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Old 05-26-2012, 12:02 AM   #1
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Lax to sfo or sfo to lax- pacific coast highway PCH

Hi all

In very early stages of planning next trip for the Melbourne 5 ( we may be Newcastle 5 by then as we are moving after 6 years in Melbourne) and want to know when driving the PCH is it better to start in San Francisco and drive to la or vice versa?

Am factoring in 3 days in San Fran and up to 3 days ( 2 nights) on the drive on the PCH.

Given we are 5 and the kids will be 14,12,6 can you recommend stops, attractions on the way that will keep everyone interested.

Also keen on what to do and where to stay in san Francisco !

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Old 05-26-2012, 12:45 AM   #2
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We spent 2 nights on the road between Anaheim and SFO. (we drove north)

The first night we stopped at San Simeon as we wanted to visit Hearst Castle - it was an amazing place, well worth the stop. On that day we stopped for lunch at Solvang - which is like a little Denmark village tucked away in the California countryside. Very quaint and pretty. We also stopped at Pismo beach and took a walk out on the Pier, good spot to stretch the legs and get some air.

Not sure when you are travelling but we went in January and they had experienced so much rain on the coast that the Big Sur section of Hwy 1 was closed to traffic due to mud slides. (Apparently this isn't uncommon in the winter months) WE had to detour inland to head north for our second stop at Monterey.

Monterey is definitely worth a visit, the Aquarium is amazing and the Cannery Row area has some great restaurants and shopping. The seacoast south of MOnterey is lattractive - there is the 17 mile drive around the plushy homes and golf courses of Pebble Beach ( but that might not interest the kids much?)

Because of our detour we missed out on seeing Carmel which is supposed to be a very quaint artist colony type town, one day we'll go back and have another go at the Big Sur ( in the summer!)

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Old 05-26-2012, 12:46 AM   #3
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We did the PCH from SFO to LAX in May 2011. Unfortunately it was closed part way down so we had to back track and go on one of the highways further inland.We are going to do it the same way (hopefully all the way this time) next year ( though we won't be going to SFO, but instead coming from Yosemite). We will be spending a night in Monterey,visiting the aquarium and doing the 17 mile drive. Then on the drive down stopping at Hearst Castle. We really liked Pismo Beach as a stop over, so will spend 2 nights there this time at Pismo Beach Lighthouse Suites.
We liked driving north to south as a) we are heading towards DL as the highlight at the end of trip, and b) it means you are drive on the coast side of the road so have a better view ( well I do as the passenger, hopefully DH's eyes are firmly onthe road!)
Princess in Oz wrote a really good detailed trip report a year or two ago on the PCH, and that is what inspired us to drive it. I think she went in winter time and there is a wonderful seal colony to stop at if going then.
In SFO with kids aged 6 & 9 we enjoyed a boat cruise out to the GG bridge and back, Pier 39, an open top bus tour of the city, the Aqauarium at Pier 39, and a cable car ride. Even riding on the BART was fun for us, as we don't have commuter trains where we live.
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Old 05-26-2012, 04:41 AM   #4
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We drove up from San Diego to SF and it was one of the great road trips we have done! Although I don't have kids.
We had our first night at Santa Barbara - which is a lovely city - very plush! we had great shopping and eating. we stayed in an upmarket camping ground across the road from the beach - lovely.
We also stayed at San Simeon for the Hearst Castle.It was around there that all the wild elephant seals are all over the beaches. The National Parks service has an area where for a fee and booking you can have a little sea elephant tour.
We also stayed at Carmel (more food and shopping) and several nights in Monterey. Monterey is fantastic! we did a kayak tour in the bay and saw wild sea otters! The Aquarium is lovely - and again more dining!

Driving up around Carmel there are a number of national parks which looked lovely and we wished we had organised to spend more time and stopped to look at those, do some walks, track down the wildlife etc.
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Old 05-26-2012, 05:36 AM   #5
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Possible things to see and do in San Francisco. I have gone to SF a fair bit over the last 10 years and this is a summary, with pictures of things to do and what I've done with DS over the years.

