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San Francisco, Monterey and Sonoma itinerary help

San Francisco, Monterey and Sonoma itinerary help

Jun 8th, 2013, 03:42 AM
  #1  
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San Francisco, Monterey and Sonoma itinerary help

My husband and I are planning our first trip to California in September. We are flying into San Francisco and our plan is to spend the first three nights in San Francisco, drive to Monterey for two nights, then drive to Sonoma / Napa area from Monterey for two days /nights to visit a couple of wineries..We plan to drive back to SF for the eighth night to catch our flight home. Do you think this is too much area to cover in eight days? Any advice is appreciated. Thank you in advance for your suggestions.
eblenwife is offline  
Jun 8th, 2013, 07:52 AM
  #2  
 
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That is a good division of time -- you could do the three destinations in any order and it would still work. Unless you are landing at night, I might consider doing Monterey first (an easy drive from SFO)

You could do the first three nights in Monterey/Carmel, then two nights in Sonoma and finish up w/ 3 nights in San Francisco.

This would have you packing and moving one less time.
janisj is online now  
Jun 9th, 2013, 11:34 AM
  #3  
 
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I agree with janisj. It's about a 2 hour drive from SFO down to Monterey (and a beautiful one over Hwy 17 if you like windy roads or down Hwy 1 if you like narrow coastal slow drives, either way is amazing). It would save some backtracking.

On your way up from Monterey (or down, depending on how you do it) I recommend a stop in Santa Cruz (biased, I live there). If you like corny but fun amusement parks, the boardwalk will still be open (if it's beginning of September) and it's a very small one right on the beach, Friday night concerts in the summer as well as Wednesday night movies (both free). Lots of great wineries in the Santa Cruz mountains as well that are not as well known as Napa/Sonoma, but really should be (except we like to keep them secret, less crowded that way). They are just as good and much less crowded and touristy - often the winemakers are there in the tasting room or around just to chat. There are also some amazing breweries: Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery, Sante Adairius, that you really shouldn't miss if you like beer.

Either way, it will be a beautiful trip that time of year - still warm but not hot and all the tourists are usually gone by September.
Steph_Haas is offline  
Jun 9th, 2013, 11:58 AM
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Yours is a very subjective question. As the posters above have explained, it is very doable. I personally would choose one or the other and spend more time in SF and the other chosen location. There is so much to see in all locations. On my first trip, we went to SF, up the coast through Point Reyes, stayed a night in Healdsburg, 3 nights in Napa and four nights in SF. I would only do all three locations if I thought I wouldn't be back in northern Ca again. Other trips since, we've done just SF or SF and Carmel/Monterey area. Whatever you decide, it will be wonderful. You can click on my name to see some of my TRs if you want. Going back in two weeks.
Centralparkgirl is offline  
Jun 9th, 2013, 04:30 PM
  #5  
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Thank each of you for your suggestions. Honestly, I had not even considered driving directly from SF airport to Monterey. We have purchased our airline tickets but I am beginning to think 8 nights is not enough. This could be our only trip to California and I was trying to see as much as possible. I know we want to go to SF and I think if we were choosing between Monterey and Sonoma/Napa area, our choice would be Monterey. Does anyone have an opinion about choice between Napa/Sonoma vs. Monterey?
eblenwife is offline  
Jun 9th, 2013, 05:23 PM
  #6  
 
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If you want to see vineyards and drink wine, you can do that in Monterey County and Carmel Valley. Or do just a day trip from SF to Sonoma or Napa. Don't pass up the Monterey/Carmel area. So beautiful.
MichelleY is online now  
Jun 9th, 2013, 05:44 PM
  #7  
 
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September is the very best time to visit us here. Sonoma and Napa are lovely, albeit crowded and expensive in September (harvest). It is also a large area. I actually prefer Sonoma county; in addition to wineries, you get historic towns, gorgeous redwoods, magnificent coastline -- all of which justify a few days to appreciate. I agree with Steph_Haas re: Santa Cruz area wineries and chance to experience bit of old fashioned Cali beach town. I would also suggest Carmel Valley (just a skip from Monterey, almost literally). It is lovely, uncrowded and more rustic than Napa Valley -- much as Napa was 30 years ago before the corporate winery boom, and can be done in a day. But, if Napa is a priority you can consider one of the many day-trip operators or limo services out of San Francisco. The advantage is you can enjoy the wine and not worry about driving, but you loose some flexibility.
Gosh, as I write this I've convinced myself to get to Carmel Valley in September!
NorCalNative is offline  
Jun 9th, 2013, 05:49 PM
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If you want to cut back destinations - Definitely 100% do SF and Carmel/Monterey/Big Sur. Especially in September. It is absolutely the best weather of the year along the coast.
janisj is online now  
Jun 9th, 2013, 06:10 PM
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"100% do SF and Carmel/Monterey/Big Sur" - I agree. It has all you want to see and do.
DebitNM is offline  
Jun 9th, 2013, 06:23 PM
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Meant to add - this is a wonderful B&B. We have stayed twice and simply love it!

