What to do in Monterey, California

Our recent trip to California led to much time in the car, admiring the stunning central coast, and a lot of humming of California songs…

What to do in Monterey, California
Street Art in Monterey

Reminiscent of a much earlier time, Monterey boasts beautiful homes, gorgeous views, and a significant history. Back in the early 1900’s, Monterey was less of a tourist stop and more of a fishing and canning town. In fact, at one time, it was considered to be the sardine capital of the world. Just walk up Cannery Row and you will see street art reminiscent of a time past. But it isn’t just the street art, Cannery Row itself seems to be of an earlier era, sprinkled with plaques and quotes from John Steinbeck’s well-known Cannery Row. It is certainly a place that a history and/or literary buff could lose herself.

What to do in Monterey, California
Housing as it was on Cannery Row

However, even if that’s not one of your interests, there is a little bit of something for everyone. Kayak rentals are readily available as are bike and jogging paths for the outdoor enthusiasts. Ocean Drive and 17-Mile Drive are littered with pull-offs for those chasing the perfect photos.

What to do in Monterey, California
Lone Cypress on 17 Mile Drive

Pebble Beach is a golfer’s paradise. In fact, as a self-proclaimed (and verified on several occasions) non golfer, it really is anyone’s paradise. You can’t help but feel you have found something special as you sit on the deck at The Lodge overlooking a perfectly manicured course on the ocean’s edge with the rolling hills of Carmel in the background.

What to do in Monterey, California
Pebble Beach Golf Course

Carmel is the quinticential dreamy California town, complete with blocks and blocks of hidden alleyways with shops and restaurants. Strolling down the hill, you are hit with the beauty of the sandy coastline (which led one of us to begin quoting the California commercials… We are dreamers. We have our heads in the clouds…and then to state that the other of us would fit in perfectly here).

What to do in Monterey, California

Farther down the coastline as one enters Big Sur, the road climbs higher and higher and the coastline rockier and rockier. The majesty of it all is something that could take all day (or a lifetime) to fully grasp.

What to do in Monterey, California
Big Sure

So, what should you do?

We had three days and these are my top recommendations…


Walk up Cannery Row.

What to do in Monterey, California

Explore the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

What to do in Monterey, California

Walk/Jog/Stroll along the coastline trails, taking in the amazing landscape on one side and the cozy coastal homes on the other.

What to do in Monterey, California

What to do in Monterey, California

Go out for dinner at 1833 Restaurant (I don’t have a photo because it was dark by the time we made it to dinner, but trust me, the ambiance is amazing… trendy and old school glam and cabin like… you really just need to check it out for yourselves.) 

Ocean Drive and 17-Mile Drive…

Just do it. It’s one of the most beautiful drives you will take. Do not miss the Lone Cypress stop. It will take your breath away.

What to do in Monterey, California
Views on Ocean Drive
What to do in Monterey, California
Layers of Rocks
What to do in Monterey, California
Lone Cypress

Don’t forget to stop at the Pebble Beach Golf Course for drinks (relatively reasonably priced) on the deck of The Lodge. (This is also a great place to pick up gifts for the golfers in your lives.)

What to do in Monterey, California


Plan on a few hours to explore downtown Carmel by the Sea (and, in our experience on a weekend, a good 20 minutes to park).

What to do in Monterey, California

Grab a quick lunch at Hog’s Breath.

What to do in Monterey, California

Walk down to the ocean and stroll along the sandy shores, taking in children’s screams of delight and dogs barking as they anxiously await another toss of the tennis ball.

Big Sur…

Again, I cannot recommend this drive enough. Someone was a bit irritated that we had to go to Big Sur before Carmel (likely due to the fact that the other of us needed to get a photo at a particular bridge starring in a popular HBO mini series). However, all doubt quickly dissipated as our assent into the mountains began. You could spend anywhere from a few hours to days exploring this rocky coastline. As luck would have it, our cell phones offered very little to no service during our time in Big Sur and that was fine with us. Being a map lover, I had picked up a few guides from the hotel concierge before leaving. Even if you are not a paper map person, it would probably be a good idea to grab one… just in case.  Moreover, although experience proved that one can survive seeing the sights in flip flops and Toms, it is probably better to approach the outlooks in more appropriate foot attire. We made two stops on the Big Sur stretch.

