Santa Monica to Petaluma by car.

Feb 10th, 2009, 07:20 AM
  #1  
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Santa Monica to Petaluma by car.

My wife and I will be spending four days visiting family near Petaluma. As we will have a rental car we plan to drive from Santa Monica however, we aren't sure how to plan this trip. We will be spending two nights with our family and have two extra days. Should we drive up on US 5 and get there quickly, and return leisurely on US 1 stopping over 2 nites? Or should we stop 1 night going and 1 night returning? Where do you suggest we stop?
allyboy is offline  
Feb 10th, 2009, 08:04 AM
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You can do the drive from Santa Monica to Petaluma in one day (about 8 hours). Save the two days for the southbound return trip. The views along Highway 1 are much better going north to south.

Start out either very early and take Interstate 405 northbound, then I-5. You'll be on I-5 for about 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Then take Highway 152 and head for Gilroy (about 45-60 min drive). Then take Highway 101 north.

You can either stay on Highway 101 all the way up to Petaluma or better take the scenic route.

In San Jose, from Highway 101 take Interstate 280 for San Francisco. This is a beautiful scenic drive. In San Francisco, follow the signs for Highway 1 or 19th Avenue which will take you in a straight line northbound (about 20 min). Then follow the signs for the Golden Gate Bridge and Highway 101. HIghway 101 will get you to Petaluma.

You do want to plan this trip to avoid peak traffic hours in both LA and San Francisco. Best to arrive in San Francisco no later than 3pm.
easytraveler is offline  
Feb 10th, 2009, 09:58 AM
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Have you considered flying from LAX or BUR or SNA to either SFO or OAK and renting a car there, to be dropped off back in L.A.?

Oakland would be better for getting to Petaluma, saves you going through SF on the way up. All rental locations at OAK airport are in the same place, you take a bus from the second aisle outside the terminal, and off you go.
DalaiLlama is offline  
Feb 10th, 2009, 11:20 AM
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Actually, I think the views are better going South to North. There are several nice views that you just don't see if you go north to south. AND (this is a big AND), if you do this drive about anytime except June or July, the sun will be in your face if you travel south - which can obscure the views. If it is not cloudy where you live, go outside now & look south. Then look north. Here where I live 20 mins from CA 1 (it's a Calif highway, not US 1) it is bright blue & clear looking north, and grey/white looking south and the hills are silhouetted & look grey.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
Feb 10th, 2009, 11:52 AM
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>>Oakland would be better for getting to Petaluma, saves you going through SF <<

Disagree - I worked near the Oakland airport for 5 years & lived in the City. That has got to be the Bay Area's ugliest drive. Horrible on 880. It gets worse past the Bay Bridge cutoff when it becomes 80. Worse yet over to 101. It can also become VERY congested.

I would rathar land at SFO & get on 380 to 280. Follow the signs to 19th ave, but get off at Brotherhood Way (stay in the right lane while on 280 or you may miss Brotherhood). After the cloverleaf, turn right on to Brotherhood, then right again on Lake Merced Blvd (nice drive by the lake), then right again on Sunset Blvd. This is a nice easy drive on Sunset. Sunset will dead-end in Golden Gate Park. Turn right in the park (go past a few lakes), then follow the road till it hits Crossover. There will be a stoplight at Crossover, and 2 left hand turn lanes. Turn Left & follow Crossover (stay in the right lane), and you will eventually find yourself going over the Golden Gate Bridge. I live about 5 mins past SFO, and it takes me 35-40 mins with little traffic to hit the GG Bridge, and 40-45 during rush hour.

Besides being a LOT more scenic (GG Park & GG Bridge) than driving from Oakland, I'm pretty sure driving this route from SFO will take less time.

From SFO if you take 101 to 80 west, to Octavia to Fell to Stanyan to Fulton to Park Presidio to the GG Bridge, you may get stuck in commute traffic or just normal heavy traffic. However, you'll drive past some pretty Victorian houses along the way.

Stu Dudley
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Feb 10th, 2009, 12:54 PM
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allyboy: how good is your sense of direction?

While I agree that Stu's route from Brotherhood on is a pretty drive, it's not as easy as it sounds.

I've lived in the Bay Area practically all my life, except for years spent out of town, like going to college. Yet half the time I get lost takign that Brotherhood route.

Get a good map of San Francisco if you plan to go that way!

Stu: I still like the north to south route on Highway 1. That's because coming the other way, I'm looking more at cliff faces than the open ocean.

Let's agree just to disagree!
easytraveler is offline  
Feb 10th, 2009, 01:01 PM
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>>I'm looking more at cliff faces than the open ocean.<<

I see !! - you must be the passenger (not the driver) most of the time.

The Brotherhood drive does snake around a bit. A map would sure make it easier to follow.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
Feb 10th, 2009, 04:15 PM
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BTW, Petaluma herself was absolutely gorgeous yesterday.
Sparkling sunshine after a decent rainfall overnight. Jackets were required as it was a tad windy.
FWIW-if you are heading north from SF on 101 during a weekday I would advise crossing the GG Bridge no later than 2:30 P-
2:00 P is even better. There is something about the 3 PM hour that causes the drive up here to be a slow slog until 6P or so.

R5
razzledazzle is offline  
Feb 10th, 2009, 07:23 PM
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Well, OP, in case you do consider flying, you now know your options.
I'd say go with the cheaper flight, and time it so you don't hit peak traffic - from either airport.
I did OAK to Petaluma five times last year and had zero trouble, just goes to show. But then I didn't do the trip as a commute when all the other working bees were humming along.
DalaiLlama is offline  
Feb 10th, 2009, 07:36 PM
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Stu: "I see !! - you must be the passenger (not the driver) most of the time."

Hard to say. We have gone hiking around Big Sur for many years and we always share the driving. but you're right - being the passenger going south to north I sometimes am holding my breath that we don't scrap some cliff on a steep turn.

hi, R5!\/

allyboy: take R5's advice. She lives in the North Bay and always gives excellent tips and advice. You can't go wrong with her posts.
easytraveler is offline  
Feb 11th, 2009, 03:27 PM
  #11  
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Thanks everyone for the suggestions! If we are to take our time driving back to Santa Monica (over two days) where would you suggest we stop over and do some exploring of the area? Any specific hotels, B&B's, restaurants to recommend? We are actually New Yorkers visiting our sons in Santa Monica and renting a car for our entire two week stay there.
allyboy is offline  
Feb 11th, 2009, 06:03 PM
  #12  
 
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Just one of many: On the way down, book lodgings in Cambria and book ahead for a tour of Hearst Castle - google it and see which tour attracts you.
DalaiLlama is offline  
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