http://thesevengablesinn.com/
DebitNM is offline  
Jun 9th, 2013, 06:41 PM
  #11  
 
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Absolutely agree with janisj and Debit. I stayed in the Seven Gables last fall (thanks for the rec, Deb) and it is wonderful. Top priority for a short trip would be Big Sur, of course, Point Lobos and the Monterey Aquarium. If you divide your trip into 3 days Carmel and 5 SF, I would suggest renting a car the the day in SF and drive over the GG Bridge one morning. Visit Muir Woods (redwoods) and Muir Overlook (incredible coastal views), lunch in Sausalito and drive up to Golden Gate National Recreation area for the incredible views of the bridge, bay and city. You'll be back late afternoon. That was a magical day for me.
Centralparkgirl is offline  
Jun 9th, 2013, 07:41 PM
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Actually - a drive across the bridge is good - but I wouldn't recommend squeezing in Muir Woods. There are redwoods near Carmel and Santa Cruz w/o the crowds at Muir Woods.
janisj is online now  
Jun 9th, 2013, 08:29 PM
  #13  
 
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janisj - where are there redwoods near Carmel? I will be there the end of this month. And are they as nice as Muir Woods? Thanks for any info.
Centralparkgirl is offline  
Jun 10th, 2013, 04:31 AM
  #14  
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We have rented a car for our visit to Monterey/Big Sur after spending the first three nights in SF. Thanks to the forum suggestions we will probably spend three nights in Monterey, drive back to SF for the last two nights. We make take the suggestion of Centralparkgirl and take a day trip or two from SF in lieu of the two nights in Sonoma/Napa. I am interested in janisj response in re: redwoods in Carmel in comparison to Muir Woods. We appreciate any info available from this forum. Thanks.
eblenwife is offline  
Jun 10th, 2013, 06:30 AM
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Pfeiffer, Julia Pfeiffer Burns, and Limekiln state parks all have redwoods - Pfeiffer being the most extensive/best

Up near Santa Cruz is is Henry Cowell Redwoods state park.

IMO Pfeiffer is a better experience than muir woods which is often very crowded .
janisj is online now  
Jun 10th, 2013, 08:01 AM
  #16  
 
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I think a fun thing to do is kayak Monterey Bay- they provide all the gear. You will see sea otters, sea lions, seals- lots of birds. We went with a group and a guide- very fun.

I like Sonoma area for wine tasting better than Napa- it seems more laid back and I thought the country side was prettier. Had a great trip there last Nov.

So much to see and do in the area-
sunbum1944 is offline  
Jun 10th, 2013, 09:59 AM
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I've been going hiking in Big Sur for years. Here's a map of the various locations in Big Sur:

http://www.bigsurcalifornia.org/pdf/...Map2012-13.pdf

The first stop would be Point Lobos State Reserve. It is just slightly north of Big Sur but is considered the "crown jewel" of California State parks. It's utterly beautiful, but the best time to go is when the sun is shining. There are easy to moderate trails. The main trail is wheelchair friendly. If you get there when it's not sunny, be sure to bring a jacket. Even though it's September, it's along the coast and it can get COLD. No redwoods.

http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=571

The best state park in Big Sur for your purposes of viewing redwoods would be Pfeiffer Big Sur. If you really wanted to "go rustic", there are cabins at PBS for rent. It is inland, so is less affected by coastal fog and it has easy to difficult trails, short to very long trails. It also has the best ranger station to acquaint you with local flora and fauna. Get their trail map and just go hike!

http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=570

Just a short drive (~2 to 3 miles) south of Pfeiffer Big Sur is Nepenthe. The view on a clear day is drop-dead gorgeous, the food so-so. Many people stop just for the view, although once I had their steak special and it was wonderful. As you drive south on Highway 1 from Pfeiffer Big Sur, the first view of the ocean, look for the entrance to Nepenthe on the right. It's hard to turn back if you miss the entrance.

http://www.nepenthebigsur.com/

You could go further south to see the McWay Waterfall at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park but this time of year, there's not much water. You could also go further to Limekiln, which is the furtherest south of the State Parks to view redwoods, but it's not worth driving all that distance, unless you plan on going further south to see Hearst Castle.

Here's an easier to use map of Big Sur:

http://tinyurl.com/n5cg35w

As for beaches, Pfeiffer Beach is quite beautiful, but it's hard to get to. I'd suggest that if you are spending a night at the Seven Gables in Pacific Grove, that you find yourself early in the morning to Carmel Beach and watch the dogs having the time of their lives! 7am is a good time, otherwise, stay in Carmel which is beautiful and fun in itself.

One last recommendation and that is the 17-Mile Drive. There's really nothing like it, especially the area around the Pebble Beach Golf Course. Stop off at The Lodge at Pebble Beach, just walk through the lobby to look at the golf course by the Lodge. Or, if you like seafood and your budget allows for it, get a bite at the Stillwater Bar and Grill at the Lodge and get a table overlooking the golf course. For me, it's a double-S "serenity and serendipity".

Enjoy! And welcome to the Bay Area!
easytraveler is offline  
Jun 10th, 2013, 10:03 AM
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Oops, left out the link to the 17-Mile Drive:

http://www.pebblebeach.com/activitie.../17-mile-drive
easytraveler is offline  
Jun 10th, 2013, 04:36 PM
  #19  
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Thank you Easy Traveler for taking the time to share the info about Big Sur and surrounding area. The suggestion to stop at The Lodge(Pebble Beach) for lunch sounds great. The links you included are a big help. Everything sounds beautiful.
eblenwife is offline  
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