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San Francisco to Carmel

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London, United...
posts: 3
San Francisco to Carmel

Hello folks, my husband and I will be travelling to West Coast USA next Saturday for what we hope will be a fabulous two week holiday. We have planned what we want to see and do except for the San Francisco to Carmel section of the trip. My plan was to travel down the coast and visit the Monterey bay aquarium, go to point lobos and 17 Mille drive as well as taking in Carmel itself however a friend recently did a similar trip and suggested the big basin redwood national park. We will be in Carmel for two nights then heading down the big sur. Do you think we can fit in big basin as we'll and would you recommend? Would you lose anything else instead? Note we will also be visiting Yosemite so will get to see some trees there! Any thoughts would be most welcome and many thanks in advance.

Igo, California
posts: 1,445
reviews: 34
1. Re: San Francisco to Carmel

Unless you have definite plans for activities in Carmel, I think you will find one night is enough.

Santa Cruz...
Destination Expert
for Santa Cruz
posts: 27,827
reviews: 6
2. Re: San Francisco to Carmel

Big Basin is nice, but is out of your way. This was the first State Park in California, and is one of the places where ancient redwoods have been preserved.

If you are coming down the coast from San Francisco, when you get to Santa Cruz take Hwy 9 (marked Big Basin, I believe.) There is a Hot Springs Spa store on the right corner. You will be turning left.

The south entrance to the park is near Boulder Creek, about 10 or so miles from Hwy 1. The road winds for 17 miles through the park, and comes out at the north entrance 8 miles from where you entered. Then you retrace your route back to Hwy 1.

If you do not want to take this much time, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is also on Hwy 9, but only 7 miles from Hwy 1. If you go to Big Basin, you will pass it. It is an easy in and out to visit for a short while. There is an 0.8 mile interpretive loop trail. The visitor is center is interesting.

As long as you are going through Santa Cruz, you might want to stop for a coffee or something on the pretty main street at a sidewalk cafe. To get to downtown from the Hwy1/Hwy 9 intersection just cross Hwy 1...Hwy 9 becomes River Street. At the third traffic light, just about 3 blocks, cross Water Street and park in the parking structure in the next block, after the Wells Fargo Bank. It is pay, but not expensive, maybe a dollar or two an hour. Then walk across Front Street and into the back door of Bookshop Santa Cruz and out the front. You are then on Pacific Avenue with a choice of sidewalk cafes under the trees.

Here is a traveler article with information on Santa Cruz


If you are viditing Point Lobos you might skip the 17 Mile Drive because the views at Point Lobos are so spectacular. The 17 Mile drive is very pleasant, but also includes a couple of golf courses and some expensive houses..

I disagree that one night in the Carmel/Monterey area would be enough. There is much to see in the area.

Enjoy your trip.

Edited: 7:27 pm, April 27, 2014
Monterey Peninsula...
posts: 2,001
3. Re: San Francisco to Carmel

Oh, my I must disagree with arlosmom. You could fill quite a few days on the Monterey Peninsula. There's a lot to see and do here. I describe many of them on my website (linked to below). Two nights is the minimum I would recommend.

Given your other destinations, Big Basin (which is a state park, not a national park) is probably not a high priority unless you're really into forests. As you already realize, there are plenty of redwood forests along your planned route. I should note, however, that the redwoods of Big Sur are the smaller coastal redwoods, which are impressive, but nowhere near as big as the massive sequoias.

And just FYI, in addition to the aquarium and the area's natural beauty, the Monterey Peninsula has a lot of important historic sites which are definitely worth some time. These include the Carmel Mission, Monterey's Colton Hall, and the San Carlos Cathedral which are some of the main highlights.

-Mr. Toy


Santa Clara...
posts: 9,146
reviews: 17
4. Re: San Francisco to Carmel

Also agree with going to Henry Cowell instead of Big Basin and skipping 17 Mile Drive unless you are golf fans.

San Jose
Destination Expert
for California
posts: 11,019
reviews: 82
5. Re: San Francisco to Carmel

I agree as well. Henry Cowell is a great park and you will see plenty of large redwood trees there. There is plenty to do in Carmel and the surrounding area to fill up at least a few days, so I would not decrease your time in Carmel - keep the 2 nights. You will see plenty of fabulous coastline on your trip, so 17 Mile Drive is the obvious place to skip if you run short on time.

London, United...
posts: 3
6. Re: San Francisco to Carmel

Hello all. Thanks for your help - I think I will try Henry Cowell park instead. This sounds like a good plan.

posts: 29,557
reviews: 789
7. Re: San Francisco to Carmel

There is alot to see and do in Carmel/Monterey, definitely spend as much time there as you can. I would do the 17 Mile Drive, it is amazing. If you have a meal at Roy's, your gate fee will be re-imbursed with a $25 food or beverage purchase. We love to sit out by the outdoor firepits and take in the gorgeous views. There are paths at Roy's where you can walk down to the ocean.

We just spent the night at Colonial Terrace Inn recently, this was our second stay there. Do you have your lodging booked yet for Carmel? :)

London, United...
posts: 3
8. Re: San Francisco to Carmel

Yes we are staying at the carmel mission inn - do you know if is good? Any good restaurants near bye?

San Francisco...
Destination Expert
for San Francisco
posts: 28,578
reviews: 141
9. Re: San Francisco to Carmel

Did you check reviews here on TA. It is a good place and while there are a few places to eat just off hwy 1, explore Carmel and ocean avenue and pacific grove for excellent restaurants. Www.yelp.com has reviews. Www.opentable.com as well plus you can make reservations

Massapequa Park...
posts: 1
reviews: 2
10. Re: San Francisco to Carmel

How scary is the Highway 1 drive from San Francisco to Monterey? I won't go to Big Sur because of the cliffs.