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California Coast Road Trip

cheshire
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380 posts
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California Coast Road Trip

I'm in the early stages of planning a road trip from SF to LA. I want to take about a week over it to give us time to stop off in one or two places to explore a little. Monterey/ Carmel, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara seem to stand out, but are they the best choices? Also any suggestion on lodgings overnight?

Thanks

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Monterey
Monterey
Monterey County, CA
Carmel
Carmel
Monterey County, CA
San Luis Obispo
San Luis Obispo
San Luis Obispo County, CA
Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara
California
Pacific Grove...
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for Monterey, Carmel, Pacific Grove, Monterey County
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1. Re: California Coast Road Trip

Those stops sound good to me. I'll be happy to help you with lodging in the Monterey area. Can you tell me what month you're thinking about (that can make a difference in price and availability); what kind of lodging--hotel? motel? B&B?; and your price range and any preferences you have.

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Monterey
Monterey
Monterey County, CA
Pacific Grove...
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2. Re: California Coast Road Trip

p.s. and how many nights in the Monterey area? At certain times of the year and on weekends, there is often a 2-night minimum at a lot of places. It's possible to work around that, though.

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Monterey
Monterey
Monterey County, CA
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3. Re: California Coast Road Trip

What is your budget for lodging? In Monterey there is the Plaza Hotel & Spa that we love, in Carmel the Tickle Pink Inn, Highland's Inn, La Playa are all places we have enjoyed. Cambria is another place you may want to research, a charming coastal town that is quiet and relaxed. www.centralcoast. com :)

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Tickle Pink Inn
Tickle Pink Inn
1,176 Reviews
Carmel, CA
La Playa Carmel
La Playa Carmel
947 Reviews
Carmel, CA
Monterey
Monterey
Monterey County, CA
Carmel
Carmel
Monterey County, CA
Cambria
Cambria
San Luis Obispo County, CA
cheshire
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380 posts
41 reviews
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4. Re: California Coast Road Trip

Thanks for your input everyone. We're looking at early September next year. It's one sector of a five week trip, so we can't let the budget get off the radar! Probably max around $100, maybe $125. Of course in some places that may be plenty, but in others it'll be too optimistic. Most of our US travels have been on the eastern side, and we don't know a lot about costs etc in CA.

For what it's worth we're looking at an overall route to take in SF, wine country, maybe the big trees, definitely Yosemite, then the coast, LA, San Diego, the desert lands and maybe tag on Vegas, although that could just be an expensive "to say we've been there" and we might be better off doing Death Valley, Sequioa before coming home. We'll probably put in a couple of week stops along the way so that we don't get burnt out!

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southern California
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5. Re: California Coast Road Trip

You are about to experience some of the best scenery in the world! Plan to take your time between Monterey and Cambria. Monterey and Pacific Grove and the famous 17-Mile Drive through Pebble Beach are have lots to offer, and then things slow down a bit in the tiny village of Carmel, where you'll be happy just to stroll the streets and window shop and dine in the fine restaurants or cozy corner coffee shops.

Then you must shift to very low gear and savor the most incredible 60 miles of coastline in the state. Some sublime ways to appreciate this wonder: over a glass of wine in the bar at the Post Ranch Inn; over a hearty meal at Nepenthe; on a hike down to one of the many public beaches; from a hot tub at a roadside inn. Definitely NOT at maximum posted speed limit along the twisty roads, and definitely not at night, and preferably not at a time of day when the sun will be in your eyes. Take your time, for you'll not pass scenery like this again soon. Tickle Pink, Post Ranch, and Ventana are all super high-end inns in the heart of this beautiful land.

Once you have hit the flatlands south of Gorda, the first stop you might consider is for one of the 3 tours offered at are Hearst Castle (okay, it's touristy, but even seasoned travelers would appreciate the colossus of connoisseurship that Hearst's cottages represent). Look for the wild animal descendants of Hearst's menagerie roaming the surrounding grounds. Cambria, just to the south, offers cozy accommodations and some nice dining, but there's not much here to merit stopping more than overnight unless you're a hiker. If you're a wine taster, check out the wineries in the Paso Robles area between Highway 1 and 101.

At this point it's a toss-up whether you want to take to Highway 1 or 101 down coast to San Luis Obispo, where the roads merge. There are some charming coastal towns along the 1 that might merit some quick stop-offs, including Cayucos.

San Luis Obispo's mission and downtown show some loving care over recent years. I've enjoyed nice meals in the downtown restaurants that face the main street and have back patios under the trees facing the mission and central park.

Continue south on 101 past the sprawling suburbs of Santa Maria. The little town of Los Alamos (just a block or so long) may interest antiques-hunters on the right side of the highway. Otherwise, keep your eyes peeled for the turnoff on the left side of the highway for Highway 154 to Los Olivos. This old post road is loaded with serendipitous charms and you'll want to allow plenty of daylight time to get a little lost and meander through all the wineries and the little town of Los Olivos. Pick up a Santa Ynez Valley winery map anywhere and follow your bliss. High end lodging in Los Olivos, and more standard lodging the closer you get back to the 101 in Buellton.

You can choose to continue on 154 past Lake Cachuma (and if you do so, keep a sharp eye out for historic marker signs directing you to the Cold Springs Tavern, where you must stop for a glorious Tri Tip sandwich and libations and some good-natured roadside tavern atmosphere) and continue south until the road meets up with the 101 at the north end of Santa Barbara.

