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backyardsunshine Jul 13th, 2009 09:53 PM

San Francisco, MuirWood, Point Reyes, Sonoma Coast, Napa and Halfmoon

We are going to SF in August with two teens. Although SF city has a lot to offer, we are more interested in the area's coastal drives and vineyards.

We are thinking driving out of SF, first stop to MuirWood, continue to Point Reyes. Then head north along hwy 1 to Sonoma Coast passing Bodega Bay. After this we turn to napa.
I know people said it gets busy in Napa. But, I have wanted to visit Robert Mondavi and Beringer forever. Since we will pass sonoma, maybe we can add one more along the way? I prefer quality to quantity.

How many days should I plan for this section of the route? Are two days enough? I think my kids would really like to see the big trees in Muir Wood. So we might spend a bit longer time there, and Point Reyes Bodega bay is well known to my family because of Alfred Hitchcock. Should we spend the night there before heading further north? Where do you suggest we should stop traveling up north and turn heading east to Napa? Is Jenner a good place to turn?

If I have one whole day to spare before our flight at night at SF airport, is it too much to drive down to halfmoon bay before stopping by and taking a peek at Stanford Univ? Or I should save halfmoon for next trip?

Many thanks for whatever input you can give.

Parrothead Jul 13th, 2009 11:32 PM

Wow, lots to deal with here but I'm willing to try to help!!

You don't really say how many days you have total to do this trip so I am assuming you have only a few days. Since driving the coast is your thing then you could make a good full day out of going from SF to Muir Woods to Point Reyes to Bodega Bay to Healdsburg, it will be a long day but you could do it.

Go over the Golden Gate Bridge and take Highway 101 to Highway 1 north toward Muir Woods
Then proceed on Highway 1 north to Point Reyes
Continue north on 1 to Bodega Bay
Just before Jenner go inland east on 116 toward Guerneville.
In Guerneville, veer off of 116 and stay on River Road heading east. Take a left onto Westside Road and follow it into Healdsburg. Anywhere along the line makes a good place to stop for the night depending on how much time you have. Much of the road between Guerneville and Healdsburg follows the Russian River, there are many wineries on this route. This very scenic itinerary is about 140 miles and 4 hours of total driving time.

From Healdsburg you can go south on 101 and cut over to Calistoga on Mark Springs Road south of Windsor or continue further south on 101 to Santa Rosa and cut over to the city of Napa using 12 east. Beringer is in St. Helena and Mondavi is in Oakville which is a bit south of St. Helena along Highway 29. Calistoga is the north end of Napa's wineries on Highway 29, Napa is on the south end and St. Helena and Oakville are in between along the 29 route. In Napa Valley, you'll find most of the wineries along Highway 29 and Silverado Trail. When you get there stop at a tourist office for maps and literature, the roadside tourist offices are well marked. My favorite wineries in Napa Valley are Duckhorn and Mumm.

You should check ahead and make reservations for Mondavi, they have a thing about no children under 13.

As for your question about your last day before the night flight out of SFO. Again, it would be a long car day if you're starting out in Napa area, I'm not sure from your post. But if you are, you could leave Napa Valley and head to Half Moon Bay, then south to Palo Alto for a peek at Stanford and then finally north again to the airport. This would get you some more driving time along the ocean but, IMO Half Moon Bay should be done another time since it is not on the route from Napa to Palo Alto.

backyardsunshine Jul 14th, 2009 04:15 AM

Thank you, Parrothead, for the detailing routes to drive. Very helpful. We have a total of 6 days in the area. But the last day is the "spare day". We probably will just spend 1 whole day in SF downtown including visiting Alcatraz. We will save golden bridge on the next day out on the way to Muir wood.

In this case, should I plan for 2 days on the coastal line before heading to Napa?

janisj Jul 14th, 2009 06:02 AM

2 nights on the coast, two nights in the Napa area, and 2 nights in San Francisco would be a good division IMO. I would book your coastal and Napa accommodations ASAP - like a month ago!

But do be prepared for a bit of disappointment on the coast. August can be quite foggy/cool or even cold. It will likely be very warm to HOT in Napa, but just over the coast range it can be 30-40 degrees cooler and foggy much of the day. Of course you could luck out and have glorious weather --

janisj Jul 14th, 2009 06:09 AM

Definitely the wineries in San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties over Napa/Sonoma -- closer to where you are staying, mostly free tasting, and MUCH less crowded than. Also Big Basin over Muir Woods. A bigger park and less crowded.

Big yes for Angel Island.

sf7307 Jul 14th, 2009 08:50 AM

As for your spare day, Half Moon Bay the town is a nice stop for lunch (San Benito deli for sandwiches, which you can eat in town or take to the beach), and a little window-shopping -- give it an hour or so. Half Moon Bay is only 15 minutes west of the 280 freeway, so when you're done there, you can return to Hwy 280, and continue the additional 15 minutes or so down to Stanford (which is 3 miles or so east of 280)

traveller1959 Jul 14th, 2009 10:30 AM

>>>I prefer quality to quantity. <<<

Then skip Mondavi and Beringer - they are huge tourist-traps.

