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  1. Default Driving time from SF to Obispo?

    Does anyone know the approximate driving time from SF to San Luis Obispo along hwy-1 - including common stops such as Hearst Castle and Point Lobos?
    I'm trying to figure out if we can drive from SF to Obispo without rushing the Big Sur stretch

    Thanks

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
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    Las Vegas, Nevada
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    10,059

    Default Everyone is different along this route

    Quote Originally Posted by Henrik View Post
    Does anyone know the approximate driving time from SF to San Luis Obispo along hwy-1 - including common stops such as Hearst Castle and Point Lobos?
    Well, this is tricky. It is about 257 miles along the coast and if you were to drive more-or-less non-stop it would take about five hours, although motorcyclists have been known to cover this entire distance much faster. Tours at Hearst Castle can be as short as a couple of hours to all day and if you stop at only a handful of the famous over-looks along the coast the trip can easily exceed eight+ hours. You pretty much need to expect to be on the road the entire day... if you plan to drive from San Francisco to San Luis Obispo. I have driven from Santa Cruz to Los Angeles in about ten hours, but I wasn't stopping very often.

    Hope this helps.

    Mark

  3. Default I'll go with Mark on this one..

    I've done it in the opposite direction -- SLO to SF via Big Sur in a day. Took fomr around 8 am hitting the road until about 4-5 PM, including getting one of the first 2 hour tours of Hearst Castle. So figure its around 8 hours, depending upon how many stops.

    As an option if you're heading south, why not stay in either San Simeon, Cambria or Morro Bay areas, and then cycle back to Hearst Castle first thing in the morning. That'll take out a couple of hours, and you won't be rushing to get to San Simeon before the last tour leaves.

    I know San Simeon has several reasonable hotels and a couple of restaurants, and even a State Campground. Pull in, watch the sun set over the Pacific, walk the beach, have dinner and relax ... It's only a few miles (5 miles? ) back to the Hearst Castle Vistors Center where the tours leave from.

  4. #4

    Default

    Henrick - I do this ride regularily and typically with a bunch of people in tow. The SF (we leave from Saratoga in the south bay and do the Santa Cruz Mtns to Santa Cruz) to San Luis can easily be an all day excursion. We leave at 8am, and typically arrive in SLO at between 7-8pm. That's a relaxed pace with nice lunch along the ocean + lotsa stops. There are some major restaurants if you are into food. Just south of Carmel is Rocky Point Restuarant (you pay for the view), then The Ventana, then the Nepenthe Restaurants. Suppose you could google those if you want to plan ahead. All of them are classic Big Sur.

    Big Sur itself (gas up in Carmel) is only a mere ~80 miles long so it doesn't seem all that long, but typically takes us at least 3 hours to do that 80 miles. Traffic is very slow depending on the day until you get past Ragged Point where the road straightens out past San Simeon into Cambria and onward to SLO.

    If you want to include Hearst Castle, good luck. Once did 3pm reservations there and we still couldn't get there on time. That was a mistake. Probably could do it if you double-timed there, but why would you want to blow past Big Sur!?

    Problem with Hearst Castle (I've been there numerous times in last couple years) is even with 9am reservations (which is what we do now), we still weren't getting out of there till after noon, and you'd have to skip the movie- which is really cool. Figure about 3 hrs at Hearst Castle at least, and you really should see the movie. There are five(?) tours, so you can pick which ever one. The 2nd and 3rd are really neat. Done a ton of photo shoots there and the pics are awesome, neat place. Expensive, but worth it.

    Another place that's a photographers delight is Julia Pfieffer SP, which is the waterfall you see on all the magazine covers since it drops down on the beach below. Would never know it was there. Julia Pfeiffer State Park is located 34 miles south of Monterey (6 miles south of the Big Sur area) and 73 miles north of Cambria. It's well marked with signs.

    Another photography spot is at Lucia, take Nacimiento Fergusson Rd to the top of the hill for an incredible view of the Big Sur coastline all the tourists miss- also magazine cover stuff. No need to go up and over, just run back down to Hwy 1 & on your merry way. Will be worth it, I promise. No amusement parks at the top of the hill though. ;)

    Overall, if you leave San Jose very early on 101 on a dead run for Carmel and are there by say 9am, you'll be fine and you'll have tons of time.

    Handy Chamber of Commerce link for you also is: http://www.bigsurcalifornia.org/

    Be doing this exact run again in about 2 weeks, really looking forward to it, hoping the weather will be good! Also keep in mind days are getting shorter, so you're losing daylight at about 6pm, and you want to hit Ragged Point no later than 6pm if you don't want to be doing the twisties in the dark.