The first was Garrapata, and I would definitely suggest making this a priority. It is a great place to stretch your legs and walk on the trails. The photography elements are quite stunning as well. 

What to do in Monterey, California


What to do in Monterey, California
Views from Garrapata
What to do in Monterey, California
Garrapata Coral

As you may have guessed earlier, the second stop is Bixby Bridge (cue Michael Kiwanuka’s “Cold Little Heart”). Even if you aren’t a fan of Big Little Lies, the views are spectacular. Just be sure to pay attention to your footing; the drop off is far from forgiving.

What to do in Monterey, California
Bixby Bridge

If we had time and the proper foot gear, I would have been tempted to spend an afternoon at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. It’s always good to save something for next time, though, right?

What to do in Monterey, California

Who can stay away from the iconic California coastline? With it’s salty air, rhythmic crashing waves, and layers upon layers of views, it is hard to escape the laid back vibe, as though everyone, visitors and residents, are very much aware of just how fortunate they are… the dreaminess is in the landscape and in the people, and it is not to be missed. 

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***Don’t forget to pin this for when you visit Monterey.

What to do in Monterey


Friday Finds on Mackinaw Road, Take 5: Timeshares, WhatsApp, and a Reno

Happy Friday!

This week was again surprisingly busy with coordinating kids’ activities, trips to apples orchards, vet appointments, celebrating birthdays, catching flights, making schedules, and ruminating on renovation (nope, I’m not talking about Reno today) decisions. Where to begin…

Timeshares, WhatsApp, and a Renovation

Since this is supposed to be a travel blog, let’s begin with a couple of oldie-but-goodie suggestions. Continue reading Friday Finds on Mackinaw Road, Take 5: Timeshares, WhatsApp, and a Reno

What to do in Petoskey, Michigan

What to do in Petoskey

Let’s talk Petoskey! Just when I think I have my Northern Michigan “spots” all figured out, we stumbled upon this little slice of heaven. Naturally, I made a list. Continue reading What to do in Petoskey, Michigan

Friday Finds, Take 4: Podcasts, Another Travel App, and Tipping Guidelines

Podcasts, Travel Apps, and Articles

Last weekend, we went to Chicago for a few days. I was expecting to have lots and lots of pictures and recommendations, but I just was having too much fun and was much too laid back to do so. Also, we didn’t plan ahead as we should have, so mostly ended up at our old favorites (read: LeColonial and The Kerryman). I did, however, take a few pictures on my 9am 90 degree run… mostly just as an excuse to take a break!

Another exciting part of the trip was that my husband connected my phone to the car’s bluetooth system, so we were able to listen all of my favorite podcasts. (It may have been disconnected after I made us listen to the second season of Serial on our way to O’Hare on Christmas Day a few years back… intriguing but not really holiday material.)

Speaking of… I have to admit that after Serial ended, I sort of gave up on podcasts. Some had fun information, but the people talking were just too giggly and giddy. Others just didn’t fit the bill. I tried to continue with Crime Writers On (which I LOVE and would highly recommend listening to concurrently with Serial) but since our cable plan didn’t cover the TV shows they were talking about at the time, I sort of lost interest there too. Of course, neither of those podcasts has anything to do with travel…

Podcasts, Travel Apps, and An Article

I recently happened upon Travelogue, which is by Conde Nest Traveler. Their most recent podcast contained all of my favorites… coffee, how to score cheap tickets to Broadway shows in NYC, and what to do in Chicago with kids (see how it compares to my list here). Anyway, as the title suggests, the hosts talk all about Where to Travel This Fall.

Having quite a few hours logged in the car this past week, I also turned to the classic This American Life. I don’t think that radio voices get much better than Sarah Koenig’s. And, I learned quite a bit about the aftermath of Japan’s devastating Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011… and about a phone booth that people who have lost loved ones visit to “speak” to their missing family members and friends… and the tragic but healing effect it has on them.

Podcasts, Travel Apps, and Articles

And another Travel App recommendation. My sister-in-law has such great travel suggestions! This app is called Hotel Tonight. Again, as the name suggests, this probably isn’t the best app for those who like to plan. However, if you are headed to a nearby city and are looking for a room, the prices do appear to be quite heavily discounted the night of. This is perfect if you are heading from a nearby suburb or state into Chicago for the day, for maybe a baseball game or quick trip to one of their extraordinary museums (just look at that view from Shedd Aquarium!), and decide that you are tired and would rather spend the night instead of driving back home. Done and done.

