Next stop on our tour along the California coast was Monterey. This seaside town is home to the world famous Monterrey Bay Aquarium and boasts an ideal starting point for explorers wanting to visit Carmel-on-the-Sea and Big Sur.
When we originally started planning our trip, we wanted to stay at Ventana Inn, Big Sur, however, due to bad weather over the winter, the roads and bridges around Big Sur had been severely damaged so our stay was unfortunately canceled. We quickly amended our itinerary to reflect these changes and here it is below!
After picking up our car from Avis Fisherman’s Wharf, we climbed in to our Ford Mustang (of course), put the top down and set off on our 2.5 hour drive to Monterey, passing Silicon Valley and Santa Cruz.
After checking in to our hotel, Casa Munras (a perfect little gem in the centre of Monterey) we drove ten minutes up the road to the fairy tale seaside village of Carmel-by-the-Sea to enjoy a spot of lunch in the sunshine.
We discovered The Tuck Box, an adorable little cafe that looked just like the something from Hansel and Gretel. We sat in the courtyard which became a delightful little sun trap on this bright but breezy day. I ordered the Chef salad but all main dishes are served with their signature “English” scones. I don’t often have a sweet tooth, but these things were delicious, particularly when accompanied by a spoonful of clotted cream and jam! This definitely was one of my favourite lunches of the trip.
We took a walk around the quaint shops along Ocean Avenue and down to the beach. It was busy with couples and families walking their dogs along the surf (although I suspect the sea was too turbulent and chilly to go swimming in!).
Returned to the car and took the 17 Mile Drive, a scenic coastal road through the world famous Pebble Beach golf course and Cypress Point. In true American style, we had the roof down and Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born in the USA’ playing full blast!
Enjoyed a quick dip in the pool and a drink or two by the fire pit at the hotel, before grabbing some dinner along Alvarado Street. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from but in the end we decided on The Alvarado Street Brewery which drew in a hipster crowd and served craft ales and delicious local eats. It was a fun and casual spot to end the day.
We had planned to go whale watching on Monterey Bay and booked our tickets with Chris’ Whale Watching. We wrapped up warm and headed down to Monterey’s Fisherman’s Wharf to join our tour. Sadly, all did not go to plan. Due to strong gale force winds, Chris cancelled our little morning at sea. After some disappointment, we decided to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium a little earlier than planned! If we return to Monterey, I would still love to go whale watching so this gives me a reason to go back!
Arrived at Monterey Bay Aquarium for opening time! We had a great morning wandering through the exhibits and admiring the views of the Pacific ocean from the terrace. Monterey is known worldwide for this incredible non-profit aquarium (of which the institute in ‘Finding Dory’ is inspired by) and is a must see if you are in the area.
After a quick lunch in Cannery Row (where Monterey Bay Aquarium is located) we jumped in the car and took a breathtaking hour drive down Pacific Highway 1 to Big Sur. We were blown away (almost literally- it was a very windy day after all!) by the dramatic scenery. I have honestly never seen a coastline like that in my life and probably never will. It is a magnificent setting. As I mentioned above, due to a bridge collapse in Big Sur (Highway 1), you cannot access the full route. I would like to go back and revisit this stunning area full of natural beauty. Be sure to visit Bixby Bridge, one of the most photographed bridges in California, perched high upon the cliffs.
On the way back to the hotel from Big Sur, we decided to take a detour in to Point Lobos, a natural reserve that is home to stunning walks and eclectic marine life such as sea lions and sea otters. We was fortunate enough to see a group of sea otters playing among the kelp with their babies!
We booked dinner at the 1833 restaurant and had one of our best meals of the trip. 1833 is a stylish restaurant and bar set within a house. You can get lost in the many candlelit rooms which provide a romantic setting for a dinner for two. The menu was modern and varied and you couldn’t fault the service.
Despite one or two hiccups along the way, we had a fantastic time in this region. It is home to a wealth of wildlife, dramatic scenery and delicious food and is not to be missed if you are travelling to California.
If you enjoyed this post, look out for the next chapter in this series….
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