The Monterey Peninsula is one of California’s most beautiful and historic areas. Within Monterey and the nearby communities of Pebble Beach and Carmel are enough sights to keep the pickiest traveler busy.
In addition to the local sights, within a few hours’ drive of the area you can experience most of the diversity that makes California such a great place to visit or — for the fortunate few like me — live.
There is no single place in California more beautiful and iconic than the Big Sur coastline. This scenic area starts just south of Carmel and extends 100 miles south to Cambria and is marked by dramatic cliffs and rock-strewn shorelines.
There are no less than five state parks along the route to give you an opportunity to stretch your legs and see the coast up close and personally. Along the way are the historic Point Sur Lighthouse and one of California’s crowning jewels, Hearst Castle.
Twenty-four miles east of Monterey and a million miles away culturally is Salinas. Salinas is the county seat of Monterey County and is situated within a major agricultural region providing California and the nation with much of its vegetable crop.
Besides vegetables, Salinas’ most famous export is one of America’s most renowned authors, John Steinbeck. To learn more about Steinbeck visit the National Steinbeck Center and the nearby Steinbeck House.
Pinnacles National Park
Ninety miles southeast of Monterey in the Gabilan Mountains is this area of soaring spires and crags created by the San Andreas Fault. The area is known for its rock climbing and hiking.
If you are lucky, this is also one of the few spots to see the endangered California condor in the wild. Thirty condors make the area in and around the park their home.
Midway up Monterey Bay is the Elkhorn Slough, a saltwater marsh created by the estuary of the Pajaro River. This unique habitat is a paradise for birders and a great place to spot sea otters. The best way to see the slough is by kayak. You can either rent a kayak from numerous local shops or book a guided tour.
On the northern end of Monterey is the surfer’s paradise Santa Cruz. The city is known for having one of the best surf breaks on the California coast. If you’re not a surfer, a few miles north of town you can see another California original at Henry Cowell Redwood State Park, a stand of centuries-old coastal redwoods along Falls Creek.