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how far north can we get from san fran?

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how far north can we get from san fran?

We are doing a trip north up the coast from SF to end up in/around Eureka. Trouble is our flights arrive late afternoon in SF. Leaving airport at approx 3:00pm and sightseeing along the way, how far can we make it to spend first night on the coast - Bodega Bay or all the way to Mendocino?

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1. Re: how far north can we get from san fran?

Depends a lot on what you mean by sightseeing - and how comfortable you are driving in twilight or early evening conditions.

Will you stop just past the Golden Gate bridge to gaze back at SF or leave that for your return trip (it's on your right hand side as you go over the bridge, it's hard not to stop). It will take you about an hour to get from the airport to that point - as you'll be driving through SF at rush hour, and there's no freeway that goes entirely through the City.

Will you want to turn and go down the world's crookedest street? (Great way to start your SF vacation, but then you'll have to drive back by Fisherman's Wharf - which is picturesque especially on the harbor side - and with great views of the Golden Gate bridge and the bay).

Anyway, you'll manage to get over the GG by 4 pm or so if you don't do Lombard Street's right side and stick with the flow of traffic over the bridge.

Not stopping and looking at the bridge (or walking on it...that's your first decision).

Then, Muir Beach is the next scenic spot (assuming you've skipped Muir Woods - I think they close at 5 or 6, probably not on your agenda this trip). Highway One gets really twisty and scenic from this point on - we usually stop in Stinson Beach for a meal (you'll be wanting one by then - if you stopped for 15 minutes at the GGB, it'll be about 5:15 or later when you arrive Stinson).

Stinson has lots of cheap, fast places to eat - but the Blue Heron in Bolinas is a great restaurant, worth planning for - and a bit further down the road. However, it will take time to sit and enjoy the Blue Heron, which is in a lovely setting.

Any of the small towns in that area would have wonderful B and B type accomodations - it depends on whether you want to stop and look for birds in the preserve, whether you want to take pictures, try to get a glimpse of Mt. Tam, actually walk along the shore at various points (like Bolinas), etc.

From Stinson, it's a bit more than an hour to Bodega Bay (where you also eat, if you've stopped for some sightseeing).

Without stops, you'd be at Bodega by around 6:30-7 pm. Is that enough driving for the day? If you stopped for any kind of sightseeing, sounds like Bodega would be far enough.

Driving on to Mendocino in the dark means you miss a lot of scenery.

Also -do you plan to visit any of the sweet little towns just north of San Francisco, adjacent to your route - like Sepastapol or visit the Russian River area at all?

Here's a link to Sepastapol:

http://www.beachcalifornia.com/sebast.html

I think Fort Ross is a must-see on that route - so you'd want to stay south of it to be able to see it on your second day. You'll probably drive back the other way (through Willits instead of Mendocino) so this would be your chance.

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2. Re: how far north can we get from san fran?

CookieDatmouth:

Fantastic replay - thank you for the details! Ok if I come back to you with additional questions as we plot out our itinerary?

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3. Re: how far north can we get from san fran?

Absolutely. We are constantly planning our own trip up that way in the back of our minds (been several times, have gotten the bug to go again).

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4. Re: how far north can we get from san fran?

You never know what time your flight will actually arrive at SFO and how long it'll take to hit the road after collecting baggage and rental car--AND if you're arriving on a weekday, traffic congestion will be a given. For all those reasons I would strongly advise that you spend the night in San Francisco. Wouldn't it be nice to have a great, relaxing dinner in the City after your flight? If you plan to take the coastal route (Hwy. 1) all the way to Mendocino you'll have a 4-4.5 hr. drive w/o stops. The inland route via #101 and #128 is about an hr. shorter (still a very scenic drive once you get past Santa Rosa).

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5. Re: how far north can we get from san fran?

We drive the coastal route often.

I agree with Forestvillian about staying in San Francisco the first night. You will be tired from the flight, and will be in the middle of commute traffic.

I would stay in the Union Square area and arrange to pick your rental car in that area the next morning, rather than picking it up at the airport, which is also more expensive because of airport taxes and fees.

This will allow you to have a leisurely dinner, a good night's sleep and be fresh for your coastal drive the next morning.

Mendocino is only about 150 miles from the city, but the road is not fast and as Cookie has outlined there is a lot to distract you.

You will love this trip. Do it in the daytime.

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6. Re: how far north can we get from san fran?

