Monterey….a typical small coast town along Hwy 1 and a perfect day trip from San Francisco.
Monterey is located between San Francisco and Carmel-By-The-Sea. From San Francisco, Monterey is approximately 2 1/2 hours and 120miles away. Between Monterey and Carmel-By-The-Sea, the 17-Mile Drive is located, which should definitely be another point on the Roadtrip-To-Do-List.
Parking is for free on Sundays!
You should definitely visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium! A place where you can learn a lot about the underwater world. The most interesting and impressive here is the huuuuge window below the Pacific Ocean. It make it possible to take a “live view” into the biggest ocean in the world. There are many more tanks with fish. Even though the entrance is $50 and kinda expensive you will spend hours here which makes the money kinda worth it! (sometimes there are coupons to be found in the app Groupon. More about travel apps you can read here). The Aquarium is perfect for those rare rainy days!
Another point on the sightseeing list is the Cannery Row. Here you can find many expensive and exclusive restaurants and hotels. Many hotels have a great view on the ocean. In front of the hotels are small beaches or front courts where it is perfect to sit down, drink a coffee or eat ice cream and relax. Some front courts have small cafés and benches which creates a relaxed atmosphere. Cannery Row got its name by the former sardine canning factories in 1895 to 1950. After the collapse of the sardine fishing, the formerly called “Ocean View Avenue” became Cannery Row and is today the touristic center of Monterey.
If you are done with Cannery Row you can head to the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail which follows the bay . The trail is paved and well maintained and first of all beautiful! On your left hand side you can see the ocean with great beaches which are accessable by steps going down. With some luck you can even explore seals sunbathing on the rocks in the water. On your right hand side are enough benches that you can sit on and just observe nature.
On the end of the Monterey Bay Trail you will find Old Fisherman’s Wharf. Here are many gifts shops and restaurants located. My personal highlight are the Whale Watching Tours here. We did one on a Saturday morning with Chris’ Whale Watching. I can really recommend this tour and especially this company. Chris’ Whale Watching is the oldest tour in Monterey and each day they publish a video of the sightings that day. That makes it easier for you to see what you can expect. Directly after you made reservations online you will receive an E-Mail with the exact address, time and the confirmation. When we arrived on Saturday everything was very organised. Arrived at Chris’ shop our names were already on the list for the tour and we only had to pay and got our tickets. The price of $37 was totally fine with me and absolutely worth it. Our appointment was at 10am and our Check-In was at 9:00am. On the website it was recommend to, if possible, pick the early tour since the sea will be calmer at that time than at 1:30pm, when the second tour will start heading out. We did our tour in December and it was freezing cold on the boat but we were prepared with our winter jackets, gloves, hats and scarves. You have to stand outside of the cabin on deck which gives you also a higher chance to see the whales. We saw 2 whales that day which was so exciting. Once they even came up directly next to the boat!
Additionally to the Whale Watching Tour we booked a tour along the coast of the bay for $18 with a glass buttom boat by Little Mermaid. If you have some money and time left I would really do this tour too! The boat has a glass bottom which allows you to see the ocean really close. We even saw jellyfish, seals, sea lions and otters. During the tour they explain a lot about the animals, the sea and the town. For example will they tell you what the difference is between seals and sea lions so you understand what you see. Aaaaand my highlight was to eat seaweed freshly picked from the ocean.
In both tours we saw many sea lions, seals and otters in the front of the harbor.
The Pier was built in 1846 as landing for the fisher boats. Monterey used to be one of the most important harbors in the Pacific Ocean. After some time the whale industry started growing and took over the pier. The catch of salmon, tuna, mackerel, codfish and cuttlefish were not as big as they used to be. Nowadays the commercial fishing fleet can be found at the Municipal Pier while Old Fisherman’s Wharf is for tourists.
If you’re done with the Wharf you can head to the Old Town.
On the way there you will walk by the harbor of Monterey with all those yachts, seals, little crabs and many different birds. Behind the harbor you can see the market place which holds a huuuge ice skating rink in winter. Throughout the entire year the museum on the market place is opened with a free exhibit about the history of Monterey. There are many nice people here who have a huge knowledge about the area. Sometimes they even have some advice for some local activities.
In the not so famous old town are some really good restaurants located like my favourite “Crêpes of Brittany”.