We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Best driving route...

Indiana
5 posts
Save Topic
Best driving route...

We are spending 8 days in San Francisco in September. We will have a car the last couple of days, but my question is regarding our last day. Our flight doesn't leave until 11:45pm, so we have all day. What we would like to do is: be in San Jose by 9am to tour the Winchester Mystery House (leaving there by approx. 11:00 or 11:30am) and then spend the rest of the day driving along the coast. Some things we would like to hit are: Monterey/Carmel, 17-mile drive, Big Sur, possibly Santa Cruz. Now, with that said, we are very much just sightseeing on this drive. Not wanting to stop at any aquariums or things of that nature, we will leave that for the next time. We just want to see the best views and scenery of the ocean, etc. My question is what is the most scenic route that we could take that would fit as much of that in as possible? Do you think it is possible to see all of that and be back in time for our flight? How long would it take to drive Hwy 1 from Big Sur all the way back up to San Francisco? Is that even worth it? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Mentioned in this post
San Jose
San Jose
California
Monterey
Monterey
Monterey County, CA
Carmel
Carmel
Monterey County, CA
Big Sur
Big Sur
California
Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz
California
Fremont, California
Destination Expert
for San Francisco
Level Contributor
29,315 posts
6,137 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Best driving route...

If you leave San Jose by noon, you'll be in Monterey/Carmel by about 2:30 - 3:00. I'd suggest going as far as Pt. Lobos State Reserve Park and stopping there given your limited time.

http://pt-lobos.parks.state.ca.us/

I'd then drive a few miles north and stop by and see the sandy beach at Carmel, California.

After that continue to 17 Mile drive and drive that....

http://www.pebblebeach.com/page.asp?id=1373

You may also want to drive by Pacific Grove beach area..

You may want to stop by Monterey Fisherman's Wharf for dinnner....http://www.montereywharf.com/

This will now be about 7 or 7:30 at night, which is about sunset time.The problem with going further south to Big Sur is both a factor of time you have and also a factor of daylight since you're also trying to fit in Winchester Mystery House.

After dinner, I'd drive back from Monterey and drive to San Jose. This will get you to San Jose/Monterey aroudn 9:00/9:30.

or if you do a stop here or there about 10:00 or 10:30 which is about your flight time, so continue on up to SFO Airport.

If you leave out Winchester Mystery house, you could go as far as Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park for the day - doing both will be difficult.

Enjoy your trip!

Mentioned in this post
San Jose
San Jose
California
Monterey
Monterey
Monterey County, CA
Carmel
Carmel
Monterey County, CA
Big Sur
Big Sur
California
San Francisco area
10 posts
Save Reply
2. Re: Best driving route...

Why on earth are you planning on stopping in SJ to see the Mystery House? Big waste of time!! It is NOTHING---just a tourist trap. Go directly to Monterey/Carmel. When you are driving back, why go all the way back into SF. Why not go directly to the airport, which is about an hour south of the city anyway? I would take #101 in one direction and Highway 1 in the other. It will take about three hours to do the Highway 1 drive, I would guess and about 2 and 1/2 hours to do the #101 drive, if you go all the way back to SF.

Mentioned in this post
Monterey
Monterey
Monterey County, CA
Carmel
Carmel
Monterey County, CA
San Mateo...
Level Contributor
1,697 posts
6 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Best driving route...

ditto on the sentiments of the previous poster regarding the Winchester Mystery House. We took the tour 2 years ago, and it just wasn't that fascinating....now, if they offered the tour after dark, then maybe things would get a little exciting!!

Los Altos...
Level Contributor
6,111 posts
30 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Best driving route...

I agree you can skip the Winchester Mystery House. I mean, it's interesting, but it's not so interesting that you can't wait until the next time you come bac, the way you are waiting to see the aquarium the next time. They do have some themed specialty tours around different holidays, but really, you could choose some really wonderful scenery over it.

Pacific Grove...
Destination Expert
for Monterey, Carmel, Pacific Grove, Monterey County
Level Contributor
5,394 posts
25 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Best driving route...

Yet another vote for skipping the Mystery House. I'd recommend that you drive the coast from SF to Monterey, or, as someone else suggested, all the way to Big Sur. If you leave SF early morning, you can be in Big Sur for lunch. Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but the coast highway from SF to Big Sur should take about 5 hours. Nepenthe is a fun place for lunch in Big Sur. Beautiful views, and the weather in September should be outstanding. On the way back after seeing Big Sur, take the 17-Mile Drive through Pebble Beach. That will take you about 40 minutes, 60 if you make any stops to see the views. Then you might want to take Hway 1 north to Santa Cruz, then get onto 17 N toward San Jose. Someone from Santa Cruz, advice please on what to see and where to stop off of 17. I know you go through some beautiful redwoods. Then dinner in Los Gatos, a very quaint pretty town (off of 17 south of San Jose) or at Santana Row in San Jose. Now, many people think that Santana Row is just an overpriced shopping center, and I agree that the stores are overpriced. However, there are some good restaurants and it has the feel of a small, elegant town right in the middle of a busy commercial area. You can eat outside and hear music, etc. After dinner, stroll around, etc. By the time you head back to the airport, it will be dark, so I'd take the most direct route: 880 N to 101 N direct to the airport.

Mentioned in this post
Monterey
Monterey
Monterey County, CA
Big Sur
Big Sur
California
Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz
California
San Jose
San Jose
California
Los Gatos
Los Gatos
California
California
Level Contributor
324 posts
45 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: Best driving route...

We drive from SF to Carmel every year (car show at Pebble Beach). A few tips. Take 280 to 85 which will take you around San Jose (agreed - don't stop there) and then take you to 101 and then to highway 1. It takes 2.5-3 hours to get to Carmel this way. If you take higway 1 all the way, it's much longer.

Spend your time in Carmel, Big Sur - it's just gorgeous! Coming back up, take 101N right to SFO.

Mentioned in this post
Carmel
Carmel
Monterey County, CA
San Jose
San Jose
California
Big Sur
Big Sur
California