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Coast drive - SF to Big Sur and back

London, Canada
Level Contributor
51 posts
Coast drive - SF to Big Sur and back

My wife and I are going to rent a car during our visit (first week of May) to drive down the coast and back. We're going to do this mid-week, likely on the Wednesday, and we plan on returning back to SF that same night. We don't care how late we get back.

From my research it sounds like there are a million things to do and see along this drive, including 17 Mile Drive, lunch at Pebble Beach, stopping at pullouts and beaches, visiting Monterey and its aquarium, visiting Carmel, visiting Point Lobos, visiting Santa Cruz, visiting Half Moon Bay, etc.

My question is whether anyone can suggest a logical way to do as much of this as we can. Is the best plan to drive all the way to Big Sur, taking in the scenery from the car and then making stops on the way back north? Or might we be better off to make all of our stops on the way there and then just drive straight back from Big Sur afterwards?

I'm really stumped at how to best do this drive and to see what should be seen so any advice would be really appreciated.

Also, should traffic from our Nob Hill hotel be a problem in the morning en route to Hwy. 1 southbound?


Santa Cruz...
Destination Expert
for Santa Cruz
Level Contributor
33,582 posts
6 reviews
1. Re: Coast drive - SF to Big Sur and back

Just my opinion, but I would drive to Big Sur first and enjoy that and then make what stops there is time for on the way back. You might, for example, skip 17-mile drive, since you will already have seen much more spectacular coast. 17 mile drive also includes 2 golf courses and some expensive houses <shrug>.

Grover Beach...
Destination Expert
for Pismo Beach, Cambria, Big Sur
Level Contributor
22,194 posts
10 reviews
2. Re: Coast drive - SF to Big Sur and back

I agree with Puter. Drive to Big Sur first and take in what you can on the way back to the city. Do lunch at Nepenthe or Sierra Mar at the Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur. I also agree that 17 MIle Drive isn't a "must do" unless you absolutely need to see Pebble Beach.

Point Lobos is a MUCH better option to 17 Mile Drive.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is quieter later in the day (like after 3:30pm), so a late arrival there would be advantageous.

As for the traffic leaving SF: The 280 freeway is the fastest way out of the city, no heavy traffic and one the prettiest freeways you'll ever drive.

Edited: 25 April 2010, 16:53
San Jose, California
Destination Expert
for California
Level Contributor
18,303 posts
122 reviews
3. Re: Coast drive - SF to Big Sur and back

So far we are unanimous.

4. Re: Coast drive - SF to Big Sur and back

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