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.
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The waterfront community of Monterey, on the central coast of California, benefits from a temperate climate year-round. Kayaking, scuba diving, surfing, whale watching, and beach-going are popular activities in and around Monterey. Land-based adventures include golf, shopping, and driving the spectacular coastline to Big Sur.
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 during the peak of the sardine fishery and its canning industry. Today “the Row” is lined with hotels, shops, restaurants, and 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 at the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
Picturesque Carmel-by-the-Sea is well known for its shopping and its history as an art colony. And for its famous former mayor, Clint Eastwood, better known outside his small town for his Hollywood career.
The quaint amalgamation of art galleries, boutiques, hotels, shops, fine restaurants, and whimsically styled homes produces a storybook effect. No wonder Travel + Leisure named it one of the World’s Best Cities for Romance.
Carmel-by-the-Sea is known for its incredible buildings. Stroll and admire the fantasy cottages built by the legendary Hugh Comstock. Check out 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.
The surrounding area, known simply as Carmel, also boasts breathtaking scenery, wonderful parks, and the historic Carmel Mission. Founded in 1771, Carmel Mission was the first mission in California built from stone.
Carmel’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 sunset at Carmel Beach while watching surfers. 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 road heading south from Carmel includes some special places to stop along the way.
- 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. It once sheltered a cabin belonging to poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, where Jack Kerouac sometimes wrote.
- Point Sur Lighthouse
- Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park/Beach
- 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 started back in 1865, when George Hearst purchased 40,000 acres of ranch land. By the time William Randolph Hearst inherited the estate in 1919, it amounted to more than 250,000 acres. The younger Hearst dreamt of transforming 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 plus 127 acres of gardens, terraces, pools, and walkways—all built to Hearst’s specifications.