PCH Itinerary Suggestions

Old May 9th, 2022, 05:50 AM
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PCH Itinerary Suggestions

My fiance and I are taking a belated honeymoon in California after his son gets married early November in Santa Barbara. We will have 3 days of family/wedding event in SB. We have from Sunday afternoon til our flight leaves late out of SF to explore PCH. We want to have time to stop and explore little towns, see some Redwoods and scenic views. We plan to hug the coast along Rte 1 as much as possible. I'd like at least a half day of wine tasting. I don't really want to spend much time in SF on this trip. Does this plan make sense? Too much?

Sunday - leave SB around noon. Have lunch on Solvang. Drive through Los Olivos and Los Alamos. Dinner at Jocko's. Stay in San Luis Obispo (Madonna Inn)
Monday - visit some vineyards around SLO. Stay in SLO or Morro Bay
Tuesday - Explore Morro Bay, Hearst Castle tour, Seal Rookery. Drive north until dinner time - not sure which town to stay in.
Wednesday - drive to Big Sur, eat at Nepenthe, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
Thursday - drive to and explore
Drive to Carmel by the Sea, Pacific Grove/Monterey. Do the 17 mile bike ride. Stay there
Friday - drive through Santa Cruz, visit Henry Cowell Redwoods, and see surfers at Half Moon bay. Should we stay in SF or Half Moon Bay area?
Saturday - turn in car, explore SF - maybe the jump on and off bus/ wharf - flight is around 7

thanks!
Connie

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Old May 9th, 2022, 08:08 AM
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Just personal preference... The Madonna Inn is an "experience," but I'd rather stay in Paso Robles (Sunday, Monday nights) and visit some of the hundreds of wineries there. I'm not a big fan of Solvang, so I'd skip that detour. FWIW, Jocko's food is good, but it's waaay too crowded and noisy for my tastes. Maybe Sunday night there would be more tolerable, but I just can't deal with shouting in order to have a conversation. It wouldn't be must-dine for me. There are several great (and more romantic) restaurants in Paso Robles.

Look at the Hearst Castle website and decide which tour (or tours) you want to take. Depending on how much time you end up spending there, you probably don't need an overnight stop before Big Sur. If you stayed Tuesday night in Big Sur, you could head to Carmel the afternoon of Wednesday and spend two nights there (Wednesday, Thursday nights). I think you really need two nights in order to do all that you list.

Another personal preference... I'd rather hike in the Point Lobos Nature Reserve and drive the 17-Mile Drive. If you rent bicycles for the 17MD, unless they pick you up at the other end, it's really a 34-mile ride. Or maybe rent e-bikes. Forget the whole cycling idea if it's raining.
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Old May 9th, 2022, 09:58 AM
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Several similar thoughts to Jean's: I'd skip Solvang unless maybe you have some Danish ancestry. It's kinda 'cute' but really isn't a must IMO. I'd normally advise against the Madonna Inn but it might be a sort of kitsch-y experience you'd enjoy. I really don't like one nighter afer one nighter after one nighter so I'd probably do something like SB through Solvang (stop or not) to SLO or Paso Robles or possibly Morro Bay (staying at the Madonna Inn or elsewhere) I'd stay 2 nights here to hit several wineries and have some good seafood. This would be Sun/Mon nights

I would actually stay 3 nights in Carmel or Pacific Grove. Use it as a base for the Mission, more wineries, Point Lobos, Nepenthe (if you didn't stop there on the drive north), the Monterey Bay Aquarium/Fisherman's Wharf, some adobes, maybe some kayaking in the Bay, Pebble Beach, great food, etc. (tues/wed/thurs)

I'd stay in Santa Cruz Friday night (though finding a place that allows one night on a weekend might be tough). Sat AM visit Henry Cowell and head up to SFO arriving by 3:30 or 4 PM to turn in car and check in for the flight.

Alternately . . . if you couldn't find a one night property in Santa Cruz, stay one night in SLO or PR, 3 in Carmel/Pacific Grove, and 2 in Santa Cruz or maybe Capitola.
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Old May 9th, 2022, 11:25 AM
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I'd look into staying in Cambria and visit some wineries in Paso Robles (just a mile or two away). It is also only 5 miles or so north from Cambria to Hearst Castle. I have eaten at Jocko's but only for lunch. Have heard it is a real crowd scene at dinner. In fact at least 12 years ago or so, the restaurant critic for the LA Times (Ruth Reichl) reviewed Jocko's. She had a reservation and still had a wait (they did not know who she was).

When you leave Santa Barbara, just take either the 101 past Gaviota or the 154 aka San Marcos Pass road. Highway 1 along that section is boring and plus you have to detour around Vandenberg AFB. You can pick up Highway 1 (it is not called PCH north of Santa Barbara) just north of SLO, take the turnoff for Morro Bay to get back on it.
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Old May 9th, 2022, 12:27 PM
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jamie99: "I'd look into staying in Cambria and visit some wineries in Paso Robles (just a mile or two away)."

