Monterey is located on the central coast of California approximately 100 miles south of San Francisco and 300 miles north of Los Angeles. The city hugs the low hills overlooking the southern end of a great circular bay nestled in the northern crook of the spectacular Monterey Peninsula. With its mild climate, its magnificent scenery and its gorgeous beaches, the city has become a favorite residential area for many technical workers from nearby Silicon Valley. It is at the northern terminus of the beautiful California coastal region known as Big Sur, so it is a great stopping place for tourists driving along Route One, that spectacular California Coastal Highway popular to most tourists.
© Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau
The Pacific Ocean waters are a bit cool for sustained swimming, but there are some decent surfing venues and the tidal pools and offshore kelp beds are teeming with marine life including seals and the loveable sea otters.
Two hours south of San Francisco
Monterey County Airport has several commuter flights from Los Angeles, Phoenix, Denver and Las Vegas, but most visitors would typically fly into the much larger San Francisco International Airport and drive less than two hours to Monterey. The Amtrak Coast Starlight passenger train passes through Salinas every day on its route from Seattle, Washington to Los Angeles, California. A free bus connects you to downtown Monterey in 30 minutes. Many visitors would likely arrive by car from Interstate route 101 between San Francisco and Los Angeles or by taking the scenic Highway One along the coast.
Most tourists come to Monterey because it is a great starting point for a drive along the coastal highway through the scenic beauty of the Big Sur. The city has a lot to offer beside its proximity to Big Sur. It has a wonderful maritime climate with warm summers and mild winters plus great scenic beauty. The coastline features a lot of rocky promontories and cliffs with sandy beaches snuggled in hidden coves. These small sandy beaches are located in Monterey as well as nearby Carmel and Big Sur with a larger selection near Santa Cruz, a few miles to the north. The Pacific Ocean waters are a bit cool for sustained swimming, but there are some decent surfing venues and the tidal pools and offshore kelp beds are teeming with marine life including seals and the loveable sea otters.
Sights on the Monterey Peninsula
Cannery Row, the old run-down fish processing district along the waterfront, was made famous by the Nobel Prize winning American author, John Steinbeck. Today, Cannery Row and the old Fisherman's Wharf have been revitalized and turned into a fashionable tourist attraction featuring shops, restaurants, boutiques and bistros. It is also the site of the renowned Monterey Aquarium. Whale watching tours, deep sea fishing charters and glass-bottom boat tours depart from the wharf. There are several parking garages in downtown Monterey and a free trolley bus to take you around the city.
© Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau
The quaint village of Carmel by the Sea, located along the southern shores of the Monterey Peninsula, was originally founded by writers and artists as an art community.
The Monterey Peninsula, which includes the city of Monterey as well as the towns of Pacific Grove and Carmel by the Sea, is a spectacularly beautiful place. Its coast consists of rugged rocky promontories interspersed with secluded bays and tiny beaches. Ancient Cypress trees cling to its rocky outcrops. Many of its neighborhoods contain fabulous homes and estates of rich and famous residents including some Hollywood movie stars. There are nearly a dozen spectacularly beautiful golf courses on the peninsula including the world famous Pebble Beach Golf Resort. For an $8 toll, you can drive on the magnificent 17-mile Drive that takes you around the peninsula, past many beautiful vistas, through the wealthy neighborhoods and along the beautiful golf links and the gorgeous beaches. You can even stop at the Pebble Beach Lodge for lunch.
The quaint village of Carmel by the Sea, located along the southern shores of the Monterey Peninsula, was originally founded by writers and artists as an art community. It still retains its unique Bohemian character, but now contains many art galleries, restaurants and upscale boutiques. It retains some of its quirky charm with regulations that ban musical entertainment in bars and prohibit the wearing of high-heeled shoes on the streets. Its previous mayor was actor Clint Eastwood who still lives in Carmel and operates a restaurant and guest ranch nearby.
Big Sur and the Coastal Highway
The coastline for approximately 100 miles south from Monterey nearly to San Luis Obispo is quite magnificent. The Santa Lucia Mountain Range drops almost directly into the Pacific Ocean with rocky headlands, cliffs and secluded bays bordering the blue waters and surf. Route one hugs the slopes of the mountains high above the shore and provides spectacular views at nearly every turn. The village of Big Sur and a few other small communities are the only signs of civilization impinging on this natural beauty. You can drive this route in a few hours, or you can spend an entire day leisurely stopping to view the scenic vistas and exploring its many parks and nature reserves. Before beginning your drive along the Big Sur, you should check the road conditions. The area is prone to mud slides and rock falls that sometimes cause temporary closures especially during periods of wet weather.
Other sights in the vicinity of Monterey include the Salinas Valley, with its lush farmlands and its museum honoring native son, author John Steinbeck. This is also the Central Coast Wine region of California. Many wineries are scattered about the mountain slopes and valleys surrounding Monterey. You can visit many of the wineries and even sample their wares.
Written by: Mike Leco
Top Photo Credit: © Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau
Photo Description: Cannery Row in Monterey California