Podcasts, Travel Apps, and Articles

Yet another fabulous read (again, recommended by my sister-in-law… I’m so lucky to be part of a great traveling family!)…  Wondering about how much to tip? I typically go with the 20% rule for gratuity while in the USA when I get a bill… but what about for those extra services such as when the concierge makes a dinner reservation for you? Jettsetter has you covered. Check out their helpful guidelines here.

What podcasts have you been listening to lately? Any other useful travel apps that you don’t leave home without? And, what have been your experiences with gratuity?

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Traverse City Wineries

Michigan Wineries
Black Star Farms

“I’d like to do a flight of beer.” This was my husband’s “winery joke” and I have to say, it was a success every time. Humor aside, there are just under 60 wineries in the Traverse City area, so we are slowly adding one or two to our repertoire on each trip. Continue reading Traverse City Wineries

Friday Finds, Take 3: Spotify, Books, and a Travel App

I hope that you had nice week! We got home this past Monday from our trip to Northern Michigan and headed out again on Thursday for another 3-day trip. It may be a sign that we need to slow down when our 4-year old writes at preschool that the thing that is special about his family is when we “stay home for a couple of whiles.” After this weekend, our travel will slow down and we will have more time at home to do all of the fun fall activities that Michigan offers (and maybe even write some travel blog posts). In the meantime, here are a few of the things that may be worth checking out …

open road

Continue reading Friday Finds, Take 3: Spotify, Books, and a Travel App

Travel-Inspired Shared Bedroom

Shared Kids' Room

Again, this may be a stretch… But I’m going to go ahead and write this post anyway. Just a little backstory… My kids are like puppies. They love to be wild and then snuggle, snuggle, snuggle. “Alone time” just really isn’t a thing with them, and my introverted self is amazed by and loves them for it. 

So, while they are young and think that sharing a room is fun and special, I’m more than happy to oblige. As I’m sure you have been able to gather from reading Mackinaw Road or following along on Instagram, most of our travels take us lake/oceanside. I tried to incorporate this “feel” without being to nautical or coastal.  Continue reading Travel-Inspired Shared Bedroom

Mackinaw Road: Goals and Updates

Well, summer is unofficially over. It’s disappointing for a lake girl like myself, but I love looking back at all of the fun memories that were created with family and friends.

Lake sunset

It’s also time to start thinking about goals for Mackinaw Road this year as the  1st anniversary is quickly approaching.  I have recently updated my Pinterest page to look more professional (and pretty) and I’d love for you to check it out. Am I missing a board? Any board that is of particular interest? Another goal I have is to increase Instagram followers to 2500 by the end of October; that’s just over 1000 followers to gain, so spread that word 😉  In relation to blog posts on Mackinaw Road, this is what I’m thinking, and I’d love your feedback…. Continue reading Mackinaw Road: Goals and Updates

Island Travel Interviews, Vietnam- Take 1

What to do in Phu Quoc
Photo Credit- Pixabay

I must admit I knew little to very little about Phu Quoc in Vietnam prior to this interview with Melissa from Thrifty Family Travels, so many thanks to her for sharing her insights into this beautiful island. 

Just a little background info before we begin….Phu Quoc is located in the Gulf of Thailand and is the largest island in Vietnam, boasting a population just over 100,000, this 222 square foot island has an economy made up mostly of fishing, agriculture, and ever-increasing tourism.  Continue reading Island Travel Interviews, Vietnam- Take 1

What to Do in Charlevoix, Michigan

I have to admit that Charlevoix has my heart. I don’t know if it is the cozy town, the amazing green water, or the chance to touch base with one of the first friend couples we met when we moved to Grand Rapids 11 years ago. It is amazing how quickly life goes and this chance to refresh is always welcomed. Where there was once a little blonde-haired toddler, there is now an almost teenager watching my preschooler and our other grade-school kids. We don’t see each other often even though we live quite close and that’s fine. It’s how life works sometimes. But it just makes this weekend all the more special for us. Continue reading What to Do in Charlevoix, Michigan