  5. #5
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    Jan 1998
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    Default That waterfall is a must see!

    Quote Originally Posted by pashnit View Post
    Big Sur itself (gas up in Carmel) is only a mere ~80 miles long so it doesn't seem all that long, but typically takes us at least 3 hours to do that 80 miles. Traffic is very slow depending on the day until you get past Ragged Point where the road straightens out past San Simeon into Cambria and onward to SLO.
    Great post. Good info about Hearst et al. I have seen what you ride and if it takes you three hours, I sincerely doubt anyone can do it faster and still enjoy the trip!

    Mark

  6. Default

    Thank you for a brilliant post!!!
    I think it may be too rushed to drive from SF to Obispo - 8 hours minimum we risk driving in the dark.

    Let's say we do two nights between SF and Santa Barbara - what would be the best areas to stay in terms of splitting up the drive and beautiful nature?

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Henrik View Post
    Let's say we do two nights between SF and Santa Barbara - what would be the best areas to stay in terms of splitting up the drive and beautiful nature?
    Henrick - 'best' can mean many things. Remember you're along the Pacific Coast and 'best' can equal very expensive, say easily $300 per night for say the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obisop (google that).

    If you want to stay moderate in price, expect $100-150 night for Best Western / Holiday Inn type place. I once placed our group in Morro Bay (midway point of your trip) thinking it'd be nice to stay on the ocean, yet a basic hotel (not even chain/franchise) was $150/night. I thought that was a waste of good money, and ended up basing our group instead in San Luis Obispo 12 miles inland for about $100-125 per night at chain hotel (pool/spa is bonus!) on subsequent forays into that part of the state.

    As for midpoint, once you hit San Simeon at southern end of Bug Sur, the hotels start up and continue to all the way to LA. San Simeon is little more than a grouping of hotels along the ocean (not really a town). If you want interesting, try Cambria which is very small town (see the entire town from one spot), then Morro Bay region comes next. Another question I get alot is about reservations- you'd probably be okay if you stop traveling about 6 pm, or 1 hr before dusk as a general guideline. Also, this is off-season so you probably be fine long as you don't show up at some hotel at 9 pm.

    Hwy 1 heads inland 12 miles here to San Luis Obispo (college town with tons of places to stay)- just google 'San Luis Obisopo Lodging' and you'll get quite a few to choose from. If you want to stay along the ocean, try a wee bit further south, along Pismo Beach for example.

    Keep in mind once you hit Morro Bay / San Luis Obispo, the ride along the ocean is over until Gaviota Pass (just south of Buelton), and it's freeway/4-lane highway all the way south into Santa Barbara region unless you remember to stay on Hwy 1 just south of Pismo Beach (lotsa farmland) into Lompoc.

    If you have time, another big draw in that region is the missions- Lompoc (near Vandenburg AFB on Hwy 1) is said to have one of the more restored ones. Solvang also.

  8. Default

    Thanks for another great reply!

  9. Default Splitting the trip heading south..

    If you were asking where was a good place to split the trip heading south, I'd suggest spending the night in the Carmel or Monterey areas. This will give you time to look at Santa Cruz and Monterey. You can do the 17 mile drive, visit Steinbeck's Cannery Row, and/or the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and have dinner on the wharf perhaps. There are also a few good wineries in the area as well. There are many hotels/ motels in these areas ranging from very expensive to quite reasonable -- but the closer to the water you get, the more expensive.

    The next day you'll start right into the Big Sur region, but you'll have all day to head south to San Simeon-San Luis Obispo area. I don't think you'll feel rushed heading south, and you'd probably be able to make one of the afternoon tours at Hearst Castle.

  10. #10

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    Yeah I concur with much of what's been written. As a born/bred Californian :)...I love Capitola (just south of Santa Cruz) - it's a cute seaside village with some nice boutiques, coffee shops, restaurants and a great ice cream place called Pola Bear.

    I guess if you're wanting to split it more evenly - the Monterrey / Carmel suggestion is about right.

    I said on another post earlier this week I did from Cupertino to Hollywood in a day - stopping at Capitola for breakfast (8 or 9am) then a brief stop in Carmel, San Simeon (though we did not actually do the castle tour), San Luis Obisbo (late afternoon lunch as I recall) and eventually we ended up in Hollywood 12 hours later (give or take).

    So it's doable but again depends on what you want to stop and see along the way. It's a GREAT part of the world but then I am biased :)

    Take care and happy travels.

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