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SFO to LAX drive, via Big Sur, which route should I consider

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Melbourne, Australia
posts: 32
reviews: 115
SFO to LAX drive, via Big Sur, which route should I consider

So I finally have a day to myself for driving and I can stop whenever I want since I will be kid free for a day and a half.

I am arriving in San Francisco around 6pm on a Monday afternoon and I need to be at LAX airport the following day at 9pm at the very latest.

I am considering whether to drive from SFO on Monday afternoon/evening all the way to Carmel and start my drive the following morning via Big Sur.

Will I be missing out on any sights if I drive through the evening/night from SFO down to Carmel?

And also, do you suggest any other stops past San Simeon on the way to LAX? I have already been to Hearst Castle twice so I may give it a miss this time in the hope of seeing something else.

San Francisco...
posts: 655
11. Re: SFO to LAX drive, via Big Sur, which route should I consider

I agree with Kibbles. Hwy 1 through Big Sur is a beautiful but challenging drive and it will be exhausting to push through (and then onto LAX) with just one driver. I know everyone has different travel preferences but to me it seems a shame to fly into one airport only to rent a car and make a long drive to the next. To get a feel for the place you could drive from SFO and spend the night in Monterey or Carmel, then spend the next day outside and enjoying the beauty if Big Sur and then catch a flight out of SFO.

San Francisco...
posts: 655
12. Re: SFO to LAX drive, via Big Sur, which route should I consider

Server error--got posted twice.

Edited: 10:57 am, March 05, 2013
San Francisco
Destination Expert
for Borrego Springs, San Francisco, Solana Beach
posts: 28,402
reviews: 26
13. Re: SFO to LAX drive, via Big Sur, which route should I consider

I agree with k'smom too.

I just got back from driving SF to Solana Beach (north SD county).

I took Highway 101, which is not nearly as tiring, and made it two 4+ hour driving days and was still tired.

Monterey to LAX via Route 1 in a day is madness.

Melbourne, Australia
posts: 32
reviews: 115
14. Re: SFO to LAX drive, via Big Sur, which route should I consider

Thank you for the suggestions and advice. I will be spending the night in Monterey/Carmel as I'm arriving in the afternoon in SFO and will be driving that same afternoon to Monterey/Carmel.

After a good night's rest (and a good breakfast) I can start driving early in the morning. You're scaring me a little though. 7 hrs driving is really a big deal? Especially since I start early and I only need to be at the airport at 9pm.

But let's just say for whatever the reason (I get tired, congestion or I took too many stops along the way etc etc) I feel like I'm running late, when should I start heading towards the airport and off Hwy 1?

I can't catch a flight back out of SFO because there are no direct flights from SFO to Australia.

Also if there are any stops I must make along the way (for some photo shoots) please let me know.

Grover Beach, Ca
Destination Expert
for Pismo Beach, Cambria, Big Sur
posts: 14,243
reviews: 3
15. Re: SFO to LAX drive, via Big Sur, which route should I consider

"...... 7 hrs driving is really a big deal?"......

It is for the type of driving involved. First 90 miles out of Carmel is on elevated roadway sometimes hundreds of feet above the Pacific Ocean with sheer drop offs in some areas and lots of tight hairpin turns toward the last 30 miles of Big Sur coastline. Expect an average speed of 30 MPH (The hairpins are signed at 20 MPH).

The rest of the drive into SLO is pretty easy. Then it's a pleasant but monotonous 60+ mile drive down through Santa Maria, Los Alamos, Buellton & Gaviota. No ocean views through most of this leg. From Santa Barbara down to Oxnard, it's freeway driving with lots of lovely traffic to go with it.

There are hundreds of photo stops en route. You won't have time for all of them (I expect you'll want to stop somewhere for lunch? That could add an hour to your 7+ hour WITHOUT stops drive).

Here's a list along with what a time limit to help you budget your drive time:

Point Lobos State Reserve (This is a photog's dream location, but it needs at least 2 hours to soak in the views from the trails, etc.)

Bixby Bridge (Famous arch bridge used in many of our car ads. 10-15 minutes)

McWay Falls @ Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (30 minutes if walking to the overlook trail from inside the park. 10 minutes if pulling into the turn out just before the park entrance. McWay Falls is the famous ribbon waterfall that drops on to an inaccessible beach)

Elephant seal rookery near the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse. (15-20 minutes)

Sebastian's General Store across the highway from the Hearst Castle entrance. Great sandwiches you can get to go and park by San Simeon pier to enjoy your lunch with a great view.

Morro Rock (15-30 minutes)

IF you roll into Santa Barbara by 4:00 pm, you can explore there for an hour or two before continuing on to LAX. You'll likely encounter "some" commute traffic on the way, but you really need to be on your way from SB no later than 6 pm to ensure enough time to get to LAX by 9 pm.

Edited: 6:54 pm, March 05, 2013
San Francisco
Destination Expert
for Borrego Springs, San Francisco, Solana Beach
posts: 28,402
reviews: 26
16. Re: SFO to LAX drive, via Big Sur, which route should I consider

And I will add that once up and over the hill at Camarillo you are into the brunt of LA driving. Constant traffic, people up your tail pipe, cars on all sides of you, sometimes narrow lanes (on the 405), traffic slows suddenly to 20MPH for no apparent reason, if you try to leave the merest space between you and the car in front, someone will be cutting in front of you.

I always exit the LA area with wet palms.

Also, once you start into Big Sur on Route 1 you are committed ... there is no cut over road to Highway 101 until south of Cambria.

I realize Aussies think they understand long drives. And maybe ya'll do. But you could not PAY me to do that in a day.

Edited: 7:03 pm, March 05, 2013
San Francisco...
posts: 655
17. Re: SFO to LAX drive, via Big Sur, which route should I consider

I agree with Sal, there's no good place to cut over. And driving in LA is no picnic and the drive times can be insane. Our friends who live there hate the traffic. (they have friends who live 15-20 miles away that they never see cuz it takes an hour to drive there). Personally, I would never choose to play beat-the-clock in LA traffic with the risk of missing an international flight.

If the flights can't be changed, I'd book a flight from SFO-->LAX and enjoy a day in the SF area, either Monterey/Big Sur area (Pt Lobos is beautiful!) or SF itself. Or, if the flights aren't booked yet, maybe fly into LAX earlier and spend some time seeing the cute beach towns near LA (instead of just the freeways).

18. Re: SFO to LAX drive, via Big Sur, which route should I consider

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