I'm sure this was some sort of typo because I know you know Paso is is farther than a mile or two from Cambria . . . like 30-ish miles. Did you mean the wineries are a mile or 2 from Paso Robles?
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Old May 9th, 2022, 01:33 PM
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You don't have to go all the way to the center of Paso (and beyond) to find great wineries, but yes even the wineries west of town are at least a 30 minutes' drive from Cambria. Wineries off Hwy. 46 or closer to town can easily be an hour from Cambria. Anyway, I like the old timey square in central PR, so I wouldn't stay in Cambria . Personal preference.
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Old May 9th, 2022, 03:15 PM
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If you end up staying in SLO or the Madonna Inn, Edna Valley offers tasting rooms and vineyards. Plenty of wine tasting opportunities all along your route north
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Old May 9th, 2022, 05:54 PM
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Thank you for all these helpful goodies, Jean! Would Cambria be a good place to stay Sunday & Monday to explore Paso Robles, Hearst Castle, and Morro Bay? Is 3 hours long enough to get from Cambria to Big Sur and stop at all the lookouts?
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Old May 9th, 2022, 05:55 PM
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Thank you! I like this plan. Am I missing out not staying in Big Sur?
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Old May 9th, 2022, 05:57 PM
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Thanks so much! I will definitely pass on Jocko's! Thanks for the driving info too!
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Old May 9th, 2022, 05:59 PM
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Thank you!
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Old May 9th, 2022, 06:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Jean View Post
You don't have to go all the way to the center of Paso (and beyond) to find great wineries, but yes even the wineries west of town are at least a 30 minutes' drive from Cambria. Wineries off Hwy. 46 or closer to town can easily be an hour from Cambria. Anyway, I like the old timey square in central PR, so I wouldn't stay in Cambria . Personal preference.
As I was thinking it through I was hoping to stay near the water as much as possible so thought Cambria would be nice. But old time square sounds very charming. I will research more of Paso Roebles. Do you prefer it over SLO?
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Old May 9th, 2022, 06:38 PM
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A few years ago, we stayed in the Best Western Cavalier, when we were visiting nearby Hearst Castle.
It was perfect, with oceanside bonfires set up at night. I had a Swedish fireplace in my room. The on-site restaurant was fine.
https://www.cavalierresort.com/photos/
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Old May 9th, 2022, 06:58 PM
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Cambria is a good place to stay. Two nights would be god because it give you time for both some wineries, San Simeon and seafood etc. You don't really need to stay over in Big Sur - The drive (just the drive) from Cambria to Carmel on Hwy 1 takes about 2.5 hours. So with several photo op stops, state park(s) stops and even lunch at Nepenthe you could be at Carmel well before dinner time.
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Old May 9th, 2022, 07:00 PM
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I like the wines from the cooler coastal areas better than Paso Robles, and yes YMMV. Wine tasting can be found from Santa Barbara north in the Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Rita Hills, including Los Olivos which has the Ballard Inn. You can also stay in Solvang or Buellton or El Alisal resort.

While I like the Adelaide Inn for an inexpensive place to stay in PR, that town definitely isn't my favorite as far as scenery or character. I'd just as soon stay in Lompoc. Cambria is also a good choice as is Morro Bay (especially for the cute sea otters).
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Old May 9th, 2022, 07:15 PM
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Originally Posted by cuizine1 View Post
Thank you for all these helpful goodies, Jean! Would Cambria be a good place to stay Sunday & Monday to explore Paso Robles, Hearst Castle, and Morro Bay? Is 3 hours long enough to get from Cambria to Big Sur and stop at all the lookouts?
Two nights in a place is one full day which is not enough time to explore Cambria, Paso Robles, visit Hearst Castle and explore Morro Bay. You need to be realistic about what's possible in the time you have and what your priorities are. You could spend most of a day at Hearst Castle (if you took multiple tours) and stopped to see the Elephant Seals. It's also possible to spend most of a day exploring wineries and the historic center of PR. And you could spend most of a day exploring Morro Bay, the nearby parks and nature reserves. After Nov. 6th, sunset will be at 5:00 p.m., so your days aren't terribly long.

Three hours to drive Cambria to Big Sur is optimistic. It's easily 2 hours without stops, lunch, etc. Watch for migrating whales.

Cambria v. San Luis Obispo v. Paso Robles v. Morro Bay v. Big Sur.... Some of it is preference and some of it is what fits best in a particular itinerary. If it was summer and you had time to linger in Big Sur, I'd say stay there. Personally, I don't get the appeal of Morro Bay unless hikes in the parks and nature reserves is a priority. (The hiking at Point Lobos in Carmel would rank higher on my list.) Cambria's OK, but we usually just stop there for lunch on the way to Carmel. I feel stopping in San Luis Obispo doesn't get you far enough from Santa Barbara on the first day. I admit my bias for Paso Robles, and November is olive harvest time.

