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  1. Default "Winging it" down the PCH in CA...Need info!

    Hello all! My husband and I are planning a trip down the PCH in CA this month and need some advice. We are leaving from SF on 8/27 and need to arrive in San Diego on 8/29 (anytime). We'd like to visit as many interesting places along the way and camp both nights. I'd love any info. on the following:

    1) Suggestions on where to visit within this relatively short time period. We're thinking Monterey, Big Sur, La Jolla...we're really driving for the sights along the coast (we're from NY) and a taste of California life.

    2) Is there a place to see the Redwoods between SF and SD? Is Big Basin a reasonable trip from the PCH?

    3) Where can we camp along the way without reservations? We'll be driving a mini-van and will be sleeping in the back, so we really just need a place to pull over and sleep when needed for the 2 nights we're driving. How strict/accessible are the state beaches?

    Any other information anyone can give regarding driving the PCH from SF to SD is greatly appreciated. This website is SO useful!

    PS- Our personal tastes include hiking, biking, microbrews and enjoying the journey/scenery/local taste.

    THANK YOU in advance!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Down the Coast

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America forum.

    Hmmm... Today seems to be the day for trips down CA-1. Take a look at this thread for some suggestions for a very similar trip, Your best opportunity to see redwoods on this route is Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. I think that would be much more efficient than trying to include Big Basin State Park, and you will need to be efficient, even with three days. if you'd like to see as many interesting places as possible. State park campgrounds can fill up many months in advance, so if you want to wing it, you'll be relying on commercial campgrounds, or the kindness of the local constabulary, neither of which anyone can guarantee. I'd pick a few state parks that appeal to you for general location and see whether they're booked solid. If they are, then I'd probably make reservations now for whatever I could. If they still have plenty of room, then you can have greater faith that just winging it will work. But this is a very popular route, and I can't recommend just setting off with no real plan whatsoever. Finally, as you might guess, California has hundreds of micro breweries. You can start with this listing and try to narrow it down.


  3. Default Lots of places to see and stop... but you might need camping reservations

    I'll also echo -- there are a bunch of places to see Redwoods through the Big Sur area. Pfeiffer Falls trails at Pfeiffer State beach is one of the better.

    Other places to visit --

    Gilroy (if you pass through) to stop and get Garlic. Home of the US Garlic festival -- and if you love garlic, you'll love the town...

    Monterey for sure. The Aquarium has been mentioned, as has Carmel. I'd also add in Cannery Row, just from the Stenbeck reference.

    Through Big Sur there are lots of places to visit, but I'm partial to Nepenthe to stop and have a bite to eat and look around.

    Farther south, the Elephant Seals at Pedros Blancos is a must see stop for me (about 10 miles north of San Simeon), as is Hearst Castle at San Simeon.

    Morro Bay, Pismo Beach, Shell beach are nice places to walk on the beach.

    Madronna Inn near San Luis Obispo is always fun to stop at.

    Buelton/ Solvang are fun to visit, and walk around and get either some pastries in Solvang, or Pea Soup at Anderson's.

    Santa Barbara can be fun too -- walking around the Presdido and looking in the stores, or visiting the Mission.

    South of Santa Barbara you'd starting to get closer to LA -- there's tons to do not far from the road, but you're getting into urban areas. You can drive south on PCH (Coast 1) through Malibu, and stop at the Getty Villa, or look at the movie star homes, or continue south through LA to Surf City in Huntington Beach or the "OC" in Newport Beach or the artists community in Laguna Beach.

    In Oceanside there are (depending upon the time of year) hundreds of acres of pointsettas and other very colorful plants, as well as a nice beach community.

    Then you're down to La Jolla, and starting into San Diego area.

    If you're got 3 days to do this in, -- I'd suggest spending the first night somewhere in Big Sur or Monterey, and the second night somewhere around San Luis Obispo/ Santa Barbara. (From there to San Diego is as little as 3-4 hours of freeway driving, but you'll have to make it through LA traffic.) The problem is the beach campgrounds along there can get pretty busy in the summer, and you may want to look into getting reservations. Many of them can be reserved through, or you can check availability at them through that site.

    The state beaches typically hold a few sites open for drop-ins, but those go very quickly (like by 2 or 3 pm or earlier). There are lots of campgrounds along the beaches though, as well as along 101 inland, as well as a number of state, county and city beaches plus private campgrounds as well. You'll find access to the beach very good in most areas, if you want to stop the car and go check out a beach. There are some inaccessible areas due to landscape (eg, cliffs or the like), and a the usual places wehre the road is inland several miles without a really good way to get from the road to the beach.

    One of my favorite beaches in California is in that area -- Jalama beach, which is a Santa Barbara County beach. It's a bit off the beaten path, but really nice for beach combing. No reservations though....

    I'd recommend PCH through Monterey and south to around about where I suggested. Then either a morning stop in Santa barbara to visit the mission and walk around, and then head through LA mid-morning to avoid rush hour traffic. The 405 freeway has carpool lanes most of its length, which will speed you through the majority of the traffic, and then I'd cut over back to PCH (Coast Highway, or Coast 1) around Long Beach/Seal Beach and take PCH south through Huntington Beach (aka "Surf City"), Newport Beach, and Laguna to catch back up to I-5 around Dana Point. From them I'd head south to Del Mar or La Jolla on I-5 before getting off again.

    If you're interested in local life (including food and drink) there are great restaurants in the Monterey/ carmel area with local foods (eg Gilroy...). There are also very good restaurants in Santa barbara and throughout LA and San Diego. Santa Maria is known for its tri-tip barbeque and red beans. Buelton is known for Anderson's Pea Soup, and Solvang for Danish Food. There are good wine areas around Santa Cruz, Paso Robles, and the Solvang/ San Ynez areas -- and some very good restaurants. The Hitching Post in Casmalia or San Ynez is a famous place to stop and eat for dinner in that area. There are microbreweries just about everywhere with a reasonably sized population -- I've visted them in Monterey, San Luis Obispo (check near the University), Santa Barbara (check near the University), Long Beach, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, and La Jolla.
    Last edited by W. Larrison; 08-08-2006 at 11:16 PM.

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