Sonoma Valley is MUCH more beautiful - and has lots of very good wineries which offer more intimate experiences than Mondavi and Beringer with their busloads.

E.g. in Kenwood, Chateau St. Jean and Kunde are good places to taste quality (choose their reserve tastings). Besides, Sonoma is a beautiful town full of history.

janisj Jul 14th, 2009 10:43 AM

oops - my second post was meant to be on a different thread . . .

this one

sorry . . . .

backyardsunshine Jul 14th, 2009 11:21 AM

Thank you, traveller1959, janisj and sf7307 for your inputs. Kenwood is the one we are thinking to add on the way to Napa, since we drink it all the time. I am not sure if I can skip Mondavi or Beringer, even when facing the "traps". I am such a fan of them.

And I really appreciate your pointing out foggy/cool in August along the coast. Haven't built that into my plan.

I know we will have a lot to soak in and have a wonderful time there. This is basically a sampling trip for my teens. (Of course, the vineyards are for me.) One of them actually is considering going to school there in a few years. That's why we want to peek at Stanford and/or Berkley. There are so many sites/scenes that we will miss. So I'm sure we will be back again.

sf7307 Jul 14th, 2009 11:39 AM

Berkeley and Stanford (both the campuses and the towns) are so different from each other that I'd recommend peeking at both if you have the time.

txbluesky Jul 14th, 2009 04:24 PM

I will add my two cents although I have only been a visitor several times and do not have the vast experience of some of these nice local people.

I completely agree with traveler1959. We even pulled into some unknown (to us) local wineries and had a great time. It is fun to just explore & go with the flow. I personally did not enjoy the "tourist trap" wineries at all. What is the name of that corner "store" that you buy picnic supplies? cheese & salame and bread and of course a split of wine! They had tables or you could throw a blanket. It was perfect!

Parrothead, you have some great suggestions! We decided to take the road from Healdsburg across to the shore at Stewart Point then into Bodega Bay (I think it is Stewarts Point-Skaggs Springs Rd). It took a couple of hours but it was one of the most memorable views of my life! We popped out of the redwoods at sunset with the pacific ocean it was breathtaking! Just don't miss the stop sign... A word of advise though. Make sure you fill up the tank. It is longer than you might think and there are not a lot of choices for fuel! That route is for those who like the road less traveled. I wonder if anyone one else has done the trip?

sf7307 Jul 14th, 2009 06:25 PM

Oakville Grocery?

spirobulldog Jul 14th, 2009 06:56 PM

We did a similar trip not including Napa in March. You can do Muir Woods in 1/2 day(we were suprised by how much we enjoyed this area). I could have easily spent 2 days @ Point Reyes. Hike McClures Beach @ Low Tide to see tons of animals. Would have also liked to have hiked the trail where the waterfall empties into the ocean(can't remember the name. We also enjoyed Golden Gate Park, Segway Tour, Night Tour @ Alcatraz, Dim Sum, cable cars, and Chinatown.

Suzette85 Jul 15th, 2009 06:00 PM

I agree with above - skip Berringer and Mondavi. Here are some muhc better wineries -
> Vinsana. This is one of the first when you drive into Napa. Their grounds are beautiful, they have excellent food and you can have lunch there.
> Duckhorn on the Silverado trail is my favorite tasting. Great room, great wine. You sit at a table and taste some great wine.
> V Sattui is pretty touristy, but good wine and excellent italian deli
> Hanna is a smaller winery, but great views
> Hop Kiln outside Healdsberg is excellent. Great, inexpensive wines, gourmet foods, off the beaten path. There are some great wineries in the area around Hop Kiln and it is much quiter.

There is a reataurant called Mustards in Napa which is well known and excellent.

Good luck!

Supercilious Jul 16th, 2009 05:32 PM

Wow, there are some really negative comments above!

Quite often the people who dump on the better known wineries and promote their favorite out-of-the-way places, are people who really don't know much about wine. To say that Viansa and Sattui are better places to visit than Robert Mondavi and Beringer is ludicrous. Neither of them have the history, reputation, and quality portfolio that Beringer and Mondavi have.

sunshine-if you have always wanted to see Beringer and Mondavi, then by all means go. Try to avoid weekend afternoons when they are most crowded. Go in the morning, if you can. Both are beautiful wineries, have been the setting for several films, and both make excellent wines. They are also an interesting contrast: with Beringer's century old caves and Rhinehouse and Mondavi's ultramodern facility disguised in its mission architecture.

I think Kenwood is a good choice too. There's a great road you can take from Oakville (where Mondavi is) over to Kenwood in the Sonoma Valley. It's quite scenic although also very windy (in case you might get carsick-be warned).

JayZee Jul 16th, 2009 10:46 PM

I agree - definitely go to Mondavi & Beringer! Great tours & ambiance at both places. In the Dry Creek area try Ferrari-Carano with beautiful gardens for a picnic.

razzledazzle Sep 14th, 2009 01:55 PM

Ummm..lisamann -the OP already went on the trip,
last month....


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