Living in the Bay Area we are extremely blessed to be surrounded by beautiful cliff-hanger coastlines to our west, beautiful redwood forests inland, snow-capped mountains even further east, and much much more!
Monterey, CA is one of the oldest cities in California with an amazingly rich history dating back to Spanish rule, much of which can be learned about at the Monterey State Historic Park. Today, Monterey consists of practically 3 downtowns? Cannery Row, Downtown, and Old Town (downtown)…like WHAT! But that’s 3 times more food, shopping, and exploring for me! No wonder I couldn’t get it all done in one getaway guide!
If you’re into history, I’ll dive a little more specifically into it in my Historical Bay Area Getaway Guides. If you’re a history buff like myself then you’ll definitely enjoy these posts because I geek out into the old and tie it into the new!
Monterey State Historic Park
One of my favorite areas to explore is Historic Monterey which is pretty well spread out. Check out the map above! The museum portion of the park is located at the Pacific House, which is a beautifully preserved house. They have weekend walking tours with docents or guides. You can also opt for a free walking tour that you can do at your own pace and schedule while still being able to see everything. The City of Monterey even has an audio option for your free walking tour so you can still learn everything that you would learn on a guided tour.
They’ve done a great job of preserving some of the original structures and houses that were built as people settled into Monterey including Jos. Boston Co., the first general market in Monterey!
Like any coastal town, expect nothing but the best seafood in Monterey! Ever heard the phrase, “You can order steak at the lobster house, but you never order lobster at the steak house….”. Well this is along those lines, don’t waste your time (as a visitor) scoping out whose got the best pizza or Thai curry in town, opt for the seafood options!
C-Bar Restaurant + Bar
If you’re heading to Monterey and it’s your first time, I would definitely recommend checking out C-Bar Restaurant and Bar! The are located right on the water so weather you’re there for brunch, lunch, or dinner you’re guaranteed to have a beautiful view. Did I mention they’ve got the best risotto I’ve had in California to date?
Restaurant 1833 (currently closed 5/1/18)
I’ve had my eye on this restaurant for some time now and though I haven’t personally tried it, it comes highly recommended by many locals and visitors. We’re heading back for another weekend getaway in Monterey in couple of weeks and I definitely am making reservations to check this place out for myself.
A little background on it. It’s one of Monterey’s hisotrical landmark, Stokes Adobe. However, it first opened as a restaurant in 1950 but has a history that hails back to 1833. The various owners added rooms over the years to fit their different needs and as a patron, you have options on which room you would like to dine in. Each room has its own story or stories tied to the origin of the house. Next time you’re in Monterey definitely check them out Restaurant 1833.
Abalonette Bar and Grill
Another great find in Monterey was Abalonetti Bar and Grill located on Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey! Some great perks about this restaurant; 1. outdoor seating is absolutely ADORBS! They’ve got colorful umbrellas and when they’re all opened it looks like candy! 2. They have glass partitions up to block the coastal breeze. Most of the other restaurants do not have this option and can have a good lunch get real messy! 3. The best clam chowder I think I’ve ever had…EVER!
If you’ve explored San Francisco and all its glory then I’m sure you made your way to Ghirardelli Square at Fisherman’s Wharf! Hopefully you were able to check out the lights lit up at night! It looks the best if you’re on a cruise looking at the city (this is the best view of the entire city in my opinion). Well Monterey has their own little Ghirardelli tucked away along Cannery Row. I love it because they have some local hints and options on their menu like the ‘Painted Ladies’ and this Bay Area girl always has to support her Bay Area things!
Monterey is known as a coastal city and of course is surrounded some beautiful beaches. Though, I would not recommend going in the water for a recreational swim, it is extremely popular for kayakers, boaters, paddle boarders, etc. You can often spot marine life such as sea otters, starfish, various clams, and even whales (see any below?). During whale watching season, tours will sell out so definitely plan for those in advance!
If you’re in the area and can stay a while, I would recommend checking out some of the other beaches nearby, they’re more secluded and are cleaner in my opinion. Some of my favorites in the area are Asilomar State Beach or Del Monte Beach.
Aquarium and Cannery Row
Are you heading down to Monterey with kids? Big family trip? Well if so, I would recommend making a stop and checking out the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I went here A LOT as a teenager (easily once a year) and they do not disappoint! Even if you’re not a marine biologist or have much care for marine species, you will still enjoy this aquarium. There’s so many animals and exhibits to see and is always a great reminder that there really is a whole other world under the sea!
They keep a good rotation of featured exhibits, so check out their website prior to your visit to see what they’re showcasing. Some of the best I’ve seen are the Sea Otter Exhibit (usually bring this around once a year) and the Sea Horse Exhibit!
The Aquarium is located on one end of where Cannery Row begins. Cannery Row is typically known as the “New Downtown Monterey” and incorporates the more recent history that made Monterey what it is today. Many of the popular restaurants, shops, and hotels are located in the Cannery Row area, so if you’re staying for the weekend you’ll probably be spending a majority of your time around here.
Recently when I went back to the Monterey area, I went for a ride down the famous 17-Mile Drive, which I highly recommend! It’s a short windy road that aligns with the coast in Pebble Beach with views of the gorgeous homes located there. There is a small fee to access the road ($10) but usually can be refunded if you eat at one of their world renowned restaurants. Check out the driving map Here!
Pebble Beach is known for having world-class golf courses, AT&T Pro Am sound familar? Well it takes place at Pebble Beach each year. Now I get why, the views are absolutely remarkable. There are 19 markers along the 17 miles, most of them historic to the local area. My favorite was China Rock and The Lonely Cypress. However, I will say that no matter what you MUST check out The Links at Spanish Bay. No worries if you didn’t bring $50k to sign up for their annual membership, we clearly missed that memo accidentally on purpose. Instead, check out one of their many bars/lounges and grab a drink and some delicious eaaats as you overlook the beautiful golf course and Pebble Beach coastline- you also get $10 in credit for your entrance fee 😉
BONUS TIP: Golf was invented in Scotland (I did not know this!) so the Links at Spanish Bay has Scottish style influence incorporated, one of them being the bagpipe player who walks the golf course and plays the bag pipe around sunset!
Have some extra days to spare? Well check out some nearby cities such as Santa Cruz and Capitola areas, Carmel, Weekend Getaway Guide: Big Sur! I’ll definitely add and link more as I explore myself! Thanks for reading! If you have any spots that I missed, definitely let me know! I love exploring everything California has to offer and have barely scratched the surface myself so lets explore and discover together!
<3 Happy Traveling