Monterey County is home to more than a dozen charming towns, miles of beautiful coastline, amazing scenic drives and some of the best landscapes in California! With just a few short days to explore Monterey County there wasn’t enough time to take-in all the beauty of this California gem. Although I didn’t get through my entire must-see Monterey list, I was able to capture some amazing moments in picturesque Monterey!
With so much to explore, here are my top 7 reasons to visit Monterey County, California:
1. Monterey Bay Aquarium:
With more than 35,000 sea creatures representing over 550 species, the nearly 200 exhibits at Monterey Bay Aquarium provides a glimpse of sea life within the Pacific Ocean. With the ocean right outside the aquarium’s back door, visitors can spot dolphins, sea otters and whales from the ocean-view decks. We were lucky enough to watch a wild sea otter care for her newborn pup within the Great Tide Pool below the decks of the aquarium!
Since opening in 1984, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has enriched both wildlife and human’s lives through their educational programs, provided research facilities such as the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) and the Tuna Research and Conservation Center, and the esteemed Sea Otter Program. The aquarium also established a sustainable seafood online program and consumer guide called Seafood Watch to help consumers make smart seafood choices.
Taking a few hours to explore the ocean exhibits at the Monterey Bay Aquarium is the perfect way to enrich your ocean knowledge and to support the local wildlife of Monterey Bay! Plus the playful sea otters are too cute to miss!
*Read about my visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium!*
2. Breathtaking Scenery:
I have been fortunate to travel the globe and see amazing landscapes, but nothing can quite compare to the astounding beauty of the Pacific Coast. Monterey County boasts breathtaking and diverse terrains from coastlines, beaches, rolling hills, mountains, valleys, rocky cliffs and redwood forests. Whether strolling the beaches, hiking the parks, viewing wildlife, kayaking the ocean or driving the coastline, Monterey County is a nature-lover’s dream!
With a unique microclimate and diverse growing conditions, Monterey County boasts over 40,000 acres of vineyards and grows more than 42 varietals! Over 85 vintners and wineries produce delicious California wines in this “up and coming” wine region.
Carmel Valley is the heart of Monterey’s wine region. A visit to Carmel Valley Village provides quaint tasting rooms, local shops and restaurants, and 20 tasting rooms within walking distance! We spent a few hours with a local driver exploring the best of Monterey’s wineries, it was the perfect afternoon for a wine lover like myself! Not sure if it was the beauty of the rolling hills, the friendly tasting room staff or the delightful wine, either way, I think Monterey County will soon be considered the next Napa Valley!
4. Scenic Drives:
Monterey County has nearly 100 miles of coastline that drivers can cruise along coast hugging roads that leads you to some of the most beautiful scenery in the United States! You could spend days taking different road trips or scenic drives around Monterey County! Famous scenic drives such as the 17-Mile Drive and Highway 1 offer picturesque views and winding roads alongside the Pacific Coast. Drives through Carmel Valley, Carmel-by-the-Sea, and Old Coast Road (single-lane dirt road, would recommend four-wheel drive vehicles) offer differing views of quaint towns, vineyards, rolling hills and cattle ranches. No matter which scenic drive you choose, the beauty of Monterey County will surround you, making you want to stay forever, to drive the winding roads and to never stop viewing the astoundingly gorgeous landscapes!
Born and raised in Salinas, the Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning author John Steinbeck, based several novels in Monterey County. He sought refuge and inspiration in his home county and penned beloved novels such as East of Eden, Tortilla Flat, Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday about life in Monterey County. With a great pride of his literary works, Monterey County is now home to the National Steinbeck Center Museum, The Steinbeck House and Steinbeck Plaza at Cannery Row. Visitors can walk along Steinbeck’s footprints, his novels are brought to life during a stroll along Cannery Row and the beauty of this region which rightfully inspired him also inspires everyone who visits Monterey!
6. Wildlife Viewing:
One of life’s greatest pleasures is to watch wild animals thrive in their natural habitat. Along Monterey County’s coastline, sea creatures and ocean dwellers (starfish, crabs, sea anemones, mussels, octopus, and many others) thrive in the rich Pacific Ocean environment. With the rich habitat sea otters, whales (Humpback, Blue, and Grey whales are the most common, occasionally Orcas and Sperm Whales are also spotted), sea lions, elephant seals and harbor seals all have plenty to feed on and give visitors quite the show when diving for food!
Somewhere along the 17-Mile Drive, I sat on a bench and watched the waves roll into the shore as the sea otters frolicked in the waves. Floating and diving, repeating this pattern again and again, the sea otters mesmerized me! We stopped again at a secluded beach alcove and watched from afar a mother harbor seal giving her pup a swim lesson! Visitors can also find smaller sea creatures in tide pools, view numerous species of birds, and on land try to spot gray fox, coyotes, mountain lions, deer, bobcats, weasels and many more mammals which thrive in the rich environments of Monterey’s parks and forests.
7. Charming Towns:
The charming towns of Monterey County offers visitors inviting streets to stroll along, delicious local restaurants, boutiques and shops, art galleries, antique shops, fish and produce markets, friendly locals, wineries and historic downtowns that capture the historical spirit of California. From quaint seaside villages to in-land towns that provide bountiful harvests, each town has a unique eclectic vibe luring visitors to relax and enjoy California time!
*Read Carmel-by-the-Sea, California!*
These are just a few of the many reasons to visit Monterey County, California! More reasons to visit this California gem are the park systems, including Pinnacles National Park and Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, a visit to the California Missions, explore Point Sur Lighthouse and Point Pinos Lighthouse (the oldest continually operating beacon on the West Coast!), historical tours, beaches, golfing, hiking, ocean watersports (kayaking, paddle boarding, scuba diving and surfing), whale watching tours, the Monarch Grove Butterfly Sanctuary, and the best sunrises and sunsets along the Pacific Coast!
*Have I convinced you to visit Monterey County? If so, you’ll want to Stay at InterContinental The Clement Monterey!*
To plan your visit to Monterey, please visit www.SeeMonterey.com!
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