Quick Coastal Trip - Gardens & Beaches?

Old Jun 11th, 2022, 06:23 AM
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Quick Coastal Trip - Gardens & Beaches?

We are thinking of doing a quick trip to the Pacific coast in early - mid July for about one week. Our desires are:

- easy direct flight from Denver
- short drive (one hour or so) to a hotel where we'll stay the entire time
- several nice botanical gardens to visit
- good coastal beach walking, preferably miles of beach where crowds would thin out.

I have not done much research but offhand thinking of Carmel or Santa Barbara, two places we have not been. We have been and loved: Pismo/Cambria, Crescent City/Trinidad, Cannon Beach, Olympic Peninsula.

I realize this is slightly last minute so depends on hotel and flight availability. Thanks.
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Old Jun 11th, 2022, 07:17 AM
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Here's my idea for what it's worth. Fly Southwest Airlines nonstop Denver to Oakland (NOT SFO). Stay 1 or two nights in the Oakland or Berkley area and see the University of California Berkley Botanical Gardens. Get a timed reservation for the UC Berkley Botanical Gardens. Their website is updated often with what is blooming.
The next morning get on the southbound Coast Starlight train from Oakland Jack London Square to Santa Barbara. The train leaves Oakland shortly after 9AM every day and arrives in downtown Santa Barbara a little after 6PM.
There are nice gardens around the famous mission at the top of the hill. The beach north of Santa Barbara near Goleta is usually not crowded.
Southwest has at least one non stop flight from Santa Barbara to Denver per day and several that stop and connect in Las Vegas.
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Old Jun 11th, 2022, 08:34 AM
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If it was me I'd fly to Vancouver BC, nonstop from Denver on United or Air Canada.

Gardens:

- Queen Elizabeth II Park gardens - partly built in a former quarry like those at Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island, but free and (IMO) equally gorgeous.
- Bloedel Conservatory, within QE2 Park - a huge glass house filled with tropical plants and birds. You've seen the exterior in many TV shows.
- Van Dusen Botanical Gardens - near QE2 Park, a stunning botanical complex complete with a maze.
- Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden - in Vancouver's huge Chinatown.
- Nitobe Memorial Garden - Japanese garden on the UBC campus.
- Stanley Park rose garden - stunning rose collection within famous Stanley Park.
- Of course this doesn't count all the forest parks around the city.

Beaches - There are numerous beaches within Vancouver itself - English Bay beach, Jericho, Spanish Banks, many others including clothing-optional Wreck Beach. Or, for a real treat, take the ferry from Horseshoe Bay over to either Bowen Island or the wonderful BC Sunshine Coast, both of which offer secluded beaches, hiking, picturesque little towns and a real "get-away" feel.




Last edited by Gardyloo; Jun 11th, 2022 at 08:41 AM.
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Old Jun 11th, 2022, 09:01 AM
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San Diego comes to mind. You have a choice of Frontier or United for nonstops. Lodging is likely a bigger constraint. It's popular with Arizona residents trying to escape the heat. So you might look for rooms first, then flights.

https://www.sandiego.org/campaigns/s...san-diego.aspx

I used to like walking along Torrey Pines State Beach in particular.

Last edited by mlgb; Jun 11th, 2022 at 09:26 AM.
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Old Jun 11th, 2022, 09:19 AM
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We don't really have botanical gardens on the Monterey Peninsula. Carmel has a very small native plant garden. The closest I can think of is the UCSC Arboretum in Santa Cruz which is nice. Starting from Del Monte Beach in Monterey is a very long stretch of sandy beach which continues for miles to the north. Other beaches are more of a combination of sandy coves interspersed with rocky shoreline. Many of these have a network of trails which are nice for walking. There's no lack of gorgeous coastal scenery and hikes here but with one exception we don't have very long stretches of wide sandy beaches if that's what you're looking for.

Carmel City Beach is about a mile long and can get very busy in summer except for early mornings.


Carmel River State Beach is a series of beaches which starts at the south end of Carmel and continues to the northern border of Point Lobos and is much quieter.

