Sea otters, dolphins, whales, seals and a rich mix of sea life
call Monterey Bay home. Take our scenic drive to see Monterey Bay and
all the delights to be found on the Monterey Peninsula where the towns
of Monterey and Carmel attract travelers from all over the world. Many
come to see the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, others head to the links
or the shop – whatever you do, don’t miss a driving tour to see all the
The stretch between Monterey and Big Sur is one of the top
destinations along the California coastline, much of it clustered along
the edge of Monterey Bay, a deep underwater canyon. With so much to see
and do, plan to spend some time here. There’s no need to rough it while
enjoying incredible natural beauty as there are plenty of great places
to stay, wonderful restaurants and diversions galore. This is an area
visitors return to again and again.
Monterey Area focuses on the coast around the Monterey Bay but
inland and to the north and south, there are many interesting
towns, attractions, sights and nartural areas. If you visit,
consider exploring a bit beyond the area.
Other nearby places to explore:
Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Researach Reserve, off Hwy 1 near
Moss Landing. Trails through marsh and tidal flats; hundreds of bird
(831) 728-2822. Wed.-Sun.
Sunset State Beach, at the end of Beach St, west of Watsonville. Long, sandy beach with developed facilities.
San Juan Bautista. Old farming town adjoins historic park and mission.
Mission San Juan Bautista, on the Plaza, San Juan Bautista. Fine
restored mission with large three-nave chapel and museum. Located next
to San Andreas fault.
San Juan Bautista State Historic Park, San Juan Bautista. Park and
mission form harmonious complex around the plaza. Restored buildings
with period furnishings include the Plaza Hotel.
Mission San Antonio de Padua. Remote mission location in an unchanged landscape. Site evokes the feeling of old California.
Pinnacles National Monument, east entrance on Hwy 146, 5 miles west of
Hwy 25 and 30 miles south of Hollister, west entrance on Hwy 146, 14
miles east of Soledad. Excellent trails among eroded, dark red volcanic
spires and fine wildflower display. Great birdwatching opportunities.
Visitors center on east side.
Bear Gulch, Pinnacles National Monument. Popular trail through Bear
Gulch follows a creek through caves. Flashlights needed. Bear Gulch may
be closed May-Sept. due to bat nesting. Balconies caves remain open.
Mission Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, on Fort Romie Rd, 1 mile west of Hwy 101. Restored chapel among the adobe ruins.
(831) 678-2586. Closed Tues.
SCENIC DRIVES: It doesn’t matter if you are traveling north
or south, the main road hugging the coast is Highway 1. This drive
takes you as close to the ocean as possible, with side trips into the
destination towns of Monterey, Pacific Grove and Carmel. If you stay on
the direct route (1), you’ll miss everything! Instead, head into
Monterey for a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Cannery Row and
Fisherman’s Wharf. Those traveling with kids will want to stop at the
Dennis the Menace playground near the Wharf. You’ll see tour boats in
the Bay, scuba divers and kayakers amid the kelp beds and beachcombers
on the shoreline path.
In winter, ask in Pacific Grove to find out where to view the resting monarch butterflies (quietly, please).
Continuing along the Pacific Grove coast, stop to take in the views
from Point Pinos lighthouse and Asilomar beach walk, keeping an eye out
for otters near shore. The 17-Mile Drive starts nearby and continues
amid amazing architectural grandeur with mansion after mansion facing
the Pacific Ocean. Watch for the famous cypress tree clinging to a
cliff above the sea. Pebble Beach, the unparalleled and exclusive golf
course commands some of the best views, especially for sunsets.
Exit to explore quaint Carmel and its many shops, galleries and
restaurants or loop back north to complete the 17-Mile Drive. From
Carmel, head south to see the Mission or take a picnic and a camera to
Point Lobos State Reserve for one of the most beautiful spots on earth.
SIDETRIP: Back on Highway 1, you may wish to explore inland,
following Carmel Valley Road to scenic overlooks and wineries amid the
If you go south, you’ll be following the Big Sur coast, a stretch
of road to savor by stopping near the Bixby Bridge and one or both of
the State Parks. There are small beaches, inland waterfalls, a
lighthouse, numerous trails but few services.