|Subject: Re: Pacific Coast Highway|
We think the Pacific coast is an area of outstanding
natural beauty. The last few years we've flown into
San Francisco and driven S on 101 to 46 W to
Cambria/San Simeon -- N on Highway 1. (Going south
through Big Sur is not for the faint of heart!)
But we have flown into Burbank and Ontario (close to LA). The traffic around LA is a bear, but it can be done. We drive straight out of the LA area with a stop in Santa Barbara and a night in Solvang, a nifty little Danish town with outlets. From there we take 101 N through San Luis Obispo where it merges with Rt 1 to Cambria/San Simeon. We stay at the Cavalier Best Western, Rt 1, San Simeon, ocean front property. Our son, wife and pups stayed at the Cambria Shores Inn on Moonstone Beach Drive, right across the street from a lovely walk and the ocean. Cambria is a fun little town to putter around and shop. If you run out of things to do in Cambria, Morro Bay with the huge rock (I believe it is a dormant volcano) is about 1/2 hour S on Rt 1. Make sure you go down into the town along the estuary. The first year we stopped there, we didn't realize there was a street below where we were standing. Tourist shops, but a lovely stroll along the water. Hearst Castle is wonderful. It's five miles up the mountain and when you get off the bus, you absolutely understand why Hearst spent all that money to build it. The view really is everything. Most folks recommend Tour 1 for first timers, but we like Tour 2 better. Did Tour 3 this year and liked that one real well, too. It's the gardens and one of the guest houses. I think all the tours include both pools.
Weather permitting you can drive Big Sur from San Simeon. There is an elephant seal colony just north of San Simeon that is a fun stop. They're more than impressive! If the area is socked in with fog, Big Sur can be a bit scary and, of course, you won't have the breathtaking views of the ocean. We like to stop at the Nepenthe (on the right before Big Sur State Park) for a snack and the views. The food is a bit pricey, but a sandwich is big enough for two to split. 1 1/10 miles south of the entrance to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is an unmarked turnoff to Sycamore Canyon Road (not doable with a motor home) that leads to Pfeiffer Beach. Gorgeous, but if windy, the sand will trim your hair for you. Most anywhere you might be walking along the central CA coast, watch out for poison oak.
Carmel by the Sea is a delightful town (lots of funky little houses) and the beach at the end of Ocean Avenue, is not to be missed. When they have the golf tournament at Pebble Beach, they can't seem to keep the TV cameras off the beach and ocean (I never miss watching that golf tournament). Some folks think it's among the world's most beautiful. Just south of Carmel on Rt 1 is Point Lobos, the world's greatest meeting of the land and the sea (that's a quote -- I just can't remember the author to give proper credit). There's a small charge to drive in and hike (we parked along Rt 1 and I don't think there's a charge to just hike in -- it was our only option as we have our dog with us and dogs are not permitted in the reserve, even in a car). Just up Rt 1 from Carmel is Monterey. Your daughters, well, actually the whole family, will love the Aquarium with the kelp tank and the sea otters. You could spend most of a day just looking at all the exhibits. Right up the street is the American Tin Cannery Outlets and the recreation trail that follows the bay from Monterey to Pacific Grove (between Monterey and Carmel) to Asilomar State Beach. Carmel also has 17 Mile Drive, around $7.00 to drive through, but unless you would want to stop at Pebble Beach, not worth the cost. The drive through Pacific Grove, while about 1/3 the distance, is just as lovely. We stay at the Monterey Beach Best Western, on the beach, but during the summer the prices can be very expensive -- we stayed there for less than $100 (BW web special) in May but that room can go over $300 if there is anything going on in Monterey.
>From Monterey, you can take Rt 156 E to Rt 101, but I can't remember exactly how we got to Yosemite a couple years ago. It's about a four hour drive and it will be toasty once you get inland. Yosemite is beautiful.
Just in case, north of Monterey on Rt 1 is Santa Cruz, which has a boardwalk. North of Santa Cruz is Half Moon Bay with it's state beach where you can rent horses and go for a ride along the beach. From Half Moon Bay you can continue up Rt 1 and sort of fall into the highway to San Francisco. Or you can take 92 E to 280 to 380 to 101 to San Francisco. Yosemite is about four hours from San Francisco.
Two other things. You cannot judge the length of time it will take you to get anywhere in CA by the mileage. Carmel is about 90 miles from San Simeon and it takes three hours driving through Big Sur. 101 is pretty fast moving, traffic depending, but when getting closer to the big cities it will slow way down in bumper to bumper traffic.
And, the motels along the coast can be at capacity for the entire summer. If you have a couple areas picked out to stop, you may want to make reservations.
Hope this helps a little.
Cheers and happy traveling,