The best way to explore Monterey, California

Immortalised in print by Noble Prize winner John Steinbeck and famous for its seafood restaurants and bars in converted sardine-packing factories, this city on the rugged central coast of California is a must on any road trip along California State Route 1 (the Pacific Coast Highway). One of the world’s most glorious routes, Route 1 takes in epic nature including vast beaches, soaring trees and looming mountains. We’ve showcased our favourite things to do in and around Monterey, including its best nature sites and outdoor activities.

The best way to explore Monterey, California


Migrating whales and other marine mammals love Monterey County for its cold, food-rich submarine canyon just offshore. As well as grey whales, you might glimpse smaller cetaceans including fin and minke whales, orcas, dolphins and porpoises. An array of whale-watching tours depart from Fisherman’s Wharf (including ocean safaris aboard eco rafts with trained biologists), but there are other ways to see them: by guided kayak tour into the ocean off Moss Landing, and watching from land by driving south along the Big Sur Coast to the high viewing points dotted along Highway 1.

Strolling through Monterey State Historic Park

The 3km ‘Monterey Walking Path of History’ is a great way to immerse yourself in local history while getting some exercise and sunshine at the same time – much like author Robert Louis Stevenson, who once lived here.  The site where Spanish explorers first landed in Monterey in 1602, the area also includes some of California’s most historic homes and their lovely gardens. There are yellow-tiled markers and self-guided maps and apps for a DIY experience, but the hour-long guided tours stand out for their personal touch and insights.

Driving from Monterey to Big Sur

The 45km route between Monterey and Big Sur on the Monterey Peninsula is one of the world’s ultimate coastal drives and shouldn’t be missed. Edging the cliffs and twisting through towering redwoods, it’s a place to spot endangered California condors swooping overhead, seat otters and more. There are plenty of places to stop and enjoy the view or to head down to a secluded cove – our top tip, for those who can make the 90m hike back up, is the 3km walk to Partington Cove, where moonshine was once smuggled.

Snorkelling, surfing, swimming and boating at Lovers Point Park and Beach

Uniquely east-facing and hence one of the only spots on the west coast where you can watch the sun rise over the water, this is a popular spot for locals to hang out for seaside fun ranging from picnics to beach volleyball and water sports  The kelp forests here are rich in marine life, including harbour seals, otters and jellyfish, but you don’t have to scuba-dive to see them; snorkelling is just as rewarding.

Playing a round at the award-winning Pebble Beach Golf Links

Presidents, Hall of Famers and Hollywood stars have all strolled the fairways of this venue rated the No. 1 Public Course in the USA by Golf Digest, so you’ll be walking in the footsteps of legends when you play here. Opened in 1919 and having hosted its sixth US Open in 2019 – more than any other course in the last 50 years – it includes Spanish Bay with its lovely sand dunes, Spyglass Hill with its towering pines and Pebble Beach with its cliff-swept shoreline.

To book your stay in Monterey and/or your California road trip, call your Travel Counsellor today.

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