When I visited Monterey, California a few years ago with my sister and our niece, I fell in love with it. The climate, scenery, wildlife, laid-back lifestyle — and of course, the wine! There are some must-see spots within Monterey (like the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Cannery Row, and Coastal Recreational Trail) but be sure to check out the surrounding areas around the peninsula for a truly excellent travel experience. Here are five of the best day trips from Monterey, with something for everyone.
Año Nuevo State Park
If you’re flying into San Francisco, do yourself a favor when you’re driving to Monterey and stop at Año Nuevo State Park to stretch your legs. Año Nuevo houses the largest mainland breeding colonies for the northern elephant seal. It really has to be seen to be believed. Mothers with tiny baby seals, males fighting each other for dominance. You can take a guided elephant seal walk if you visit in the winter/early spring.
Before he was yelling at a chair during the Republican National Convention, Clint Eastwood had the good fortune to serve as mayor of this picturesque town. Carmel earns extra points for being very pet-friendly, so if you’re traveling with your furry friend, you’ll be living large. In between shopping, visiting art galleries, sampling the excellent cuisine, and several wondrous wineries, visit Carmel Mission. This church has been welcoming visitors since 1771 and is truly beautiful.
Breathtaking vistas, condors flying overhead, and arguably the best pie I’ve eaten on the West Coast. Take Highway 1 from Monterey for a beautiful drive. Be sure to stop at Nepenthe for a piece of their triple-berry pie and dining with incomparable views.
Best known for being the home of Nobel laureate John Steinbeck, Salinas has small-town charm, vivacious art walks, and of course the National Steinbeck Center. Salinas is a locavore’s dream; Monterey County is the country’s salad bowl and the farmer’s markets in Salinas and nearby will delight. Plus, there are plenty of winery tours, so everyone’s a winner.
This coastal journey will take you through a land of natural beauty with great spots to get out and explore. Note, this is a toll road but if you stop to eat along the way down to Pebble Beach (top-rated public golf course by Golf Digest), many restaurants will refund your toll.