Last edited by Patty; Jun 11th, 2022 at 09:59 AM.
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Old Jun 11th, 2022, 11:54 AM
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Thanks all for the great ideas. I'll share with my wife, this is a birthday trip for her.

tomfuller, We want to stay put once we get there, so no trains on this trip. I did find this about Santa Barbara though. It's a possibility.
https://www.kcet.org/shows/socal-wan...-santa-barbara

patty, botanic gardens are specifically mentioned as requirement so I'll take Carmel off this trip list.

mlgb, San Diego, yes, thanks for that link. We were there Christmas-New Years 1993 and really enjoyed it. In fact we walked somewhere around La Jolla area, could have been Torrey Pines.

Gardyloo, Vancouver, not something I had thought of, but that got my pulse up. A negative is that it might be a bigger city than we want to deal with. Would you stay right in the downtown area?

Finally, if another desire was not needing a rental car, just use Uber / taxi, does that give Vancouver a leg up? Thanks.
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Old Jun 11th, 2022, 12:11 PM
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I think Maitaitom did a trip report on Lotus Land and it looked super cool. Santa Barbara also has a botanical garden and the zoo is pretty cool. Generally anything grows there so the plants are all amazing.
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Old Jun 11th, 2022, 12:58 PM
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My choices would be either Vancouver / Victoria or the Mendocino coast.

Victoria/Vancouver is pretty much self explanatory so I won't add much to that.

Not a lot of individual garden as such in Mendocino but the Botanic Garden in Ft Bragg is as good as many gardens in England plus the terrific coastla scenery https://www.gardenbythesea.org/?gcli...QaAk9YEALw_wcB

Then there is wine tasting here https://www.pacificstarwinery.com

Plus beaches galore, Glass Beach, the Pygmy Forest, etc etc. Easy-ish access to Redwoods at the Avenue of the Giants (About a 90+ minute drive up)

And Mendocino itself with artists and galleries and boutiques and restaurants.

Look at this place https://www.littleriverinn.com
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Old Jun 11th, 2022, 01:17 PM
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Ast to the Mendocino Coast, there are no nearby airports with nonstop flights from Denver.

Nearly 4 hours from SMF.

Last edited by mlgb; Jun 11th, 2022 at 01:22 PM.
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Old Jun 11th, 2022, 01:22 PM
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Southwest and probably others have direct flights from Denver to Santa Barbara. The Santa Barbara airport is close to Goleta but there is good bus service from the airport to downtown. The cheaper motel that we stayed at in that area was in Carpenteria.
FYI: the rose test gardens in Portland Oregon have fallen into disrepair. There is a nice arboretum in Seattle on the UW campus.
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Old Jun 11th, 2022, 01:26 PM
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Yes -- Mendocino is more than an hour's drive from STS . . . closer to 2 hours, but once there it would make a glorious week's stay.
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Old Jun 11th, 2022, 01:56 PM
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But ther are no direct flights from Denver to STS, are there?
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Old Jun 11th, 2022, 02:17 PM
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Alright already . . . SFO or OAK . . . the drive is then 3 hours. It was just a suggestion.
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Old Jun 11th, 2022, 02:30 PM
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If Vancouver is too big- try Victoria. Lovely city. Miles of beach walking, Butchart Gardens and also the Lieutenant Governors home and grounds. You could fly into Seattle and take a float plane to Victoria for a little more adventure
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Old Jun 11th, 2022, 03:25 PM
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Yes- I'd lean to Victoria over Vancouver (though there are terrific gardens in Vancouver) I've only been to Victoria twice but neither time did I rent a car. Now -- if I was going to explore way up the island a car would be good. Besides Buchart Gardens, Craigdarroch Castle which is super interesting then it is only a 5 or 6 minute walk downhill to Government House Gardens which are terrific. Plus Finnerty Botanic Garden. Afternoon tea at the Empress. The Royal BC Museum.
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Old Jun 11th, 2022, 05:28 PM
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Lotusland can be difficult, open four days a week, I think 4 tours a day for 16 tours/week, $50 each and reservation only.

The Pacific NW is really better for gardens though.
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Old Jun 11th, 2022, 05:43 PM
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Vancouver is a beautiful city. We've never rented a car in either Vancouver or Victoria but they were all short trips. With a week you could do both. Is the single base a requirement?
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Old Jun 11th, 2022, 07:31 PM
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Thanks much for all the thoughts and information I'll forward it on to my better half and see what she thinks.

