Monterey is steeped in history and famed for the abundance and diversity of its marine life, which includes sea lions, sea otters, harbor seals, bat rays, kelp (seaweed) forests, pelicans and dolphins.
Monterey is a waterfront community on the central coast of California with a temperate climate year-round. Kayaking, scuba diving, surfing, whale watching, and beach-going are popular activities in and around Monterey. Golf, shopping, and driving the spectacular coastline to Big Sur are a few of the land-based adventures.
Monterey is home to the world-renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium, a must-see attraction that delights and educates millions of visitors every year. Step outside the aquarium and you’re on Cannery Row, where John Steinbeck drew inspiration for his novel about life in Monterey during the heyday of the sardine canning industry. Today “the Row” is lined with hotels, shops, and restaurants with fun activities for the entire family.
From Cannery Row, you can walk or ride a rented surrey or segway along the scenic Recreation Trail to Fisherman’s Wharf. Along the way, you’ll see harbor seals, sea otters, and pelicans in natural habitats on the dazzling waterfront of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
No exploration of California’s central coast is complete without a stop in Carmel-by-the-Sea, a town as well known for its shopping as it is for its most famous former civil servant, the Honorable Mayor Clint Eastwood. This quaint amalgamation of art galleries, boutiques, hotels, shops, fine restaurants and whimsically styled homes evokes a storybook ambiance that can be appreciated by romantics of all ages and it is no wonder why Travel + Leisure named it one of the World’s Best Cities for Romance. The area around Carmel-by-the-Sea, known simply as Carmel, has breathtaking scenery, wonderful parks, and the historic Carmel Mission.
Since the founding of the Carmel Mission in 1771, the first mission in California to be built from stone, Carmel-by-the-Sea has been known for its incredible buildings. Stroll and admire the fantasy cottages in Carmel built by the legendary Hugh Comstock, as well as those designed by architects Julia Morgan, Charles S. Greene, and Bernard Maybeck. Drive along Carmel-by-the-Sea’s Scenic Road to catch a view of the Walker Residence, designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Make a date to tour Tor House, the stone home and tower that poet Robinson Jeffers built for his bride Una with his own two hands.
Carmel-by-the-Sea’s rugged coastline, featuring both sandy beaches and rocky, cypress-covered outcroppings, provides inspiration for many artists. On any evening, visitors may find town residents enjoying the beauty of a sunset at Carmel Beach while watching surfers on the waves. Just a mile south, Carmel River State Beach is a popular spot for diving, kayaking, surfing, and birding.
3 miles south of Carmel-by-the-Sea, 123 miles south of San Francisco, 87 miles north of Hearst Castle.
Big Sur refers to the entire 90-mile stretch of coastline between Carmel and San Simeon. Pretty much everything is right off of Highway 1, which runs its entire length, hugging the coastline the entire way.
The entire stretch of Big Sur consists of the Santa Lucia Range to the east and the rocky Pacific coast to the west. The road heading south from Carmel includes some special places to pull over: Point Lobos State Reserve, called “the greatest meeting of land and sea in the world”; Bixby Bridge (one of the world’s highest single-span concrete bridges, which once sheltered a cabin that Lawrence Ferlinghetti had under the span, and where Jack Kerouac would to write); Point Sur Lighthouse; Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park/Beach; and Jade Cove.
Big Sur is one of the most romantic, relaxing places in California. If you haven’t seen the Big Sur, no one can explain it to you. If you have, no one needs to.
Hearst Castle’s history begins in 1865, when George Hearst purchased 40,000 acres of ranchland. In 1919, William Randolph Hearst inherited what had grown to more than 250,000 acres, and was dreaming of ways to transform it into a retreat he called La Cuesta Encantada, Spanish for Enchanted Hill. By 1947 Hearst and architect Julia Morgan had created Hearst Castle: 165 rooms and 127 acres of gardens, terraces, pools, and walkways—all built to Hearst’s specifications and to showcase his legendary art collection.