There’s something mystical about the coastline of Monterey. The Central California destination isn’t your cliché beach town, in fact, you’ll endure an odd sense of warmth from its often-foggy weather, and a sense of calm exploring its natural beauty.
Your family will be enriched visiting the area, as there’s so much to do and see- but I’m here to offer a two-day itinerary packed with activities and eateries that will have everyone begging for more.
Where to Stay
Casa Munras Garden Hotel & Spa, originally built in the 1800s as a sprawling hacienda, is the original boutique hotel and spa resort in downtown Monterey. It sits alongside shops, restaurants, and a short walk to the wharf. The historic hotel features an old-world design and beautiful gardens that reflect its Spanish heritage. The suites are spacious with a kitchenette, fireplace, pull out sofa, and plush king bed.
Where to Play
Experience a surrey bike ride along Cannery Row with Adventures by the Sea. Cannery Row is a tourist’s haven- an absolutely adorable waterfront street, once the site of a number of now-defunct sardine canning factories. Your surrey ride is a great way to self-explore the area and ride along the beautiful paths lining Cannery Row.
About 20 minutes outside Monterey is Moss Landing, California’s most spectacular wetlands. The Elkhorn Slough Safari Company offers family-friendly tours taking you through the natural habitat of playful sea otters, curious harbor seals, boisterous sea lions, and hundreds of bird species. For 1–2 hours, you’ll sit aboard a pontoon boat and snag pics of much wildlife… just don’t forget to bundle up as it gets quite chilly!
Not far from Moss Landing is Marina State Beach, an area that winds through the Marina Dunes natural Preserves. The beach is known for hang-gliding; radio-controlled gliders and kites are also popular, making for lovely photo opps and picnics.
Probably some of the most stunning streets you’ll ever experience is 17-Mile Drive, the scenic route connecting Carmel to Monterey. With a minimal entrance fee, this drive takes you through Pebble Beach, passing through famous golf courses, mansions and scenic attractions, including the Lone Cypress, Bird Rock and the 5,300-acre Del Monte Forest of Monterey Cypress trees. Upon entering, you’ll get a pamphlet listing all major attractions along the way for photo-taking galore.
Stroll Fisherman’s Wharf, Monterey’s historic wharf. Used as an active wholesale fish market into the 1960s, the wharf eventually became a tourist attraction as commercial fishing tapered off in the area. There are tons of restaurants all claiming the “best clam chowder ever,” and numerous candy shops with caramel apples, toffee, fudge, and taffy. Plus, you’ll likely spot some sea lions!
Surely, you can’t go to Monterey without visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Sitting proudly in the heart of Cannery Row, the esteemed, nationally recognized aquarium is known for its regional focus on the marine habitats of Monterey Bay. There’s SO much to see… from a plethora of jellyfish, twirling sea otters, various birds, silly penguins, enormous tunas, a touch-and-feel discovery area for kids, and more. In fact, it was the first to exhibit a living kelp forest when it opened in 1984, and the first to successfully care for and display a great white shark some years back! Book your tickets online ahead of time.
Where to Eat
For breakfast, grab a quick bite at Alta Bakery, a popular spot in town offering everything from sweets to avocado toast. There’s also Red’s Donuts (delicious!), or Paris Bakery for a selection of pastries and breads baked daily.
Celebrating 41 years in Monterey, Rosine’s Restaurant is a family-owned business serving yummy homemade soups, hearty meals and award-winning cakes. (Seriously, you might want to have dessert for dinner). Located in the downtown area (and walking distance from Casa Munras), the local hot spot has been featured in Diner’s, Drive-Ins and Dives.
While in Moss Landing, there are a few great restaurants to check out. The Whole Enchilada flaunts authentic Mexican food and the world-famous & formerly seen on Food Network Phil’s Fish Market. You can also visit the newly opened fishery, Sea Harvest.
For a fun-filled family dinner, head to Gianni’s Pizza, walking distance from Cannery Row. This four generations local pizza shop has been carrying on the tradition of serving delicious classic Italian pizzas for over 40 years. With red-and-white checkered tablecloths, you’ll feel warm and welcome at the Italian eatery (and what kid doesn’t want their own mini pizza?!).
For more information on exploring Monterey, click here.