Need advice Big Sur to Healdsburg

Feb 15th, 2008, 02:52 PM
  #1  
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Need advice Big Sur to Healdsburg

Hi all,

I know my itenerary will be rushed but we want to do the following:

Day 1 - Arrive SFO Friday night and stay in hotel near aiport for one night.

Day 2 - rent car in a.m. and drive down to Big Sur stopping along the way. We want to stay overnight somewhere and be able to make it to Healdsburg by noon the next day.

Day 3 - Arrive in Healdsburg by noon.

Where can we stay overnight day 2? If we stay in Carmel, would we be able to make it to Healdsburg by noon and not leave at the crack of dawn?

Is there another point from Big Sur to Healdsburg where we can stay so the drive in the a.m. on day 3 does not take forever.

This is our first trip to Northern California.

Any guidance you can provide will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,
Linda

LindainFL is offline  
Feb 15th, 2008, 03:26 PM
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When is this trip? You have one major problem - most anyplace decent on the coast will have a 2 night minimum on weekends. Most won't book for just Saturday night unless they have a last minute cancellation.

IMO you are doing waaaaay too much driving on Sat/Sun - even IF you do luck out finding a Saturday night-only hotel.
janisj is online now  
Feb 15th, 2008, 03:28 PM
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Jeeze Linda - slow down a bit.

Why not forget Big Sur and just enjoy the Marin/Sonoma coast instead.

Stu Dudley
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Feb 15th, 2008, 08:04 PM
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Hi,

I know it's a lot but I'll be in CA for 9 days but my friend only 5 days and she's high on driving down to Big Sur and doing wine country.

I agree we should spend more time in wine country and then on another trip maybe do that fabulous coastal drive.

I'll do my best to convince her it's either one of the other but both would be exhausting.

I know there are day trips from San Francisco to Big Sur so I'll check that out.

I appreciate your help all
LindainFL is offline  
Feb 16th, 2008, 08:06 AM
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In perfect conditions (lv Sunday morning, return Sun night) it's about a 3 hr trip to Big Sur - so that's 6 hrs of travel. On work days, add 1 hr to each leg - so that's 8 hours of travel. The trip there the fastest way (101) is very boring. It's a little more scenic in the San Mateo Co stretch if you take 280, but it's about 15 mins longer (actually, I've never timed it).

You don't start seeing scenic coastline from the road till you get about 10-15 mins past the Ocean Ave exit to Carmel. Then, there's about 30-45 mins of very scenic coast. Big Sur is actually inland, so you can't see the coast from the road, but if you have lunch at Nepenthe, there are magnificent views.

So - if you leave SF on a day-trip at 7:00 on Tues, you'll get to Pt Lobos (Just south of Carmel - must see), at about 10:30. You should spend 1 hr at Pt Lobos. Then head to Big Sur & stop along the way at a few lookouts. Get to Nepenthe at 1:00 & have lunch there. Finish lunch at 2 & go to Pfeiffer Beach or Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park & enjoy the sights (see recent post about Big Sur). Now it's time to leave - around 4pm. You might miss commute traffic, so you'll get back to San Francisco around 7 PM. Note - no Carmel, Monterey, or 17 mile drive

The coast north of the GG Bridge is almost as scenic - and a lot closer. You can easily see it on the way to Healdsburg. We spent several hours at the Marin Headlands this past Tuesday - it's extremely scenic, and so is the area around Muir Beach & south of Stinson Beach. The region between the coast & Healdsburg is also quite pretty - lots of pastures, dairy farms, vineyards, etc. I posted a descripton of a drive from SF, along th coast, to Healdsburg a while back. See if you can find it. If you can't, let me know & I'll re-post it.

The coast drive north of SF is what I would do. Return sometime and include Carmel, Pacific Grove, and the Monterey aquaruim in your Big Sur trip & make it a 2 night trip

Stu Dudley

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Feb 16th, 2008, 10:17 AM
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Thanks Stu for the detailed nformaion. It makes complete sense to do what you say and I'm gonna use the info to convice her.

However...

If we did decide to do this one day trip we'd actually be leaving on a Saturday morning from a hotel by SFO airport. Also, if we wanted to include the 17 mile drive, how much longer would the trip be? On our return back that day, we'd actually head up to Healdsburg because we won't be in San Francisco till Tuesday, 5/6/08. I'll need to change my reservation at the Madrona Manor to arrive 5/3/08 instead of 5/4/08.