Patty, I think the single base is a requirement for this trip.

I looked for a maitaitom Lotusland report, but no luck finding it. tom_mn, thanks for the heads up on tours there. I do agree Pacific NW gardens are hard to beat.
tomfuller, sorry to hear about the Portland rose garden. We were there in the '90's.

We have been to Victoria for a few days and loved, loved it. I would return for sure. (Most of our time on the island was west coast, Ucelet / Tofino.)

My gut feeling is to save Vancouver for another, longer trip when we have more time to prepare, and that Mendocino is too far from a direct flight airport. maybe a Victoria return or Santa Barbara for something new.
But I'll forward this info on and see where we go, no pun intended. Thanks again.

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Old Jun 12th, 2022, 08:43 AM
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My reason for recommending Vancouver over Victoria had to do (a) with the extent and the variety of botanical garden sites within striking distance (indeed, actually within) the city, and (b) the cost and time consumed in flying from Denver to Victoria. On that front, there are no nonstops, and most itineraries, at least those that are remotely affordable, require long en route connection times, some overnight, usually in Vancouver or Seattle.

It depends on how flexible the OP's requirements as stated might be. An hour's drive from a "nonstop" airport won't get you anywhere near the Mendocino coast, and while Butchart Gardens is certainly spectacular, it's pretty much one and done for the Victoria area, plus it's very expensive as well. I like Victoria as much as the next person (well, maybe not quite as much) but in the summer it can be awfully crowded, particularly in the afternoons when thousands of cruise passengers do their required "foreign port" call en route back to Seattle from Alaska.

Could Vancouver be visited without a rental car? Yes, I suppose so, although again it might depend on how flexible the OP is with the stated requirements. Without a car, getting to some empty beach for long walks is going to be much more complicated, obviously. If budget is no object, I suppose one could fly to some location on Howe Sound or to one of the (magnificent) Gulf islands between the mainland and Vancouver Island, but we don't have any indication that such would be the case.

The thing about Vancouver is that while yes, it's a big city (but nowhere as big as, say, San Diego) is that it's surrounded by a remarkable range of regions and activities easily accessed in day trips from a central base (i.e. a hotel or Airbnb, whatever, good for a week.) To the north are the coastal mountains, indented by Howe Sound, leading to the Sunshine Coast and/or Whistler (90 min. from the city.) To the west are the Gulf Islands, such as beautiful Salt Spring Island, with their laid back lifestyle. To the east, the Fraser River Valley contains vineyards and wineries, more parks and forest to explore; and to the south the Fraser River Delta offers such attractions as the fabulous Richmond Night Market, a massive gathering of Asian food stalls and cultural activities.

Right in town, in addition to the gardens, is the Bard on the Beach Shakespeare festival, with the principal plays held in an open-air theatre with the city skyline as backdrop. There's public art everywhere, terrific museums, great shopping (helped by the strong US dollar), the Granville Island and Punjabi markets, on and on. It's very urban, but minutes away from very un-urban forests and beaches. It's hard to match in North America. Just sayin'.

Now there are certainly other destinations where MOST of the OP's requirements could be met. My own city, Seattle, has a couple of excellent botanical resources including the University of Washington Arboretum with its Japanese garden, the little-known Kubota Gardens in south Seattle, and, on Bainbridge Island, a scenic half-hour ferry ride from downtown, the world class Bloedel Reserve, a stunning series of botanical environments located on a lumber magnate's estate. From a base either in Seattle or on Bainbridge Island, one could visit various gardens, and still have easy access to numerous beaches on the Kitsap or Olympic peninsulas, or on the likes of magnificent Whidbey Island. On Whidbey, Merkeerk Gardens is mostly all about rhododendrons and azaleas, thus not at its peak in July, but it's still very beautiful, and minutes from superb beach walks in Deception Pass, Fort Ebey or Fort Casey State Parks.



So I'll stop the sales pitch. I hope this doesn't promote any confusion or indecision.
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Old Jun 12th, 2022, 09:01 AM
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Searching on Fodor's is no joke these days...phew! But, I found it. Here's maitaitom's Lotus Land report:

https://travelswithmaitaitom.com/lot...ara-montecito/
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