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Route 1 PCH - north to south, or south to north

Long Island, New...
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Route 1 PCH - north to south, or south to north

What's the best way to travel between San Francisco and Newport Beach, and how long will it take on Rte 1 the whole way? We will travel Route 1 Pacific Coast Highway only one way (July 2012, can make it a weekday if best too) - should it be from north to south, or south to north? Either way we start the trip, we don't want hairpin turns at dusk, so do you think Big Sur would be a good stop to break up the drive? Also, are there parts of the trip that can be traveled inland for quicker arrival without missing anything great? thanks!

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1. Re: Route 1 PCH - north to south, or south to north

I'm going to speak as if you are driving north to south, but the reverse would be true if you decide to go the other way.

I'd guess all the way to Newport beach using Highway 1 at least to Santa Monica would be about 13 hours of driving, in total. Cambria would be a good place for an overnight stop - its not really a drive to try and do in one day.

In Santa Monica, Highway 1 briefly merges with I-10 west, but then splits off and heads south on Lincoln Blvd. I'd suggest at this point remaining on I-10 instead, and taking it to the 405 freeway heading south.You can take the 405 all the way to the 55 and then take that freeway into Newport Beach. This keeps you on the freeways as you transit through LA and then Orange County. The alternative is to remain on highway 1 but for large portions of the route between Santa Monica and Newport Beach, Highway 1 is a surface street with lots of traffic signals and mostly inland, so its a lot slower with not that much scenery except suburban parts of LA for a good stretch. Eventually it does head back to the coast again, however, and has far fewer traffic signals.

Until you reach Santa Monica, the main time saving alternate routes would involve I-5 all the way to LA, which misses all the great scenery of the coast and instead is a faster road but travelling through dull, flat, endless farmland, or Highway 101, which can save some time but completely bypasses Monterey, Carmel, Big Sur etc., and instead remerges with Highway 1 in San Luis Obispo before splitting from, and remerging with, Highway 1 a few times.

As for which direction, if you go from north to south you'll be on the outside of the road. This means you'll have a slightly better view, but also will have nothing between you and the edge of some cliffs (mainly in the Big Sur area) which makes some folks uncomfortable.

Grover Beach...
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2. Re: Route 1 PCH - north to south, or south to north

Well, if you're traveling from SF to Newport Beach, you only have the north to south option.

To save "some" time, and by "some", I mean less than an hour, take I-280 south from SF to Highway 85 South (Gilroy) to Highway 101 South to Highway 156 West (Do NOT confuse with 156 East, which you'll see first) to Highway 1 South, which meet a few miles north of Monterey. Should take about 2 1/2 hours to get to Monterey with above routes..

Once you're on Highway 1 south of Carmel, you're committed. There are no quick detours back over to Highway 101 along the Big Sur coast. Highway 1 continues all the way into San Luis Obispo where you pick up Highway 101 south all the way into LA (Unless you opt to pick up Highway 1 again in Oxnard).

As MachThree pointed out... it's a LONG 13/14 hour drive WITHOUT stops. The drive really needs at least 1 overnight stop, but 2 would be better. Agree that Cambria would be the best midway stop with only 1 night.

www.cambriachamber.org/

Edited: 05 March 2012, 02:48
Grover Beach...
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3. Re: Route 1 PCH - north to south, or south to north

I guess I should give you some drive times.

SF to Cambria: 5 1/2- 6 hours WITHOUT stops. This is the most scenic part of the whole drive and deserves at least 8-12 hours to do it justice.

Cambria to LA: 4-5 hours WITHOUT stops. Santa Barbara is on that route and is worthy of a half day.

Long Island, New...
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4. Re: Route 1 PCH - north to south, or south to north

i've been reading maps and websites till my eyes are crossed, lots to take in and so much to do/see. i'm starting to rethink trying to do both northern and southern CA in one trip. we really enjoy the warmer weather and love the beach, so perhaps flying into LAX and staying at Newport Beach while doing day trips would be best. we can do SanFran and northern wine country another time. i'm sure i'll be back on forum with future questions once we work out a new itinerary. thanks so much for your replies!!

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5. Re: Route 1 PCH - north to south, or south to north

You could always fly between San Francisco (SFO or OAK) to LA (LAX, LGB or SNA if headed to Newport Beach) which is only about an hour of actual flying time, plus of course time to get to the airport and go through security, etc. Flights can be had as low as $29 sometimes, but $69 or 79 each way is more the norm. Of course, doing this you do miss the spectacular coastal drive, but it is a way to do both San Francisco and LA/Orange County without a huge drive in between. Good luck.

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6. Re: Route 1 PCH - north to south, or south to north

thanks for a good suggestion, will consider.

we've only got 6 nights, 7 days. we had figured 3 nights in SanFran, 1 night on the way down, 2 nights in Newport Beach. but this seems to be a lot more driving than we anticipated and not sure if that's how we want to spend it, we kind of like to be in one place and walk the town/beach/etc.

we really want to see some scenic views on Rte 1 though. so if we don't fly between cities and only do one, which would you suggest...SanFran and head south. or Newport Beach and head north? we only want to drive a few hours is possible.

Grover Beach...
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7. Re: Route 1 PCH - north to south, or south to north

The most dramatic part of Highway 1 is along the Big Sur coast, which starts about 3 hours south of San Francisco and about 8 hours north of Newport Beach.

I suppose you could drive up toward Santa Monica from Newport or down to Santa Cruz from SF to get a small taste of California coastline in a few hours time.

8. Re: Route 1 PCH - north to south, or south to north

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