I have read many of your posts and think I remember seeing that post about the northern coastal drive. I'll find it

Thanks,
Linda

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Feb 16th, 2008, 10:22 AM
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LindainFL,

If your friend is interested in Big Sur and "wine country", have you considered the Paso Robles wine country south of Big Sur?
pasowine.com/

There are many wonderful wineries in this region and the coastal drive from Big Sur to Cambria is quite unique. Hwy 46 east from Cambria should be investigated as well as some of the coastal lodgings near Cambria in this area. I think it beats retracing the drive back and all the way to Healdsburg in the short time span.

Also there are some fine wineries in the Santa Cruz mountains between San Jose and Santa Cruz.
scmwa.com/

As far as a hotel near SFO, check out Larkspur Landing. Good prices, great beds, and a continental breakfast to get you started in the AM.
NW_Native is offline  
Feb 16th, 2008, 12:19 PM
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If you leave on a Sat from SFO, you probably won't be able to get a car & hit the road as early as 7:00 - so you won't save much time there - but you won't hit commute traffic. If leave the hotel at 7 & take a taxi/shuttle from your hotel to the car rental area (which is north of the airport), get the car, and leave at 8:00, hit 75 MPH a few times, you'll get to Pt Lobos (for a 1 hr visit) around 10 (perhaps a tad later) - which puts you 30 mins ahead of my other schedule. You'll finish lunch at Nepenthe at 1:30 - but you won't have enough time in the day to visit either of the Pfeiffer things AND the 17 Mile Drive - so if you head back to Carmel you'll get to the 17 Mile Drive a little before 2:30. Budget 1 hr for the 17 mile drive. Take 101 & 280 back to the City (a little heavier traffic now). That gets you to 19th Ave around 6:00. If you are a little late, you will hit some heavy traffic because many people will be heading into the City for Sat night fun. It may take you anywhere from 30 to 60 mins to get to the SF side of the Golden Gate Bridge. Lets say you are lucky & get there at 6:30.

There always seems to be construction & delays around Santa Rosa. It will probably be 8:00 before you get to the Madrona Manor. Too late for dinner there.

This might be an optomistic schedule also. If you leave the SFO airport later than 8 (heavier traffic then), and get to 19th ave around 7:30pm - you're doomed. You probably won't get to the Madrona manor till 9:30pm or later.

You could probably gain 1 hr on this schedule if you pick up the car when you arrive on Friday, and leave the hotel at 7:00 or sooner on Sat.

For your info, I live within 7 mins south of SFO, have been here for 26 years, plus another 7 in San Francisco, go to Carmel at least yearly, and visit Healdsburg 3-4 times each year (some of our closest friends live adjacent to the Madrona Manor). If I leave my house early on Sat or Sun morning and drive fast, I can get to Ocean Ave in Carmel in 1 hr 45 mins.

Stu Dudley

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Feb 16th, 2008, 05:11 PM
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Carmel to Santa Rosa, without any traffic on 101 takes at least 4 hours.
The Sonoma Coast is beautiful, you could easily visit it and Healdsburg.
I agree with the post that said if you must do Big Sur, do Paso Robles.
CLynnWeg is offline  
Feb 17th, 2008, 07:12 AM
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How in the world can someone visit Paso Robles on the same day she is starting at SFO, visiting Carmel/Big Sur, then back to Healdsburg in time to check into a small B&B type hotel? Even as a week-day day-trip (commute traffic) from SF, that's too much. If you didn't get out of the car, it might be possible, but what's the point in that? Don't wineries close around 5:00?

Stu Dudley
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Feb 17th, 2008, 11:16 AM
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I guess there's a need to clarify.

Skip the Madrona Manor and Healdsburg, and do the central (Paso Robles) "wine country" following Big Sur to cut down on the driving and still have a great time enjoying the area and quality wines.

A choice really needs to be made to either go north or south of SFO in the time frame.

Going north for the forests and redwoods you have either Muir Woods or Armstrong State Park at Gurneville along the Russian River. One could continue west to Jenner at the coast then return to Gurneville and take Westside road from Gurneville to Healdsburg to visit some wineries along the way.

Refer to the prior post for the southern suggestion.
NW_Native is offline  
Feb 17th, 2008, 05:24 PM
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I also meant to say skip Sonoma County and only do Paso and Big Sur.
CLynnWeg is offline  
Feb 17th, 2008, 06:05 PM
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Hi,

Thanks for the suggestions. We are getting together this coming weekend to discuss in detail our itinerary. All this information will be very useful.

Again thank you all so much.

Linda
LindainFL is offline  
Feb 18th, 2008, 08:37 AM
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More food for thought on the Healdsburg & Marin/Sonoma coast vs Carmel, Big Sur, Paso Robles wine country.

