Monterey, on the west coast of California, should be on everybody’s list of places to visit. If you’re planning a trip to California, Monterey and it’s beautiful neighbour, Carmel-by-the-Sea, are definite must-sees. They’re two of my favourite places that I’ve ever visited, particularly Carmel. A picturesque town filled with fairytale cottages and an amazing coastline = perfection. As we visited during a three week road trip in California, we were limited on the amount of time that we had in each place. We only had one full day in Monterey, so we had to make the most of it! What’s great about Monterey is that you can pretty much walk to everywhere, which is easier than trying to park, plus you get to see more than you do trying to navigate traffic etc. My favourite way to see a new place is to walk around – I love being able to stop and take a photo, or pop into a café/ bar whenever you want.
We had a couple of hours spare after driving down from Yosemite National Park, so used this time to wander along Cannery Row and around Old Fisherman’s Wharf, the harbour and the beach. There are lots of small shops selling a variety of things around Old Fisherman’s Wharf, particularly outdoor clothes and food (my favourite kind of shop). Lots of sea food, but also lots of sweet treats to snack on as you wander around. From the end of the wharf, you can see all of the sea lions which have made their home on the rocky outcrops and jetties in the sea. The marina and beach are also worth having a wander around. The beach was pretty much empty when we went, so it was nice to just relax for a bit after a long drive down. We finished the day with a fantastic meal at Montrio Bistro, one of the best meals that we had in California. Set on a quiet side-street in downtown Monterey, they serve a variety of European and American small plates with a twist. One of the dishes that we tried was shredded duck and popcorn – it sounds weird, but it was amazing.
We were up early the next day to make the most of the time we had left and headed straight to the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. As we were continuing onto the 17 Mile Drive after the Aquarium, we drove and parked a couple of blocks away. Monterey Bay Aquarium has amazing reviews and it’s not hard to see why! Definitely make the time to stop off if you are heading that way. It’s so well organised and informative, and contains more types of marine life than we even knew existed! You can watch feeding time with the otters and penguins at various times through the day – just turn up at the scheduled time to watch. There’s also a touch pools area, where you can touch all of the animals kept there. They ranged from decorative crabs, who used pieces of coral or seaweed to camouflage themselves, to sea cucumbers, long cucumber-like (funnily enough) creatures which are surprisingly soft to touch. It was so much more exciting than a standard aquarium or zoo where you just walk around looking through multiple glass walls. There’s loads of interactive stuff throughout the Aquarium to keep kids (and big kids) entertained. The huge tanks of jellyfish were fascinating, as was the Open Sea tank, containing different types of fish and sharks.
We could easily have spent longer there, but unfortunately had to leave after a couple of hours. We headed straight to the 17 Mile Drive, a stretch of striking coastline between Monterey and neighbouring Carmel, which wraps around the iconic Pebble Beach Golf Club. You pay around $10 to enter the road, which you can have reimbursed by eating in the Pebble Beach Restaurants. You also receive a map listing all of the points of interest on the way round, such as the Lone Cypress pictured above, which has survived for over 250 years on it’s rocky home. We also stopped off at Pebble Beach for a look around and a spot of lunch. A definite must-see for any golf enthusiasts (& for those just after food with with view). Such a beautiful place, with stunning views of the coastline from the restaurants and bars. The food can be pretty pricey, but you can keep it fairly reasonable depending on what you eat.
After finishing the 17 Mile Drive, we spent a couple of hours relaxing on the beach in Carmel-by-the-Sea. If I could, I would buy a house in Carmel in a heartbeat. This little coastal town is made up of picturesque houses and shops, clean sidewalks and a gorgeous, white sand beach stretching out along the front of the town. After an active few days in Yosemite, it was nice to have a couple of days that involved some down time as well! I would have loved to spend more time there and hope to go back one day and spend a week exploring Monterey and Carmel properly. One of the things I really wanted to do was to rent bikes and cycle along the seafront, breathing in the fresh, salty air and admiring the rugged scenery.