Monterey, CA

      Trip Overview

We selected this city as the "next way point" for our coastal route drive north. This decision was based upon Monterey's beauty, it's beautiful bay, the fascinating history of the area, the extraordinary chardonnay and the proximity to other areas we wanted to explore (for example, see our Carmel By The Sea and 17 mile drive page).

We splurged and stayed directly on the waterfront in the Cannery Row area. This allowed us to walk to everything there was to see and do including the Monterey Aquarium, Old Fisherman’s Wharf and a number of Restaurants,shopping and coffee shops, in addition to bike rentals, grocery stores, etc. If you can swing it, we highly recommend staying on or near the waterfront in that area to take in the views of the bay.

Fun and/or Interesting facts about Monterey
  • In the Monterey American Viticultural Area over 50% of the grapes grown are chardonnay. Monterey also creates Riesling and Pinot noir in the northern areas, and Bordeaux varietals in the south.
  • One of the secrets to Montereys wine growing success is the cold, deep waters in the bay that bring fog and moderate temperatures which provide a growing environment unique to the Monterey region.
  • Monterey was home to famous authors; John Steinbeck and Robert Heinlien are two of the most popular.
  • Debuting in 1958, the Monterey Jazz festival occurs on the third full weekend in September every year. 2020-21 marked the first time the festival did not occur (due to COVID) since the festival debuted breaking it’s continuous running streak. Some of the most famous jazz artists have performed there including Louie Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, and Billie Holiday.
A few Monterey Historical Facts
  • Many California firsts occurred in Monterey including the first publicly funded school, public library and printing press.
  • Spanish merchant Sebastian Vizcaino was the first European to set foot on the Monterey Peninsula in 1602 and Monterey celebrated its 400th anniversary in 2002.
  • On July 7, 1846 California was claimed for the United States after the Battle of Monterey was fought on this day during the Mexican-American War.
Monterey Bay Inn   Map

We stayed at the Monterey Bay Inn which was directly on the water next to Cannery Row and close to the Old Fisherman’s Wharf. The room was large and extremely comfortable and included refrigerators. The views of the bays from the hotel were incredible from the hotel and ample parking provided onsite. The service was wonderful and friendly and they even offered a continental breakfast served to your room at your chosen time each morning. It was a nice touch and we looked forward to our breakfasts each day. Check them out if you are in the area.

The hotel staff gave us a recommendation to have dinner at the Osteria Al Mare restaurant - which we did. The restaurant is right on the water a very short walk across San Carlos beach. There is a very large parking lot for that area, which is shared with the Coast Guard Pier.

I had the Fettuccine Al Pescatore - fettuccine clams, shrimp, mussels, calamari, spicy tomato sauce and everything was fresh and tasty. I started my dinner with their clam chowder which was as good as I have ever had elsewhere, ie; clams were fresh & plentiful, the soup was full of veggies and the broth was perfect. Celeste had the Il Salmone, and we both had chardonnay. We finished the meal by sharing several small cannolis, which were delicious. Did I mention the bread that came with our dinner was also just out of the oven and perfect for mopping up clam chowder or pescatore sauce!
NOTE: Image is the property of Kelly L. via Yelp.
Click here for the Osteria Al Mare menu.

Cannery Row Area

Our hotel was directly on Cannery Row which is the street directly next to the beach in Monterey. Cannery row used to house a number of sardine canning factories until the bay was overfished and the sardines ran dry. The last cannery closed in 1973. Now the old factories house a mix of shops and restaurants.

The Monterey Aquarium has a nice display with a few of the old machines used in canning and some educational information about what happened to the sardines. There are also signs located throughout the area that provide some information and history. Be sure to stop and take a look.

San Carlos Beach Park

San Carlos Beach was right next door to our hotel. It’s great for people watching and looking for seals in the harbor. It can get pretty cool in Monterey in the evenings or when the wind blows so it’s a good idea to always bring a sweater.

Monterey Bay water temperature is brisk, reaching it's warmest levels in September but still at 58 degrees farenheit or lower. We saw a number of divers in boats or walking in from the beach, and they were always in wet suits.

Old Fisherman's Wharf

The city of Monterey took ownership of the wharf in 1913 and it was an active fish market in the 1960s. Fisherman’s Wharf was fun to visit on the evening that we arrived. It’s a typical pier with tourist shops and restaurants. We stopped into one of the shops and picked up a hat pin… we do this in every location we stay as the hat pins or lapel pins are what we collect as a memorial to our trips. It gives us a good reason to pop in and look around. Terry typically picks up the t-shirt to go with the destination.

The wharf was built by the Pacific Coast Steamship Company in 1870 for the loading and unloading of passengers and goods. The wharf was also used by other commercial operations, and the city of Monterey took ownership in 1913. The wharf was expanded through 1920.

Monterey Bay Sea Life

Monterey Bay hosts over 30 species of mammals including seals and otters, and even 100ft long blue whales. We saw seals and otters but didn’t get to see any whales even though they typically visit in summer and fall. The blue whale is the largest animal in the world. We will have to go again and stay until we see one!

Monterey Aquarium

We’ve been to a few aquariums including the National Aquarium Baltimore Aquarium and the Oceanograpahic Museum in Monaco. Terry used to do some SCUBA diving and even dove in the EPCOT aquarium (see footnote below) at Disney World one year. I guess you could say that aquariums are on our list of things we like to visit. The Monterey Bay aquarium was a highlight of our trip to Monterey. In fact, it made the top 10 list of aquariums in the United States by Travel and Leisure in 2021.

Monterey Aquarium is a non profit and relies on entry fees and donations so the tickets are not cheap but they do a fantastic job presenting the information and they do a lot of worthwhile marine research and participate in conservation efforts.

Reservations are required in addition to tickets to enter the aquarium (click here to make your reservations and get tickets).

The aquarium is directly on the water and there are patios that you can venture out on to view the bay in hopes of catching sight of some marine life. They have some very cool exhibits like the one in the middle picture above. Every so often the water comes blasting over the glass and it gives you an underwater view of what happens to marine life living underneath the strong waves. They also have a fascinating otter tank with training shows daily. I had no idea that otters could be trained like dolphins. One of our favorite areas was the jellyfish area. There were many tanks filled with various species. Those last 3 images were from the Aquarium Jellyfish Room and they are "brown stinging nettles". The displays in the jellyfish room are amazing, and the lighting in use there makes them look like psychedelic paintings!

Click here to view a live cam from the Jellyfish Room at the Monterey Aquarium.

1) As a SCUBA diver, diving in the EPCOT aquarium may have been the most unique dive I ever took. It is a huge structure, 26 feet deep and 203 feet in diameter with 5.7 million gallons of water named "Caribbean Coral Reef Aquarium", one of the largest man-made ocean environments on the planet. It’s home to over 4,000 sea creatures from over 60 species.. But the most unusual thing about a dive there, is that there are 56 huge windows between you in the water and people inside the building looking at you! In fact, there is a restaurant ('Coral Reef Restaurant') where people are eating and pointing at the divers! The dive is named "DiveQuest" and it is currently unavailable during the Pandemic.

 Monterey Links 
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