If you head north, you will see beautiful scenery & small roads for almost 100 percent of your trip.

If you head south, you won't see beautiful scenery & you will be mostly on freeways for the first 2 hours from SFO - and possibly some heavy traffic. On the return trip from Paso Robles on 101, that's 3 1/2 hrs of hard freeway driving - not scenic.

IMO, Big Sur/Pt Lobos/Carmel areas are the most interestng coast section. Healdsburg/Dry Creek is the most interesting winegrowning regon & also a very nice city with excellent restaurants. madrona manor is fabulous (we're Victorian House freaks).

Stu Dudley
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Feb 18th, 2008, 06:28 PM
  #15  
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Thanks Stu

I am really really excited about staying at the Madrona Manor. I rather go to Healdsburg for 4 days then to San Francisco.

She's a serious wine lover so once I break down distances aka long long hours of travel, we'll surely/hopefully cut out Carmel.

LindainFL is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2008, 06:58 PM
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Hi,

My friend came over today for a fabulous lunch cooked by mua and we discussed our trip. We will be cutting out Big Sur Carmel and just doing wine country then San Francisco.

We already have reservations at the Madrona Manor in Healdsburg Sunday, 5/4/08 to Tuesday, 5/6/08. We need to book one more night from Saturday, 5/3/08 to Sunday, 5/4/08. We are thinking somewhere in Napa because we want to take a hot air balloon ride the morning of 5/4/08 then after that make our way over to Healdsburg visiting some wineries along the way.

Any suggestions for hotels in the Napa area for one night?

Stu - Do you have a wonderful scenic drive from SFO airport to the Napa area? I'm gonna search your posts.

Thanks everyone again for all the help.
LindainFL is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2008, 08:47 PM
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You may have a problem find a nice place that will book only a Saturday night. Most will want a 2 night minimum over a weekend.
janisj is online now  
Feb 24th, 2008, 08:53 AM
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Day 1
North of San Francisco

Head north across the Golden Gate Bridge. Just past the bridge, take the Alexander Av. exit towards Sausalito. When you get to the stop at the end of the freeway off ramp, turn left & go under Hwy 101. Continue on like you are going back across the bridge to SF, but take the road to the right that goes up-hill, just before actually getting on 101. There will be a sign that says you are entering the Golden Gate National Recreational area. Continue up on this road bearing left. You will see what is (in my opinion) the best views of San Francisco – The GG Bridge in the foreground & The City behind it.. This area was formerly a military area that is still laced with bunkers, gun turrets, underground tunnels etc. It was opened up in the ‘70s. The views of The City, the Bridge, and the Golden Gate are breathtaking. You can see all the way down the San Mateo Coast from up here. Go all the way to the top and you hit a much smaller one-way road. On the way up, get out & enjoy the sights. The kids will love the bunkers & gun turrets. At the top where the main road ends, there is the largest gun turret, where you can climb up to for an almost 360 degree view. This view is best in the evening when the sun is in a better position to light up the bridge & highlight downtown. If you plan to pass this way again later in the day, skip this venue now & do it later. If there isn’t any fog, perhaps do it now because you never know when the fog will roll in & make viewing impossible.

Return the way you came up to this area. When you get to the junction just past the tunnel under 101, head straight to Sausalito. Just follow your nose (bearing right whenever possible), until you end up on Bridgeway – the main road along the bay in Sausalito. Drive along Bridgeway, enjoying the views back to the City. Sausalito has gotten a little tacky in the last few decades with all it’s mediocre art shops & cheep souvenir stands, but the setting is lovely & there’s some nice architecture. Continue North on Bridgeway until it joins 101 North again (towards San Rafael).

Take the Blithdale exit off 101 to Mill Valley. M.A.S.H. fans will recognize this place as the hometown of B.J. Hunnicut. Keep following Blithdale as it worms around a little in some not-so-picturesque areas before it reaches the center of Mill Valley (you’ll know when you get there). Turn left & park the car where you can. Walk around the area – there are some interesting shops. There’s kind of a central square in town (a good place for a latte if you’re ready for one). The south-west side of the square is Miller Ave. When you’re finished browsing, take Miller Ave. South. Shortly after the double road section of Miller Ave ends, take a right on Shoreline Highway – this is also the famous Ca Highway #1. Follow this to Muir Beach & Stinson Beach. This is a pretty drive. After a couple of miles past the Miller/Shoreline junction, there is a turnoff to Panoramic Hwy and the Muir Woods redwood grove. If you want to visit Muir Woods, do so but remember that it gets overwhelmed with day trippers from SF in the summer.

