SF-Monterey-Carmel-Big Sur-Napa Ideas please

Old Mar 24th, 2004, 07:27 PM
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SF-Monterey-Carmel-Big Sur-Napa Ideas please

I am part way through planning a trip to California, a return by my wife and myself after two trips about 20 years ago, when we saw the prominent places between SF and LA plus Napa-Sonoma and Yosemite and the Winchester Mystery House. We like wine, good food, art, etc. and like to walk but are not hikers. Some parts of the trip are pre-arranged for us and are unchangeable: We fly into San Francisco from JFK, arriving on a Thursday afternoon, and pick up our rental car. The next 4-5 days are not yet planned. Then we have a room at a fancy Napa inn Tues PM thru Fri Am, which will satisfy most of the need for fine wine and food. Fri night through Monday AM will be in San Francisco, more fine food, I suspect, and, courtesy of Priceline, we'll pay for the food with the savings on the hotel. Monday afternoon: Back to NYC.

So, the question is, how to handle the beginning of the trip. We are thinking of somehow starting with the Sausolito - Muir Woods area, then heading south to Monterey -Carmel area, then drive the Big Sur coast. We would then need a nice way north to arrive in Napa Tuesday. This suggests Thurs PM and Fri Am for the Sausolito Muir area, Fri PM and Sat getting to and seeing Monterey area, possibly including a stop along the way at Ridge Vineyards (a favorite winery of ours), and Point Lobos Park, then Heading down Big Sur Sunday, stopping at Nepenthe again.

So, the question is, what to do Monday to Tues Am on our way back up to Napa? Should the Big Sur leg go all the way south to the end of the cliffside route, or is there a way over the mountains in the middle and something nice to see and do on the way north, or retrace Big Sur north, or what? Or maybe do the Saus-Muir stuff on the way to Napa and head south from the start?

Is this sounding reasonable? Or is my perception of geography and distance so distorted by time and the hazey memory effects of watching the sun set over the Pacific 20 years ago. Come to think of it, we ought to do that again. Suggested sites?

Any ideas? Any feasible rearrangement of the changeable portion of our trip will be considered, and we will entertain suggestions for more time to the north and less to the south, if it sounds particularly attractive.

Thanks!
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Old Mar 25th, 2004, 09:01 AM
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It obviously depends on what you like. I personally enjoy the natural beauty of N. Calif more than the city life. So, since you are already going to be in the city some, I would vote to skip san jose, say, and spend as much time as possible in the big sur/carmel/monterey area--there is a huge variety of things to do--if you drive about 10 miles south of big sur, there is esalen (where you can stay overnight if they have room even if you aren't doing a workshop) and an interesting monastery on a spectacular hill overlooking the pacific. I enjoy taking pictures, and always enjoy doing that in the carmel/big sur area. The carmel beach is great. Ventana in big sure is a nice retreat. Or, more affordable is the big sur lodge in the park. The highlands Inn in carmel is pretty fabulous.
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Old Mar 25th, 2004, 10:12 AM
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So far so good. Doing the area around Sausalito from San Francisco when we are only in SF for 3 days is less useful, as I am not a fan of staying in one place just to leave it for day trips. I'm also taking a pass on San Jose (I did follow the recent deleted post escapades) and I've been following the posts on the coastal areas I've mentioned in my initial post. What I would like is more new ideas and practial advice considering it's been a long while since I've been to California.

Thanks again!
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Old Mar 25th, 2004, 10:55 AM
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My 2cents is to go with your thought about doing the Sausilito/Muir woods in conjunction with the Napa portion of your trip after you have been to Carmel/Big Sur. Will save some backtracking. You could head for the Monterey Penninsula straight from SFO--as an East Coaster I will assume that a 2 hour drive is not a big deal to you (that seems to be the case with most East Coast people I know anyway). Then it would depend on how much time you want to spend in Sausilito/Muir Woods. It would be doable on your way to Napa on Tues assuming a late arrival at you hotel or you could stay Monday night in west Marin at some place like the Pelican Inn, for example and explore at your leisure. That would leave you with 3 whole days in Carmel/Sur. Assuming that you don't want to drive all the way to Hearst, you should able to to do quite a bit of exploring by staying in Carmel.
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Old Mar 25th, 2004, 04:16 PM
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Hi, AJ!

Glad you are making it out our way again! Hope the memories are made better by a second visit!

I'd agree with SAB that you should do Muir Woods along with Sonoma. Otherwise, you will be heading NORTH of SF, then SOUTH of SF, then NORTH of SF. It'd be better to head SOUTH for three days, then go NORTH for several days, and end up in SF as you had planned.

You didn't say when you will be arriving in SF. Time of arrival is pretty key.

The best way to get from SFO to Monterey is to head as soon as possible for Highway 1 and the coast. Then, you drive straight down Highway 1 until you reach Monterey. This way you avoid the traffic jams in San Jose. Besides, you might be able to see a beautiful sunset somewhere along the way!

First night in Monterey/Pacific Grove/Carmel. The next day, do the Aquarium and Big Sur or just do Big Sur. The only things to plan around are the morning fog, if any, and not driving the curvy road in Big Sur after dark. There are plenty of other things to do and see. Carmel is a place to walk around in; there's also the Mission at Carmel.

If you do start out late for Big Sur, you might consider spending your second night in Big Sur itself.

Check out pelicannetwork.com for a lot of information on Big Sur.

