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Highway 101 Trip Advice

Rochester, Minnesota
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Highway 101 Trip Advice

It's our 25th this year and we've decided on a trip along Hwy 1 in Calif. in September/October. The idea is to fly into San Francisco and stay a week traveling to Santa Barbara.

I've received some good advice on these forums in terms of my itinerary - but still have a question on which approach I should take.

I think there are two approaches --

1) The first option is to start in San Fran - then go a little bit each day. Doing the touristy things in that particular area for the day and then stopping for nights in the different towns: Monterey, Big Sur, Cambria, Santa Barbara -- or something like that. Then each day you're packing up to go to the next place.

2) The other option is to stay put in one town -- then take day trips to the areas. Again - one day hit the Monterey/Carmel area -- next day hit the Big Sur and some of the different state parks, then do another day to Cambria or Solvig, etc. But each night return to 'home base'.

So - that's what I can't quite decide. The upside of option #1 is that you never have far to drive before hitting the next exploration point. The downside of course is packing up every morning to get to the next place. Plus if you feel you'd like to stay another day in that particular area -- you can't as you really need to get to the next town for your next hotel reservation.

I'm leaning towards option 2. Then stay at some rustic place in Big Sur. There are some campers and apartments to rent. I'd just book one for the entire week - put down our roots there then go out on day trips.

What's not entirely clear to me is how feasible this is. I need some advice - If I go with option 2 are we spending most of our time just driving to where we want to explore? Is this option feasible? I like the idea of unpacking once.

Los Angeles
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1. Re: Highway 101 Trip Advice

Well, first, I suspect you mean Highway 1 rather than Highway 101, as it is Highway 1 that travels along the coast and passes through Big Sur, Monterey, Cambria & Santa Barbara.

As for one base for all of this, others can advise you better than I can but all told I'm not sure how practical it would be. Cambria would probably make the most sense as a base, but the day trips you are thinking of would be as much as 3-4 hours driving in each direction, making for some rather long day trips.

Grover Beach...
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for Pismo Beach, Cambria, Big Sur
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2. Re: Highway 101 Trip Advice

Big Sur to Santa Barbara and back is NOT a day trip!!

I suggest 2 locations to base your week:

Monterey: 3 nights (Santa Cruz, Henry Cowell Redwoods on drive from SF, Carmel By The Sea, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Cannery Row, Point Lobos State Reserve)

Pismo Beach: 3 nights (Big Sur on the drive down: Bixby Bridge, Pfeiffer Beach, Nepenthe, McWay Falls, Ragged Point, elephant seal rookery, Hearst Castle. Day trip from Pismo down to Santa Barbara/Solvang)

You could do Monterey to Santa Barbara, but that would be an incredibly long drive for one day.

If you spent your second base in Pismo, you could return to SF via Highway 101 for your return flight home, eliminating the need to fly out from somewhere else.

Rochester, Minnesota
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3. Re: Highway 101 Trip Advice

Darn - You're right, I meant 1. Thank you for correcting my error!

Also good advice - I wasn't sure how feasible my option was. Sounds like I should plan to move down the coast with option 1.

Thanks for your input!

Rochester, Minnesota
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4. Re: Highway 101 Trip Advice

Excellent advice Kibbles09 - that's what I needed to know. I think it makes sense what you're suggesting. THANK YOU!

Grover Beach...
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for Pismo Beach, Cambria, Big Sur
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5. Re: Highway 101 Trip Advice

If you need more help with travel times, stops, lodging, etc., let me know. :-)

Los Angeles
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6. Re: Highway 101 Trip Advice

I think choosing Monterey/Pacific Grove or Carmel for Base #1 (after San Francisco) and then Santa Ynez/Santa Barbara for your southernmost point would be great. It isn't that big of a deal to put your stuff back in the car each day, and you'll see a lot more. Trying to see Santa Barbara even from Cambria would shorten your time in SB. Santa Ynez and Pismo are two other options (you should check them out - it's fun to mix and match your places).

We really liked Pacific Grove last time we were up that way, although Carmel is my favorite of all the towns in that area. Unless you really want to stay in quaint Cambria and do more beachcombing, you can definitely see a lot of upper Big Sur from your base, then take one day to drive down to Santa Barbara, and see a lot more from there (such as wine or olive tasting or the many many things SB has to offer). SB is a really good resort destination.

Rochester, Minnesota
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7. Re: Highway 101 Trip Advice

Thanks for the additional advice. I hadn't looked at Santa Barbara closely yet to see what to do. I think the key is that there is much to see in a short amount of time! Might have to do it all again on our 30th!

Grover Beach...
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8. Re: Highway 101 Trip Advice

The reason I suggested Pismo Beach over Santa Barbara as second base destination is due to the LONG drive you'll have through Big Sur taking in the sights. Plus, that Big Sur drive can be exhausting. Once off the elevated roadway, you would have an additional 3 hours of driving WITHOUT stops ahead of you IF you opted for staying in Santa Barbara.

I generally don't recommend driving any further south than Pismo Beach when coming from the Monterey/Carmel area because it is a long and tiring drive.

Santa Barbara is approx. a 1 1/2 hour drive from Pismo Beach, so quite doable as a day trip from Pismo Beach. The drive is inland through farm and ranch land and passes through some non-interesting towns, so not a difficult drive down and back. It just doesn't thrill me and it feel likes you'll NEVER get there. But that's my feeling on the drive from Pismo to SB. And another reason why I don't recommend driving Monterey to SB in one day. Monterey to SB is about a 5 hour drive WITHOUT stops, so trying to fit the sights along the Big Sur coast, Hearst Castle, Cambria, Morro Bay, Pismo Beach and Solvang into a one day drive down to SB could turn into a 16 hour ordeal.

I suppose it could be done, but then I would suggest using SB as a base to cover Solvang/Santa Ynez, Carpinteria, Ojai, Ventura/Oxnard rather than backtracking back up to Pismo, Morro, Cambria.

Santa Barbara and those southern points of interest (Or non-interest, depending on your perspective) is far more dense with people and cars than Pismo, SLO, Morro Bay, Cambria, etc.

Edited: 31 January 2014, 16:16
Henderson, Nevada
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9. Re: Highway 101 Trip Advice

You may want to think about a combination of 1 and 2... Starting at San Francisco, head to Monerey (a bit over 100 miles) for a couple of days, then drive through Big Sur to somewhere between Cambria (again, just over 100 miles) and Pismo Beach for a few days, then Santa Barbara (130 miles or so) for a few days... then drive back to San Francisco via Hwy 101 and the flight home (340 miles, about 5 hours... (plus sight seeing time).

Randy

10. Re: Highway 101 Trip Advice

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