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Moonstone resorts: perfect for driving the coast and family vacations | Travel

California and Oregon rank high for Puget Sound summer driving vacations. From Disney’s new California Adventure to the perennially fresh Monterey-Carmel-Big Sur and the unhurried destinations of Oregon’s state parks, driving I-5 south for a summer getaway is a vacation that always delights.

I’ve stumbled onto one more reason to make a trip south and make the going sweeter en route. Moonstone Hotel Properties, based in Cambria, Calif., just south of Big Sur and Hearst’s San Simeon Castle on California’s renowned Pacific Coast Highway (State Route 1), has a collection of seven properties that stretch from Oregon’s lush Willamette Valley to the Pacific Surf at Cambria. I really like Moonstone’s approach to hospitality.

For starters, they are family and budget-friendly. They’ve positioned themselves midway between the faceless and boring national motel chains and the $250-$400 a night uber-spa-resorts. Most of Moonstone’s resort campuses include individual standing cabins, recently built with excellent amenities, and with a cozy privacy that other properties rarely offer. Most Moonstones have swimming pools. Most serve complimentary hot breakfasts, and most are a garden lover’s dream.

In Silverton, a few miles east of I-5 near Salem, the famous Oregon Garden is home to Moonstone’s newest hotel, with 103 rooms and cabins. The Gardens highlight 20 unique gardens throughout the 400-acre property. Entrance includes complimentary tram trips to all corners of the gardens.

Twenty miles south of Eugene at historic Cottage Grove, the venerable Village Green is getting the Moonstone “touch” with additional gardens being laid out this spring. The swimming pool and RV park add to the large property’s versatility.

Further south in Camel and Monterey are two more Moonstones. The Monterey Hotel is more urban, if that could be said of tiny Monterey. The hotel is five minutes from the shopping pier and Cannery Row.

On the other hand, Moonstone’s Carmel River Inn, less than 10 miles south, is hidden among the greenery of the lush Carmel Valley as it meets the Pacific near Point Lobos. The famous Mission Carmel is a two-minute drive. Again, more newly built cabins here create easy family travel that is far from the standard motel fare and further still from the steep prices of Carmel-by-the-sea or the golf resorts up-valley.

Finally, Cambria Pines Lodge, Pelican Cove Inn and Sea Otter Inn complete the Moonstone “necklace” of properties near where the Pacific Coast Highway meets up with State Route 101 at San Luis Obispo. The three Cambria properties are quiet getaways set among scenic coastal beaches, misty pine groves and the hyper-cute, hyper-artsy shops and restaurants of tiny Cambria.

From there, the drive to Los Angeles is four hours.

If you go: check out the Moonstone Web site at www.Moonstonehotels.com or call, toll-free, (800) 966-6490.

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