After a couple of full days in Monterey/Big Sur area (you do not need to go further south than Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park), start thinking of heading back north to SF.

I see you like Priceline. There are a couple of very neat IYH hostels on Highway 1. One is at the lighthouse at Pigeon Point. It's not really in the lighthouse itself, but in a set of bungalows at the base of the lighthouse. They have rooms which will accommodate two people only.

Another youth hostel is at Montara Point, also near the lighthouse there. I don't know much about this hostel as I haven't gone there in years and can't remember much about the hostel, except its wonderful location.

If you stop somewhere north of Monterey on the night of your northbound journey, you can start out early the next morning, driving along Highway 1 right straight through San Francisco, cross the Golden Gate Bridge, and find yourselves in Marin County. Driving Highway 1 in San Francisco is not bad at all and should take you from 20-40 minutes.

The Golden Gate Brige is Highway 101. The moment you are across the GG Bridge, take the first exit on the right to the Viewpoint. Awesome view.

AFter you exit the Viewpoint, take the next exit to the right. It'll say "Alexander Road". Once off the freeway, the road splits. Take the LEFT branch which will take you under the freeway. Once on the other side of the freeway, the road splits again. Take the RIGHT lane to the Marin Headlands. Up at the top of the hill, park along the road and walk up to the old batteries. Another awesome view.

Retrace your steps under the freeway and back onto Highway 101. Follow the signs carefully for Muir Woods.

After Muir Woods, follow Highway 1 northbound again and visit Point Reyes. Night in the Point Reyes area.

If you have one more day at this stage, I'd suggest continuing northbound on Highway 1. Stay one more night along the coast in Northern California.

When you are ready to go to Sonoma,take Highway 1 until you have to turn eastward to catch Highway 101 for your Sonoma hotel.

There are plenty of suggestions for hotels and places to visit on Fodors, so I wouldn't repeat anything unless you specifically ask. Fodorites are very helpful.
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Old Mar 25th, 2004, 04:29 PM
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AJ,
I wanted to let you know that Ridge has opened a second tasting room up in the Dry Creek area of Sonoma country. They were still very much under construction when I was last there (which was at least a year and the website says no picnic facilities, so I doubt it's as cute as their south bay site, but might be of interest to you since you specifically mentioned being a fan.

Like all the other folks, I'd say go south directly before coming north. Why backtrack if you don't have to?

Since you're not big hikers, Muir Woods will only take about an hour of your time, so I don't think it will impact your trip to Napa that much.

The lighthouse cafe in Sausalito has always had an awesome breakfast. They may also serve an awesome lunch. I don't know, but it might be something to check out while you're in Sausalito. Otherwise, you might want to head another exit up to Tiburon and have lunch at Guaymas after visiting the big trees in Muir Woods. Guaymas is right at the tip of Tiburon and has a lovely view out on the bay.
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Old Mar 25th, 2004, 06:17 PM
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I don't usually disagree with easy, but in one instance I do. After a flight from the East Coast arriving in the afternoon, I think it might be wise to take the quickest route to the Monterey Penninsula which is not 1. Opinions vary on this but I think 101 to 156 to 1 (depending on how early in the afternoon you arrive) might be your best bet. I readily admit that I'm not familiar with when mid Penninsula and South Bay traffic starts to back up--maybe someone without an agenda for that area can provide some meaningful guidance. I usually take 280/85/156/1 from SF to Monterey even when I'm picking someone up from SFO because I like driving 280.
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Old Mar 25th, 2004, 07:34 PM
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Hi, SAB!

No problemo! Good point!

I actually started out with the same route as yours, but then cancelled it after thinking about the traffic issue. They will run into traffic down here in Silicon Valley, unless they are arriving at 1pm and leaving SF car rental area by 2pm. That'll place them in San Jose around 3pm, just before rush hour traffic starts.

Any time after that and for the next four hours or so, they could run into traffic problems. Also I was thinking they would be tired after a cross country flight, so traffic would be the last thing they would want to run into.

AJ also talked about remembering a California sunset and, as you know, the sunsets along the coast are spectacular.

Anyhow, SAB, that was just my one person's thought processes. I'm certain AJ would appreciate some other route, as long as it doesn't lead him astray! Certainly worth bringing up!
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Old Mar 26th, 2004, 06:58 AM
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To get back on topic here:

There's a great thread on directions to the coast from San Francisco Airport.

In the Search box above just type in "San Francisco Airport directions to Pacifica". Several alternate routes are mentioned, one is only 15 minutes long.

Well, I gotta get to work. Hope we haven't swamped you with too much information!
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Old Mar 26th, 2004, 03:12 PM
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AHA ! More good ideas, and the required visitation from the multiple personality crowd(s).

So we move the Sausalito etc. stuff to the northward to Napa leg. We start by going from SFO to the coast (thanks for the different route suggestions and the link), with choice of route and distance determined by how much napping happens on the plane. Sounds like we'll hit rush hour, so it will feel like home!

I also found a suggested tour southward down the coast and back up inland on www.visitcalifornia.com that will fit in well.

Thanks to all of you for your help, even if some of you are one of you. I will monitor for more posts, too.
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Old Mar 27th, 2004, 01:11 PM
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Uh oh !

Now they'll pull the thread.

I printed out the good stuff already, tho.

I prefer travel information, not arguments and flames.

Bye!
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