Continue on Shoreline (Hwy #1) past Muir Beach & on to Stinson Beach. There are some nice views of the ocean along this route. There’s a lookout over Muir Beach.

Stay on Hwy #1 past Stinson Beach. You will start to see a large land mass to your left (ocean side) This is Point Reyes National Seashore, where you could spend several days exploring the wildlife & natural beauty of this area. Drake’s Bay, on the west side of Pt Reyes, is where this Northern California area was first discovered – long before San Francisco Bay was discovered by Spanish explorers. Hwy #1 will go past a long lagoon (Tomales Bay). Just past the lagoon, Hwy #1 will turn inland.

Continue on Hwy 1 past Valley Ford. When it intersects the Bodega Highway, turn right (inland/east) & go to Bodega. This is where Alfred Hitchcock filmed several scenes from “the Birds”, including the schoolhouse scene.

If you are touring in the summer, there is a very good chance that you will be inundated by fog & not much of the coastline will be visible. If you have had enough fog, continue east on the Bodega Highway to Sebastopol. This is actually a nice drive (at the beginning). At Sebastopol, head north on #116 toward the Russian River. Just before Forestville, stop at Kozlowski Farms (on your left) if you want to pick up a sandwich. They have a large selection of jams, jellies, vinegar & other gourmet delights. Continue on #116 until it hits the Russian River at Guerneville (somewhat of an interesting town). Turn right & proceed east along the Russian River on River Road. I will continue to describe the remaining drive in the Wine Country section.

Back at Bodega, if the fog isn’t so bad & you want to see some more coast, stay on Hwy #1 to Bodega Bay. Continue north on #1 until it reaches Jenner. At Jenner, you can go north on #1 to Fort Ross to tour an early Russian fur trading fort – it is quite interesting. After visiting Fort Ross, return to Jenner & head east along the Russian River to Guerneville.

Wine Country
From Guerneville, head east along River Road. Stay on River Road as it crosses over the Russian River just past Hacienda – which will still be River Road. About 4 miles past crossing over the river, turn left on Wohler Road. You will start to see some vineyards now & there are some cute B&Bs close by. Stay on Wohler Rd as it crosses the river (again) on a very narrow 1 way bridge. Just past the bridge, turn right on to Westside Rd towards Healdsburg. You will see lots of vineyards on the way to Healdsburg.

You are now in the Sonoma County Wine growing area. In contrast to it’s more famous neighbor to the east (Napa), you will find the Sonoma wineries more inviting & less hectic – I actually like them better. In the Napa Valley, there are very few wineries where you can take a picnic lunch & spread out on the lawn. In Sonoma, they seem to go out of their way to invite you to use their facilities. On Westside Road, stop at Rochioli (one of the best Chards in Calif), Hop Kiln to see an interesting former kiln turned into a winery, and perhaps Armida, or Mill Creek. Just past Mill Creek winery, Westside Road will turn right (east) to head into Healdsburg just in front of the Madrona Manor. Turn left into the Madrona Manor Hotel, park the car & explore the lovely gardens & the exterior of this fantastic Victorian manor house. Go inside & poke your nose into some of the common rooms & pick up a brochure for your next visit to this area. It has a lovely dining room with excellent cuisine. It’s a popular wedding spot. Exit Madrona Manor and turn left and head north on West Dry Creek Road (not straight to Healdsburg).

You are now in the Dry Creek appellation of Sonoma County & it’s my favorite area in the wine country. Continue north on West Dry Creek Road (there’s a Dry Creek Rd which you will follow later). Stop at Lambert Bridge winery – this is one of the wineries that “invites” you to picnic on their lawn (they have lots of picnic tables). Just past Lambert Bridge winery, turn right on Lambert Bridge Rd & proceed a couple 100 yds to Pezzi King Winery. Stop & explore this winery too (great Zins). Return to West Dry Creek Rd & head north again. Continue on this road until you see a sign for Preston Vineyards. This is another winery that “invites” you to picnic. It has very pretty grounds – explore the outside bread oven, boules court, vegetable garden, flowers, and cats. The tasting room is quite nice – my wife likes their Rose wine. Return to West Dry Creek Road & continue north until the road ends. This is a pretty drive – would you like to own one of the houses near this dead-end? Turn around & head south. Turn left on Yoakim Road & then turn left (north) where it dead ends at Dry Creek Road. Proceed north on Dry Creek Rd & stop at Ferrari-Carano winery. This is the most "extravagant" winery in this area – it received a lot of criticism from locals (we know a few) when it was built. However, it is quite impressive. It has lovely gardens, a large “Tuscan” type villa, and a pretty tasting room (good Sauvignon Blanc). Exit Ferrari Carano & turn right (south) on Dry Creek Road towards Healdsburg. This is another pretty drive.