Last edited by Jean; May 9th, 2022 at 07:20 PM.
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Old May 9th, 2022, 08:20 PM
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I like Solvang and Santa Ynez, dining options there have much improved over the years and the number of wineries and vineyards could keep you busy for days. A drive out through the hills towards Happy Canyon or the Sedgewick Reserve is like being in a hidden world of horses and ranches and hidden estates. But I agree that you should probably skip it because on weekends it's kinda crazy busy with casino traffic and tourists. You could be in San Luis Obispo by 2pm and enjoy the afternoon exploring. I wouldn't stay at Madonna Inn unless it seems especially interesting to you, I would stay near downtown SLO (walkable downtown with lots of dining choices) or near the cliffs at Shell Beach.o
I would do two nights there, plenty to do besides wine....beaches, Morro Bay, Montana de Oro State Park, all are easy from SLO. Then on to Cambria or Paso for a night, not worrying about getting to Cambria too early if there is more you'd like to explore around SLO and Morro Bay.



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Old May 10th, 2022, 08:47 AM
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Originally Posted by clarkgriswold View Post
I like Solvang and Santa Ynez, dining options there have much improved over the years and the number of wineries and vineyards could keep you busy for days. A drive out through the hills towards Happy Canyon or the Sedgewick Reserve is like being in a hidden world of horses and ranches and hidden estates. But I agree that you should probably skip it because on weekends it's kinda crazy busy with casino traffic and tourists. You could be in San Luis Obispo by 2pm and enjoy the afternoon exploring. I wouldn't stay at Madonna Inn unless it seems especially interesting to you, I would stay near downtown SLO (walkable downtown with lots of dining choices) or near the cliffs at Shell Beach.o
I would do two nights there, plenty to do besides wine....beaches, Morro Bay, Montana de Oro State Park, all are easy from SLO. Then on to Cambria or Paso for a night, not worrying about getting to Cambria too early if there is more you'd like to explore around SLO and Morro Bay.
I agree^^^
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Old May 10th, 2022, 12:01 PM
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I just checked the SLO newspaper and Hearst Castle is reopening tomorrow (no idea if the Neptune Pool will have water, it was drained a couple of years ago due to drought).

You are right about the distance of Paso to Cambria, forgot it was a bit longer, but when I was working my commute one way was 25 miles, so 30 does not seem so bad to me. Especially since no LA freeways are involved!
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Old May 14th, 2022, 04:55 PM
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I agree with many here. Skip Solvang. Cambria is tiny but cute and close to wineries. You MUST have central coast barbeque while in the area. Love the tri-tip. Great, easy, grassy hike on Fiscalini Preserve, with views of the Pacific. (And if you have time while in Santa Barbara the Douglas Family Preserve offers a beautiful, flat hike surrounded by giant Eucaplytus and next to the ocean; park on Borton Drive). Hearst Castle is worth a stop. Do go online and decide on a tour in advance, and give yourself plenty of time to park and take the shuttle up the hill. Hearst will take most of your day. Rookery's fast but cool. Morro Bay is check mark; eyeball as you go by or stop for lunch.

Carmel's one of our favorites. We do weekends down there at least 3x a year. We like to stay at the https://carmelriverinn.com/. Cabins are close to everything, but away from the fray. Every cabin has it's own patio or grass area to decompress from the day. Many have fireplaces. There are shared gas bonfires in evening. Fridge, microwave and basic plates/forks for room dining. If you stay here, I do highly recommend the https://www.riogrill.com/, right across the road. You can actually walk if you want. The grilled artichokes are a must. We either sit in the cozy bar or outside on the patio. Excellent cocktails.

If you go to the beach in Carmel, park at the end of 13th Avenue; be with the locals versus the tourists fighting for parking at Ocean Avenue. The City usually allows bonfires on the beach at night; check city website. There are number of really good restaurants around Ocean Avenue and great shops, though, so you will want to spend time there as well. For hikes, go inland to Carmel Valley and hike Garland Ranch, easy or hard. Monterey Bay Aquarium is truly worth seeing; jellyfish alone. You can take a half day here. If you love fish, I recommend https://www.passionfish.net/. No view or anything - it is ALL about the food and wine. 17 mile drive is easy and lovely. More seals to see here.

Big Sur is another favorite. Nepenthe has stunning views; you're literally sitting on the rocks over the ocean. It gets busy. Food is passable. Don't miss stopping at the Henry Miller Library on your way; curious and quick. Check out Julia Pfeiffer Beach if you have time - dramatic.

Santa Cruz can be lunch, but not much more going on unless you surf, or just want full on beach time, with boardwalk/amusement park. Santa Cruz is a little bigger town so they do have live music and you can find some good restaurants. Actually, for a unique dining experience check out https://www.shadowbrook-capitola.com/

If you pass Santa Cruz, and go north on Route 9 towards Ben Lomond, you'll end up smack in the middle of redwoods. Do some research to figure out which grove/hike you want to do. They are all good.



Last edited by SassTraveler; May 14th, 2022 at 04:59 PM.
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