Just last week we did a similar trip. Arrived at SFO around 11am. Took the shuttle down to the car rental in Fisherman's Wharf. It was probably close to 2pm before we got across the bridge. We traveled over to Stinson Beach to go up Hwy 1. Stopped at a view overlooks to check out the view & for a quick lunch, also dinner at a roadhouse. Made it to our destination, Ft Bragg, at 9pm. I would not want to drive hwy 1 after 9pm. We probably should have stopped earlier as I kept dozing.

Next morning we went to Glass Beach at low tide & then on to Garberville for the night. Next day we drove the Avenue of the Giants & made plenty of stops on our way up to Crescent City. Spent several days there, then returned to Fisherman's Wharf, returned the car, & spent a few days in San Francisco, before taking the shuttle back to the airport.

GREAT TRIP!

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7. Re: how far north can we get from san fran?

It depends also on what time of year you'll be taking this drive. If its in December, for example, you could only drive for about an hour before it starts to get dark.

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8. Re: how far north can we get from san fran?

And it also depends on whether you want to spend a night in The City - which is crucial. Is city what you want on your first night?

Otherwise, you can still take public transport to Fisherman's Wharf or Union Square and get the same cheaper car rental deals - and then head out. Fisherman's Wharf would give you less traffic hassles (IME).

I travel with a couple of people who do not want to stay inside cities unless they are forced to - and I don't know your travel style. Note that Thinkin' Vacation did a similar thing - but wishes they'd stopped in Stinson.

What's cool about Stinson is that if you are still antsy for more views and nature sights, there's lots to see after dinner. The entire area is surrounded by the Golden Gate Recreational Area (which preserves the area from urban encroachment) and several state parks.

It's your choice, though. Personally, San Francisco's restaurants are a siren call to me, but my DH - not so much, he'd rather have veggie chile or chowder in Stinson.

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9. Re: how far north can we get from san fran?

Thanks all for the advice. We do not want to spend a night in San Fran - been there done that. To Cookie Dartmouth and Thinkin' Vacation - more advice please. We only have a week (Sat 10/2 to Sat 10/9). Our #1 goal is to do the coast drive and see redwoods - all the way up to Redwood National Park. I figured we could come back south and spend a couple nights in Sonoma and then drive back to airport from Sonoma Saturday morning. Now, I'm wondering if we'll be biting off more than we can chew in a week. Is there an easy way to get south again from say Arcata or Eureka without backtracking down highway 1? Should we just do the coast leisurely and skip Sonoma?

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10. Re: how far north can we get from san fran?

Sure, there's a great way to get back down - take the 101 instead of the 1. The part from Humboldt to Leggett will be a rerun - but in a different direction and I don't see how anyone would not enjoy doing this stretch twice. Maybe wait to see Humboldt Redwoods State Park until your trip back, to change it up. It's worth seeing.

Then, instead of Napa, think about stopping by one of the many lovely towns on your route in the Russian River area - but closer to 101. I think I mentioned Sepastopol, but there are several others. If you have extra time, at least stop and see the quaint train station and trains in Willits (if you had a whole day, you could do the train ride).

Check TA for things to do in Ukiah, (hot springs, wineries, world's alleged tallest tree), Healdsburg (is a great time, even has Segway tours, but also wine tasting). Without getting off your route much you can mix and match all sorts of activities off the 101, without retracing your drive up the coast on the 1.

Wandering the back roads to Guerneville and Sepastopol (maybe do Guerneville on the way back) is a lot of fun, although the main attraction in Guerneville is more redwoods (Armstrong). Santa Rosa looks all urban from the freeway, but it is has its wonderful parts, too (like the Luther Burbank Home and Gardens) and of course, it has wineries and wine tours.

So, without going as far off your route as Napa, you can have a lot of Sonoma experience. Petaluma, for example, has an olive ranch and olive oil tasting - and is a great place to overnight, if you want to avoid SF.

When we feel we must stay near the City, we've been staying in Tiburon (beautiful).

San Rafael and Mill Valley are also alternatives with things to do if you need an overnight near the City. San Rafael has the distinction of possessing the Marin County Civic Center, one of Frank Lloyd Wright's final projects. We had the surprise and pleasure of visiting it in the late afternoon, when the workers had gone home and deer grazed on its grounds.

You can be pretty flexible with this trip - you could make a few reservations here and there along the 101 that allow for 24 hour cancellation and then decide where you want to stay - but take your time on that 101 stretch, look at the TA advice for the various towns - there are so many parks and things to see/do, it's a great trip in itself.