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…
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
So, what should you do?
We had three days and these are my top recommendations…
Walk up Cannery Row.
Explore the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Walk/Jog/Stroll along the coastline trails, taking in the amazing landscape on one side and the cozy coastal homes on the other.
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.
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.)
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).
Grab a quick lunch at Hog’s Breath.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.