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Monterey Vacation Travel Guide

Monterey vacation tourism guide California

The city of Monterey sits on the central Californian coastline, a scenic five-hour drive north from Los Angeles, and an easy two-hour drive south from San Francisco. Perched on the edge of a marine sanctuary larger in size than Yellowstone and twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, Monterey’s wild majesty has long humbled those who’ve walked her rugged shores. This is a place where the upwelling of cold, dark Pacific currents lifts a bounty of sea life and mystery onto the shore.
Monterey Vacation Travel Guide
This is a place where the breath of the sea shapes both stone and wood and has stirred the imaginations of artists and writers like Salvador Dali and John Steinbeck. Monterey’s modern story began when the Spanish established a presidio, hauling skywards chapel bells that have been calling the faithful for over two centuries. In 1846, the US flag was raised over The Custom House, marking the end of California’s Spanish and Mexican chapters. Three years later, delegates from all over California converged at Monterey’s Colton Hall, to thrash out the state’s first constitution. Continue your journey through the city’s early pages at the Monterey State Historic Park.
Monterey Vacation Travel Guide
Follow the self-guided walking tour that breathes life into the brick and adobe buildings where the port’s whalers once lived and relaxed. But while the city’s early prosperity was fuelled by whale oil, it was a much smaller sea creature that brought Monterey its greatest riches. Wander down Cannery Row, past processing plants that once steamed and tinned billions of sardines each year, earning Monterey the title, the sardine capital of the world.
Monterey Vacation Travel Guide
The characters, noise and gut-wrenching stench celebrated in Steinbeck’s classic, Cannery Row, faded with the collapse of the silver tide in the 1950s. But it was soon replaced by a new wave of prosperity, hospitality. Today, gift shops and restaurants fill the former canneries, with the largest of all now home to the acclaimed Monterey Bay Aquarium. Gaze up as clouds of sardines, unmolested by the purse nets of old, glide through towering kelp forests. And don’t miss the rescued sea otters chowing their way back to good health on fresh clams. While in the Jellies Gallery, incredible invertebrates put on a psychedelic light show worthy of a Rock concert. When you’re ready for your own seafood dinner, head down Cannery Row to Old Fisherman’s Wharf.
Sign up for a fishing charter and you’ll soon be filleting your own catch. Or just make a selection from restaurants that have been serving up the fruits of these waters for generations. Monterey has a knack for making old things useful again. From Fisherman’s Wharf, walk the Monterey Peninsula Recreational Trail, which follows the former tracks of the Southern Pacific Railway. Head east, past the marina, to the graceful arc of Del Monte Beach. Then continue a little further into the ever-shifting sands and floral displays of the Fort Ord Dunes State Park.
From Fisherman’s Wharf, the trail also heads north, to Pacific Grove. Enjoy the warm, sheltered sands of Lovers Point Beach. Then stop by Point Pinos Light, where a piano-playing lighthouse keeper entertained Robert Louis Stevenson when the wandering writer called by in 1879. From Point Pinos, follow the coastal trail down the peninsula’s west coast to Asilomar State Beach, where icy waters from deep in the Monterey Canyon roll into rock pools rich in marine life. After being serenaded by the wild, wild surf at Asilomar, rent a convertible or hop on a bike, and follow one of the USA’s most scenic roads, 17 Mile Drive.
From Pacific Grove, this privately managed toll road winds its way along the coast past the acclaimed fairways of Pebble Beach towards Carmel Bay. Stop by the 250-year-old Lone Cypress, then spend some time amid the ghost trees at Pescadero Point. 17 Mile Drive emerges onto Highway One, which hugs one of the longest and most spectacular stretches of undeveloped coastline in the USA.
Explore the wind-swept bluffs and secluded coves of the Point Lobos State Park, where the Ohlone people once harvested shellfish from the nutrient-rich waters, and shore whalers scoured the horizon for tell-tale spouts. At Garrapata State Park, buckle up for the two-hour adventure through Big Sur, where California’s Santa Lucia mountains tumble down into the swaying kelp forests of the Pacific.
Catch your breath at Bixby Canyon Bridge, one of the highest single-span concrete bridges in the world. In the 1960s, writer Jack Kerouac almost lost his mind on the beach below trying to capture the grandeur of Big Sur in words. As you follow each and every twist and turn down Highway One, you too will be lost for words, for this is a place that often defies the limits of language. Indeed a visit to Monterey and its nearby shores is a lesson in the futility of searching for the perfect adjective.

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