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Driving the scenic route from LA to San Francisco

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Melbourne
posts: 121
reviews: 194
Driving the scenic route from LA to San Francisco

Hi, next month the three of us will be driving from LA to San Francisco, along the coast. We will do the drive over 3 days and have 3 nights also. Done the inland drive van San Louis Opisbo, but have more time this trip.

So I'm after suggestions from travellers and locals as to the best places to see, stop and sleep on this route.

We leave late pm on the first afternoon (will be driving from Disneyland, so I'm thinking somewhere beyond Santa Barabara is good for a first stop - no more than say 2-3 hours driving from Anaheim - further up the coast for the second night, and perhaps Monterrey area for the 3rd night.

I've heard Carmel's nice?

1. Re: Driving the scenic route from LA to San Francisco

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Removed on: 3:27 am, August 10, 2009
San Francisco
Destination Expert
for Borrego Springs, San Francisco, Solana Beach
posts: 29,124
reviews: 26
2. Re: Driving the scenic route from LA to San Francisco

With 3 nights you can make a nice slow trip up the coast. I'd suggest Santa Barbara, Cambria and Montery/Carmel as three nice spots to stop. You'll really be able to have a leisurely trip with time for plenty of stops along the way.

Too often people ask about doing this in one day, it's nice to see someone who has the time to do it properly!

Grover Beach, Ca
Destination Expert
for Pismo Beach, Cambria, Big Sur
posts: 14,583
reviews: 3
3. Re: Driving the scenic route from LA to San Francisco

Santa Barbara is about a 2 1/2 - 3 hour drive from Anaheim. This is as far north as I would recommend for a late start from Disneyland.

Your only options north of SB would be Buellton/Solvang area. Pismo Beach is a decent beach town 4 hour from DL, but you'll most likely be too beat to go that far.

Cambria would be my second night choice. This is a lovely coastal town nestled among pine trees next to the sea with lots of cute shops, eateries and the always lovely Moonstone Beach.

www.cambriachamber.org/

For the 3rd night, you must stay on the Monterey Peninsula. Either Monterey, Carmel or Pacific Grove. Here's a description of each:

Monterey: Busy, touristy city with Cannery Row, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Fisherman's Wharf. Lots of high and low end lodging options.

Carmel: Quaint, charming village/cottage ambiance with many small inns, fine dining and specialty shops. Carmel's white sand beach is one of the most beautiful in California.

Pacific Grove: Sandwiched between Monterey and Carmel, PG has its own charms. From the Victorian architecture to the recreational trail along the rocky shoreline to the wooded areas around Asilomar Beach, PG is a wonderful town for exploring the peninsula. It's also less busy than the other two towns and a great place for relaxation.

www.aliveistheair.com

Melbourne
posts: 121
reviews: 194
4. Re: Driving the scenic route from LA to San Francisco

Thanks that's great advice. Our entire itinery is SFO-LA-Disney then the 3-4 day drive back.

I had thought about a 7 day hire of an RV but a quick look tells me that the expense is prohibitive.

$1800 by the time you add insurance and extras, and I know the drill from driving distances here in Australia - you still have camp ground costs and fuel, which will push the total up past $2500US for a week.

Is it just me or is a 7 day small hire car and staying in B&B's or cabins much more sensible for this route?

Grover Beach, Ca
Destination Expert
for Pismo Beach, Cambria, Big Sur
posts: 14,583
reviews: 3
5. Re: Driving the scenic route from LA to San Francisco

Well, I can tell you that staying in B&B's in California doesn't come cheap. Cabins are found in the mountains, not so much on the coast. If you give us an idea of your budget for hotels, we can give you some suggestions.

Santa Barbara tends to run high since it's a playground for celebrities and the like.

You'll find more affordable lodging in the Ventura/Oxnard area, which is about 1/2 an hour from Santa Barbara.

Cambria has affordable choices with the Bluebird Hotel and Creekside Inn. If you want an ocean view, then Castle Inn by the Sea is the most affordable option in this area.

Pacific Grove's Andril Fireplace Cottages or Bide A Wee hotels have kitchenettes where you can save on eating out by preparing your own meals.

Hope this helps a bit.

Melbourne
posts: 121
reviews: 194
6. Re: Driving the scenic route from LA to San Francisco

Hey thanks again. What I would pay per night really depends on where we are in the world and what we are getting.

If a town has a bunch of standard inns and motels priced between $60-100 then I would pay $80-100.

If a town has some nice places in the $150-250 range then I would pay $200+.

If my options are $250-500 per night then I would look for something around $300, unless the $500 per night place was a "can't miss".

May never be there again in my lifetime.

Grover Beach, Ca
Destination Expert
for Pismo Beach, Cambria, Big Sur
posts: 14,583
reviews: 3
7. Re: Driving the scenic route from LA to San Francisco

Here are some lodging choices for Cambria:

Best Western Fireside Inn

Castle Inn by the Sea

Cambria Pines Lodge

Fog Catcher Inn

Visit www.cambriachamber.org/ for more lodging info with rates, etc. Click on "Visitors" and then "Lodging".

Each inn/hotel will be listed with photos, amenities, rates, etc.

Melbourne
posts: 121
reviews: 194
8. Re: Driving the scenic route from LA to San Francisco

Great advice. Given I'm prepared to drive for 2-3 hours from Disneyland after 5pm on day 1, what's a good place to stop-over up the coast?

I drove through Santa Barbara once and would probably prefer a smaller town stop if nice.

Carpenteria, Oxnard, Goleta, Naples, Gaviota, Lake Cachuma etc etc are all within reach on the map. But are any of them going to be pleasant to stop at (and wake up in)?

Melbourne
posts: 121
reviews: 194
9. Re: Driving the scenic route from LA to San Francisco

OK we're back, stopped at Cambria and Monterey in the end, which were good choices. Morro Bay (near Cambria) also would have been a nice cosy place to stop, and Half Moon Bay has a brewery, Santa Cruz a bit bigger than Monterey but a great 100 year old boardwalk. Carmel more expensive but great for art/antiques and fashion.

Vancouver, Canada
posts: 48
reviews: 2
10. Re: Driving the scenic route from LA to San Francisco

We did a similar trip to you at the beginning of August and we only had a couple of hours to spend at Santa Cruz. I'd love to go back to that boardwalk... it was really cool.