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.

Itinerary/Driving Help for Northern California Adventure.

Which Santa Cruz hotels are on sale?
mm/dd/yyyy mm/dd/yyyy
See hotels
Iowa
posts: 41
reviews: 2
Itinerary/Driving Help for Northern California Adventure.

A friend and I will be traveling to Northern California in just over a week. We will be there for 11 days. We have a wide range of interests and are up for just about anything. Our current plan is:

Day 1: Arrive at SFO around 12:30, pick up rental car and head to Santa Cruz. Spend the afternoon/evening enjoying the beach and boardwalk. What route would you recommend to Santa Cruz? I was planning on driving down highway 1. Is there any stops you would recommend along the way?

Day 2: Drive up Highway 1, stopping at Big Basin for some hiking to see the redwoods and then on to Bodega Bay for dinner at the Tides and Wharf restaurant. What sights would you recommend us stopping at along the way (we will be be spending the day at Pt. Reyes national seashore on Day 3)? How far north would you recommend us driving this day? We are interested in seeing the coast and I think I read somewhere on Trip Advisor that it really gets scenic north of Bodega Bay but I want our drive to be somewhat leisurely. We will be staying in Petaluma that night.

Day 3: Spend the day at Pt. Reyes National Seashore. That afternoon/evening drive over to Napa.

Day 4-6: Staying in Napa. Plan on spending one day touring the Sonoma area and two days touring the Napa area, visiting the wineries, eating at some great restaurants, enjoying the hot springs in Calistoga.

Day 7-11: Drive back to SFO, drop off rental car, pick up another friend at the airport, check into our hotel in Union Square and spend the rest of the trip exploring SF.

Does this sound doable? I've tried to plan the trip so that we get to see/do some of the things we want without trying to do too much. This is our first trip to Northern California so I wanted to accomplish alot (however, after planning the trip but before visiting I already know that I want to come back) but I also want it to be laidback and leisurely.

I think what I am mainly looking for in this post is routes/points of interest during our road trip portion of the trip: the drive from SFO to Santa Cruz and then north to Bodega Bay or however far you recommend we drive that day.

Thanks so much for your help.

California
posts: 453
reviews: 61
1. Re: Itinerary/Driving Help for Northern California Adventure.

If you know that you'll be coming back, I'd concentrate on either the area north or south of San Francisco, and leave the other direction for another trip. There's a lot of other places south of San Francisco that are gorgeous and worth exploring.

However, if your really want to go both ways, Is Day Two a weekday? It sounds like you'll miss rush hour with your plan and that's a very good thing It'll be a long enough drive without enduring rush hour traffic.

Is there a reason why you're staying in Petaluma that night? Since you're going from Bodega Bay to Point Reyes, it's a bit out of the way. Why don't you stay on the coast that night.

Also, you'll be backtracking if you first go to Bodega Bay and then back down to Point Reyes. It'll be a long enough drive as is, I'd first visit Point Reyes and then drive up to Bodega Bay the next day. This whole area is gorgeous but two easy stops would be the Marin Headlands and Muir Beach Overlook.

Santa Cruz...
Destination Expert
for Santa Cruz
posts: 25,014
reviews: 5
2. Re: Itinerary/Driving Help for Northern California Adventure.

If you do come down to Santa Cruz and then want to go to Big Basin on your way back north, it is not on Highway 1, but on Highway 9. You would take this from Highway 1 in Santa Cruz and then it is 13 miles to Boulder Creek for the south entrance to Big Basin. There is then a 17 mile loop which comes back out to Highway 9 eight miles north of Boulder Creek. Then a very winding 13 miles to Saratoga from where you can drive a few miles to get on Highway 280 to go north.

This will be time consuming. There is a lovely ancient grove of redwoods just 7 miles north on HIghway 9, Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, and then you could just return to Santa Cruz.

www.redwoodhikes.com/Armstrong/Armstrong.html

I would do that, since the time for your trip is fairly limited.

Santa Cruz...
Destination Expert
for Santa Cruz
posts: 25,014
reviews: 5
3. Re: Itinerary/Driving Help for Northern California Adventure.

Then to get to Bodega Bay take Hwy 17 over the summit and shortly after Los Gatos take the Hwy 85 exit, marked Mountain View. At Cupertino, then, take the HWY 280 exit marked San Francisco. This is a lovely drive through the foothills of the coast range, but is an 8 lane freeway.

