I only know that we'll hug the coast until we drive through the tree. No plans in between. Anything I should know?
Don't forget to stop in
Eureka (California)! It has tons of Victorian homes, notably the
Carson Mansion and the
Pink House. It's a beautiful coastal town, with many antique shops and a nice boardwalk area. Also take the Avenue of the Giants at
Fortuna, that's the south entrance. It runs parallel to the 101, and you can get back on the 101 on Garberville. It's absolutely beautiful. Also be sure to check out the
Grandfather Tree near Garberville, as well as the
One Log House next door. Take lots of pictures!
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The entire drive down HWY 101 is crazy beautiful and you'll get to se a lot of the redwood groves as you cross into California. There is one grove in particular, that is off the beaten path, that is an absolute must see. It's called Stout Grove Redwoods you'll find it near a town called Crescent City. For exact directions and some preview pictures check out our blog post about the California Redwoods.
On the way up the coast from my perspective here are the places worth stopping / possibly staying.
Santa Barbara - People love it, but I haven't quite figured out why. The town is sub-par, not so charming and lots of homeless people. The beach is detached from the town. I think that people like it if they are staying in homes or ranches on the hillside. There are also vineyards but I haven't visited them. I would say unless you are spending time at a resort such as Bacara Resort & Spa or Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara doesn't need a night...perhaps just a pit stop.
Los Olivos - Haven't been but people love it. Small quaint town in wine country. This is smaller than Solvang and more charming, but I haven't personally been there.
Pismo Beach (California) - This is probably what Santa Monica was like 50 years ago. It is an untouched California beach town that probably feels exactly like it did 30 years ago. Its not very crowded, has a beautiful stretch of beach but is also slightly run-down with older motels. Its possible that when we visited we missed the newer side. In either case this was a fun beach for our dog to run around because there weren't many people at all. We just stopped here for dinner and some beach time but didn't sleep here.
San Simeon - This is pretty empty but gorgeous stretch of coastline with a few older hotels that aren't very nice but do the job. The big attraction here is Hearst Castle but we didn't have time to visit it. They are not dog friendly. Sam Simeon was used as a pit-stop for a night, but it was purely just for a place to sleep.
Cambria - One of the scariest places I've been. It is 100% a ghost town....meaning actual ghosts *live here. It felt like it was straight out of an RL Stine or Stephen King book. Bizarre place.
Big Sur - This is AMAZINGLY beautiful mountainous coastline. Tons of places to pull over and take pictures and a a handful of hikes along the way. Must stop at McWay Falls for photos. A cool place to stop for food and a nice walk is Ragged Point. There is also a hotel here that seems to be a perfect place to stay given its gorgeous plot of land. It feels like a highway rest-stop/biker stop with live music and lots of biker people. Moving up the coast a great place to have lunch is Ventana Inn (http://www.ventanainn.com/) A great place to sleep is Post Ranch Inn. It is a very nice but also very EXPENSIVE hotel. I've also heard about some really nice cabins to stay in that range in price, but I don't know the names of them off-hand. I would spend more time in Big Sur and look up places to stay. I wouldn't rule out camping or more rugged sleeping arrangements.
Carmel - This is a small little village. Expensive real estate. Here you will find lots of little Inns that feel like they are from the Hobbit. There are also lots of little restaurants, art galleries, and a few high end stores like Coach etc... There is a nice beach and it feels like a permanent vacation town.
17 Mile Dr - A scenic drive from Carmel to Monterey that costs $5-$8. Its pretty and there are some stopping points that include Pebble Beach (California) and Spanish Bay. Its pretty, but not nearly as pretty as the drive through Big Sur.
Monterey - This is a coastal town that is much larger than Carmel but still feels somewhat small. There are a lot more restaurants and hotels. We really enjoyed staying at Casa Munras Hotel & Spa. It was well priced and clean. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is a popular thing to do but we skipped it. We had a great breakfast at Trailside Cafe & Coffee House! If I were to go back, I would prefer to stay the night in Big Sur or Carmel rather than Monterey. Perhaps just stop in Monterey during the day on the way up to San Francisco.
Santa Cruz - Haven't been...heard mixed things. Some say its really run down and not a fun place to stop. Others love it.
San Francisco - Worthy of its own post. This is a HUGE and AMAZING city. Some parts to check out include Fisherman's Wharf, Alcatraz, Ferry Building, Marina District, Union Square, Hayes Valley, Golden Gate Park, Golden Gate Bridge, Fillmore St, Haight-Ashbury, Mission District. Here is a website that shows all of the neighborhoods. http://www.sfgate.com/neighborhoods/
North of San Francisco you will find some really great places worth visiting as well.
Sausalito - Cool little town right across the bay. You can even ride bikes here from San Francisco and take a ferry back. Restaurants, shopping, ice cream....nice place for lunch.
Mill Valley - Small town..some restaurants. Hosts its own Film Festival.
Tiburon - Small and quaint coastal harbor village. Some restaurants and shopping.
Muir Woods - Beautiful nature walk among GIGANTIC Red Wood Trees. Some you can even fit a car through!
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