Healdsburg is our favorite town in the wine country – including anything in Napa. When you go under the freeway (on Dry Creek Rd) turn right when you hit Healdsburg Blvd & continue south until you see the town square – it’s obvious. Park the car & get out & explore. Tour the square & several blocks north & south of the square on Healdsburg Ave. There is a produce market Saturday morning west of the big hotel. This is a wonderful town to spend the night in. There is a new (overdone, in my opinion) large hotel (expensive) on the west side of the square – I think it’s called Healdsburg Hotel or something like that. There is also a B&B on the south side of the square & there are other B&Bs scattered throughout town. For dining in Healdsburg, we like Ravenous, Bistro Ralph, and Charcuterie which are all very popular with the locals. We also like Manzanita. Madrona Manor is less than 5 mins away, by car.

Day 2

If you’re staying near the square in Healdsburg, go to the Downtown Bakery (on the east side of the square) early in the morning & rub elbows with the (lucky) locals. Have a sticky bun &/or a scone. This bakery is very well known throughout the area. There are benches outside the bakery where the “bench bunch” meets each morning to chew the fat.

On to Napa Wine Country

Here is a beautiful drive that will get you to the Napa Valley. Head out north on Healdsburg Ave and once it gets out of town, it will curve to the right and connect with Alexander Valley Rd & passes Jimtown. This route goes through the beautiful Alexander Valley & Knights Valley. Turn right on Hwy #128 towards Calistoga. This section is lovely. Hanna is a nice winery to visit while driving through this area.

Proceed on to Calistoga.

Most tour books describe the Napa Valley thoroughly. As far as driving through this area is concerned, drive down Hwy 128 from Calistoga to Yountville and then east on Yountville Cross Rd to the Silverado trail & go south to Chimney Rock Winery. Turn around go north back to Calistoga on the Silverado Trail. Oakville Cross Rd, Rutherford Cross rd & the others linking #128 with the Silverado Trail are quite pretty.

There are lots of world famous wineries in this areas. I recommend visiting:

Robert Mondavi for the most complete tour on the grape growing & wine making process. Reserve a couple of days ahead at 707 968-2166 www.robertmondavi.com

Berringer for some lovely grounds & a very pretty Victorian “Rhine House”, but they don’t make wine at this site.

Sterling for the best views, but the line for the gondola ride to the tasting room will sometimes have a long wait.

Domaine Chandon to learn how Champagne (sparking wine) is made and for nice grounds & a lovely terrace to buy & taste some champagne & relax.

Neibaum-Coppola for the best gift shop & movie mementos (Francis Ford Coppola owns the winery) and very pretty buildings & grounds.

Silver Oak to taste the best Cabs (if available for tasting).

Clos Pegas for some unusual art & a lawn where you can picnic.

Silverado Vineyards for another good view of the Valley.

There are scads of great restaurants in the area. I find myself going back to:
Terra
Mustards
Martini House
Tra Vigne to wander around & pick up a picnic lunch (not a real fan of the cuisine). The building & grounds are quite nice. If you are not a “foodie”, this probably be the most fun place for a nice dinner in the Napa Valley.

Reserve at least a week ahead for all the above restaurants – perhaps more than 2 weeks ahead on summer weekends. Serious foodies will like Terra & Martini house the best & they are a little more formal. Families with kids will probably prefer Mustards or Tra Vigne.

Day 3

Perhaps catch a final winery on your way out of the Napa Valley. Mondavi opens at 9:00 and the first tour is a lot more calm & relaxed than later ones.

Go south on #29 towards San Francisco. Where #29 hits #121, go west on #121 (follow the signs to SF). Connect with #37 & then #101 back to SF.

Stu Dudley

StuDudley is online now  
Feb 24th, 2008, 12:01 PM
  #19  
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Thanks Stu for the information . I'm going to see if I can change my arrival date at the Madrona Manor to 5/3/08 for two nights then head over to Napa for 1 night. The hot air balloon ride is must for both of us and they say the place to do it is in Napa. Your drive sounds perfect so I'd like to follow it and that would mean going to Healdsburg first then Napa.

Thanks again, you are fantastic!
LindainFL is offline  
Feb 24th, 2008, 06:16 PM
  #20  
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Linda, Stu must love you........... & me!
 

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