highway 128 near Philo.We did Montgomery Woods, too, but oh that drive made me quite ill. The lodge looks nice, however Ft Bragg didn't impress us at all. mendocino has all the charm. We stayed at Brewery Gulch Inn and loved it, next time we stay in town at Alegria. Our dinners were great at Stevenswood Lodge, Moosse Cafe, and at Raven's (vegetarian). Stanford Inn gets rave reviews- we're trying that next time. We loved the menus at the 955 Ukiah St restaurant, as well as the Mendocino Hotel. Trust me, you'll eat very well there!A fun thing to do is book a horseback ride in Ft Bragg at the Ricochet Ranch. We rode way up a redwood forest mountain, then later along the beach.They offer horses for all levels of experience, and it is a great way to enjoy the beauty of the area.
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Old May 2nd, 2004, 11:42 AM
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Wow, Linda's idea about horseback riding sounds fun! Be sure to drive down to Elk and check out Queenies for breakfast or lunch. I liked Egg Heads in Fort Bragg. I had a delicious crab cake eggs benedict (with champagne hollandaise). Also, Sharon's Cafe has fantastic crab cakes and a slaw that is to die for. (OK, to keep living for).
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Old May 2nd, 2004, 02:22 PM
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If you like photography you'll love Monterey and Carmel. There is also a drive my husband and I took called 17 mile drive which runs along the coast and goes past 3 famous golf courses, one of them being Pebble Beach. There is a little deli shop just before the entrance to the drive and we stopped and bought some really great subs to take on the drive and then found a table at one of the stops to eat. It was a perfect afternoon. Take every chance to drive the scenic route...the shoreline is full of rocks and trees and otters playing. The beaches are more scenic than touristy. I'd pass on the aquarium. It was just another aquarium and costly. We drove down highway one which has stunning scenery, and went to Carmel and spent time also. Carmel is very quaint little town....full of beautifully bright colored houses and shops. I bought some of my most beautiful clothing souvenirs there. They have many shops that sell the really nice shirts, etc., instead of the junk white t-shirts you find at usual tourist spots. Pebble Beach golf course also has a nice pro shop with beautiful souvenir clothing. If you go to the pebble beach web site there is a section on the 17 mile drive also. Enjoy!
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