As you come into San Francisco be in the left lanes and follow the signs to the Golden Gate Bridge. You will be on 19th Avenue and drive through Golden Gate Park. This city street is four lane divide and has timed traffic lights.

After you cross the bridge you will be on Hwy 101. I would go to Bodega Bay and do Point Reyes on your way back, because you won't have time this day. To do this, take the East Washington exit in Petaluma and stay on this street through town. You will then be on the Bodega Highway 26 miles from Bodega Bay.

Iowa
posts: 41
reviews: 2
4. Re: Itinerary/Driving Help for Northern California Adventure.

Thanks for the responses.

I've already booked advanced pay, non-refundable hotels so my itinerary is somewhat set at this point. Day 2 is a weekday (Friday, so probably not the best weekday). We are staying in Petaluma because I had a hard time finding a hotel/B&B on the coast in our price range and that did not have a two night stay.

My original plan was not to drive as far north as Bodega Bay on Day 2 but then I found out "The Birds" was filmed there and a couple of postings mentioned that it was scenic so I thought maybe we would check it out.

I wanted to devote a whole day to exploring Pt. Reyes and I thought it might be too much to drive up from Santa Cruz, stop at some Redwoods and then explore Pt. Reyes all in one day.

I was planning on taking Highway 1 both south to Santa Cruz after we get into SFO and then Highway 1 north again the next day. On day 2 could we take highway 9 up to Big Basin and then pick up highway 1 again? Or is this a bad idea?

Martinez, California
Destination Expert
for Sacramento, Puerto Vallarta
posts: 8,156
reviews: 87
5. Re: Itinerary/Driving Help for Northern California Adventure.

Just speaking to your last paragraph (directly above) and Puter's #2 post to you:

We just did much of what you describe less than 10 days ago and it is VERY rigorous, concentrative, "head-ache-inducing" driving, which cannot be rushed. Just in driving from Santa Cruz to Saratoga (on very winding roads on Highway 9, over the mountain with hairpin turns regularly recently), we added 25 miles and over an hour to what it would normally take on Highway 17. We still didn't have any time at all to go into the parks. That was just to drive.

You really haven't given yourself time for a scenic route (Highway 1 or Highway 9).. If you are trying to make Petaluma on Day 2, skip Highway 1 and Highway 9, unless you can do those sometimes trecherous, narrow roads in the dark. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone but locals.

For one thing, if one of you is driving, the driver can't take her eyes off the road for a second. You'll miss the scenery unless you pull out frequently and turn-outs are not always available. That takes time also.

Good luck but I think you're seriously pushing it with this plan in the first couple of days. You'll just be watching the double yellow lines, without any time to actually see anything.

Santa Cruz...
Destination Expert
for Santa Cruz
posts: 25,014
reviews: 5
6. Re: Itinerary/Driving Help for Northern California Adventure.

My advice.

On day 2, if you want to see redwoods, just drive the 7 miles up Hwy 9 from Hwy 1 in Santa Cruz to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. This part of the drive on Hwy 9 is not winding.

Then return to Hwy 1, turn left and shortly you will come to the freeway entrance to Hwy 17. Take this towards Los Gatos and follow my instructions to get to and through San Francisco on your way to Bodega Bay.

Martinez, California
Destination Expert
for Sacramento, Puerto Vallarta
posts: 8,156
reviews: 87
7. Re: Itinerary/Driving Help for Northern California Adventure.

I agree, Puter.

Also, in those first few miles, we actually "thought" they were winding (perceived them to be) but I remember saying to Mr. Marly (I was driving) when we saw the sign saying "26 miles of curvy road ahead" (it actually has a 26 and the graphic for curvy, narrow roads), "hey, what do they think we just came through?" We soon realized things would get worse, and slower.

There were plenty of people either stopped by the side of the road (there are shoulders in that area --- not later) to walk in the redwoods and plenty of people going into Henry Cowell State Park. We just didn't have time to stop, with a long road ahead (not as long as the OP is trying to do however).

8. Re: Itinerary/Driving Help for Northern California Adventure.

-:- Message from TripAdvisor staff -:-

This topic has been closed to new posts due to inactivity. We hope you'll join the conversation by posting to an open topic or starting a new one.

To review the TripAdvisor Forums Posting Guidelines, please follow this link: http://www.tripadvisor.com/pages/forums_posting_guidelines.html

We remove posts that do not follow our posting guidelines, and we reserve the right to remove any post for any reason.

Removed on: 12:15 pm, October 11, 2012