Merrick, New York
In early November 2015, we have exactly 32 hours to get from to center of San Fran to the airport in San Luis Obispo for our red-eye flight home to New York.
We want to do the Highway 1/PCH drive thru Big Sur, Bixby Bridge etc. but also want to put "boots on the ground" and experience some highlights all along the way. We generally love nature, national parks and hiking and are trying to figure out where we should stay overnight. Our budget for overnight lodging is $100-$200 so I think staying in Big Sur is out of the question.
Is reaching Cambria or San Simeon too ambitious, considering we want to actually get OUT of the car? Maybe Carmel is a better overnight stopping point?
Places we want to do/visit: Cannery Row in Monterey, 17 Mile Drive to Carmel, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Perhaps 1 tour at Hearst Castle?
Things we are willing to skip in order to have more experiences vs. "drive-bys" include Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz, Monterey Bay AQUARIUM (only because I think we don't have time to really see it?), anything to do with wine.
Would appreciate any tips and suggestions.
Caution: The one hour tour at hearst castle can take a couple of hours, depending on tour times and availability - and you can't just cruise on up to the castle - you only get as far as the gift shop n some hokey display - ive driven highway 1 at least half dozen times and have yet to have schedules work w. Hearst castle tours... Perhaps don't try n schedule anything and instead let the road dictate when you stop? It is all beautiful and hiking in anyplace adjacent to the Pacific is magical.
Leave SF as early as possible and enjoy your drive down the coast and stop where the view moves you. It is a gorgeous drive. There can be several stops ranging from wonderful aquarium and pier in Monterey, Henry Miller Memorial Library to lighthouses, hikes around Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and Plaskett Creek Campground and fantastic Limekiln Beach State Park. Elephant seals at Piedras Blancas Elephant Seals and Humpbacks have been hanging around San Simeon State Park for over a month. Spend as long as you want along the coast before arriving around Cambria. Great place to stay the night but make reservations ahead. In Cambria there are walking trails, beach, and small town atmosphere. When you are ready to leave, the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport is about 35 miles. In between is the interesting town of Cayucos and Morro Bay or hike the bluff area of Montana de Oro State Park. Skip SLO itself unless you want the visit its Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa downtown.
Oh, and one caveat. You plan November. Check the weather closely. If we have the El Niño rains predicted, big IF, Highway One can be closed for landslides. Have a plan B in place as you will need to drive 101 South.
And another caveat. If you have 32 hours, that would allow a stay in Monterey AND Cambria area and still get you to the airport in plenty of time. Hearst Castle could not be done in less than about two hours.
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As for reaching Cambria, it depends on what time of day you leave SF. If you can leave SF early there's time to drive and get boots on the ground. Big Sur is a natural paradise; Julie Pfeiffer Burns State Park and nearby McWay Falls are two of many options.Probably the most "affordable" place to stay in Big Sur is a yurt at Treebones Resort otherwise $100-200 goes farthest in San Simeon Cambria or Morro Bay
If you can make it to San Simeon/Cambria, there's time the next morning to visit Hearst Castle, the beach and make it to the airport for a red-eye flight. San Luis Obispo itself is a nice town, and you can hang out there too before the flight.
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