This is the link to my Jan 2011 PTR/TR, when we drove DLR up to SF. There are quick links and the index on the second post. It will also include what we did for a 5 night stay in SF at the end.

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Old 05-26-2012, 09:13 AM   #6
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We drove from LA up to SF. When we were in SF we stayed at Pacifica. It was a little out of the way from the city, but it was right on the beach and it was so beautiful. It's like a tiny town, very quaint.

If you get a chance I would recommend the drive to Yosemite. It was truly breathtaking.
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Old 05-27-2012, 06:43 AM   #7
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We drove from SFO to Yosemite then to LAX. All I can say is book your accomodation. It was lovely and all but the second night we couldn't get accomodation for the 5 of us. If it was four fine, we could of had a room within an hour of searching! Yosemite and SFO we had booked but the rest of the trip as my husband said we will "wing it". First night was fine we got two rooms at a bed and breakfast place in Carmel by the Sea a must do on your trip. It is a lovely little village and had that township feel to it...with a main street with shops etc. Houses by the sea to die for, anyway second night we drove and saw the sealoins and beautiful landscapes. In a world of our own, came to 4pm and I said we should try looking...we were in Santa (something) and because it was a Saturday we lucked out. We had to drive all the way to Anahiem to get a room for the night. It was a nightmare....so plan plan plan and book your accomodation and know your stops. On a brighter note have you done Yosemite before? My children loved it, they called it Gods disneyland. It really is beautiful and only a four hour drive from SFO you should consider it! The nature is like nothing we have here in Australia, well nothing that I have seen anyway! Any questions I am happy to help.
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Old 05-27-2012, 07:50 AM   #8
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The PCH was the one thing I begged to include in our 2008 trip (like a short cruise was last year ). It was really an Anaheim / San Diego trip. I said "just give me 2 nights". Well worth it but I think the number of days you Melbourne 5's are planning will cover it much better. Here's what we did, all of which was great... and what I think we missed, in case it's of use:

We flew into SFO late morning and picked up our rental car (which we had for the fortnight, drop off at LAX) drove to our hotel at Fishermans Wharf, explored area (? Pier 39), ate clam chowder in sourdough bowl, saw the sea lions, caught the cable car Downtown and had dinner in a nice diner. Another 2 nights to do "many things" suggested
Next day did an early SF Bay cruise. We were keen to do Alcatraz but time didn't allow. Set off south, brief stop at Monterey, slow drive through Carmel, late lunch at Big Sur then drove the (amazingly) spectacular section of the PCH to San Simeon for overnight. More time in those towns recomended.
Third morning Hearst Castle but were so enthralled and tours timing meant we were there until mid-afternoon and then went to see the nearby elephant seals. So, out of time for anything other than see the scenery from the car er route to Anaheim, where we arrived about 10:30pm. We stopped at an old mission (I think) in Santa Barbara at dusk so it was closed. This is about where I'd place a second night to explore this region properly.

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Old 05-27-2012, 06:44 PM   #9
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We are planning on doing this our next trip. We were going to drive North as it's just easier to get flights to LAX, we wanted to see Hearst Castle and I think the Winchester House as well.

If we have more time I'd like to go all the way to Yosemite etc. but the plan was to take 2 or 3 days for the drive from LAX to San Fran, then catch an Alaskan cruise from SF and back, then fly from SFO to JFK, spend time with the rellies there, then fly back to LAX, do our required Disney portion and then fly home.
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Old 05-27-2012, 10:06 PM   #10
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hey melb5 we are melb4 and we are sort of planning similar trip SF and LAX next year. We have been to SF and Yosemite before but kids were too small so now looking at doing the PCH drive.

We actually drove SF - Yosemite and then to Vegas via Death Valley, awesome drive, most frightening ever !! Went from highest elevation to lowest, but that's another topic.

But very interested in all the replies.
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Old 05-27-2012, 10:09 PM   #11
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A great place to stay if you have kids in Yosemite is the evergreenlodge.com.au this place has cabins that are in very good condition. No T.V though...but it adds to the whole nature thing! Smores by the fire at night for free, lovely food. Crab legs to die for yummmmo. Beautiful walks within the resort. You should check it out, we loved our stay there.
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