Or, you can turn left onto 246 from the 154 and continue west through Santa Ynez (hot air ballooning, more wineries, pretty valley views) and Solvant (windmills and all things Dutch) and out through Buellton to the 101. From the 101 south, it's just a long drive along the coast to Santa Barbara. (If there have been good rains, the waterfall at Nojoqui can make an interesting little stopover -- the falls are easily accessible by trail and a short hike.)

Santa Barbara has lots to offer. Best accommodations are either along the waterfront, or high up on the hillside (far off the highway) and with a view of town; avoid lodging with a State Street address (the main drag has tons of traffic at all hours). I like to stay south of town in the village of Montecito (where Oprah's west coast mansion is) and take trips into town from there. The mission is really glorious, and the wharf and shops along State Street are worth a day or two.

By now you have entered densely populated, freeway-laden Southern California. It's best to have a game plan for where you want to go, and a timeline so you don't get stuck in commuter traffic.

If you are purely taking your time and savoring the off-the-beaten-track sights, plan a side trip through Ojai on your way out of Santa Barbara. A meal or an overnight would be good in this small, tidy, upscale town.

I like the slower pace (and WAY less traffic) of Highway 126 that takes you from the 101 at Ventura to the 5 near Magic Mountain. The little oil town of Fillmore is cute, but mostly what this route offers is an alternative to the traffic you'll hit going through the San Fernando Valley on the 101 before it meets up with the 5 and 405.

Your LA destination will determine what routes and choices you make from this point on. On the 405 route you'll want to check out the J. Paul Getty Museum and its glorious hilltop views of Los Angeles (choose a clear day or a sunset to maximize this stop, and be sure to call ahead for parking reservations), Santa Monica, Malibu, Venice and all the rest. On the 5 route you might want to check out the Gene Autry Museum before you proceed into the downtown area.

Have a great trip!

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Cambria
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Pacific Grove
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Pebble Beach
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Carmel
Carmel
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Paso Robles
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San Luis Obispo County, CA
San Luis Obispo
San Luis Obispo
San Luis Obispo County, CA
Santa Maria
Santa Maria
California
Los Alamos
Los Alamos
California
Los Olivos
Los Olivos
California
Buellton
Buellton
California
Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara
California
Santa Ynez
Santa Ynez
California
Montecito
Montecito
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Ojai
Ojai
California
Ventura
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Santa Monica
Santa Monica
California
Malibu
Malibu
California
Pacific Grove...
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for Monterey, Carmel, Pacific Grove, Monterey County
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6. Re: California Coast Road Trip

September is a busy time in Monterey, with various events. The Monterey Jazz Festival will be around the 18th-20th, so avoid that time. $100 a night at any time of year is hard, but if you can stretch that to $150, there are some nice, comfortable places that could work: Colton Inn (Monterey) --very good value for the price; Monterey Bay Lodge (Monterey); Gosby House Inn (Pacific Grove--nice B&B).

My advice is to book as far in advance as you can to avoid "no vacancy" and any price inflation that can occur when special events are going on.

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Colton Inn
Colton Inn
581 Reviews
Monterey, CA
Monterey Bay Lodge
Monterey Bay Lodge
577 Reviews
Monterey, CA
Monterey
Monterey
Monterey County, CA
Pacific Grove
Pacific Grove
Monterey County, CA
McKees Rocks, PA
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491 posts
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7. Re: California Coast Road Trip

I stayed at the Colton Inn, in Monterrey this September. It is a very nice hotel well away from busy Canary Row area.

You should see the aquarium. It is fantastic.

There is a hostel in Monterrey, I have not stayed there but there are a number of hostels down the coat that are very nice. The Montara hostel was very nice with an incredible view.

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Colton Inn
Colton Inn
581 Reviews
Monterey, CA
richmond,Texas
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48 posts
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8. Re: California Coast Road Trip

My husband and I stayed at the Monterey Bay Lodge in August of 08 and really enjoyed it. Very good location, resonable price and everything we needed. Stayed for a week as husband had HS reunion right across the street at El Estero park. Loved it and will stay there again. Also be sure to eat at Rosine's in downtown Monterey. Great brunch,lunch, or dinner.

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Estero Inn
Estero Inn
397 Reviews
Morro Bay, CA
Monterey Bay Lodge
Monterey Bay Lodge
577 Reviews
Monterey, CA
Rosine's Restaurant
Rosine's Restaurant
948 Reviews
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Monterey
Monterey
Monterey County, CA
cheshire
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380 posts
41 reviews
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9. Re: California Coast Road Trip

Thanks spinnaker, fosteraq and pgdenizen for your helpful hints and comments regarding lodging selections and the Moterey Jazz Festival dates. OCnation, what can I say? Can I come over tomorrow? That's the kind of help that makes me think scrap the first plan and start all over again because you're not giving yourself enough time in this area! Your southern end of the coast remarks do make me wonder about the whole business of dealing with LA. Obviously I've heard about the commuter snarl ups and am wondering which is the best way to approach them. Are you better off staying in LA or a bit of a way out and trying to go in on the tail end of the traffic? If outside is better, how far out is sensible? For example would you miss out stopping in LA but do Santa Barbara, Palm Springs or San Diego directions and travel in?

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Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara
California
Palm Springs
Palm Springs
Greater Palm Springs, CA
San Diego
San Diego
California
10. Re: California Coast Road Trip

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