Carmel and Monterey Are Worth A Stop on the PCH
We left San Francisco on Hwy 1 again headed for Carmel and Monterey. This provided us yet more awesome vistas of California surf. There were two decisions we had to make on our drive. Would we drive through Monterey on our way to Carmel? And then if we did that, would we follow the famous “17 Mile Drive” along the coast through the Pebble Beach Golf Course. Given we were tired from the drive by the time we arrived, both decisions were put off for another day.
We checked into the Horizon Inn in Carmel. And were interested to see if the “room with a view” we had booked lived up to the internet advertising. If we really looked on an angle we could see the ocean over the tree tops. And we could see the sunset lighting the landscape. But not the sunset itself – when the view was not shrouded in the persistent fog. But this would be a great base for seeing Carmel and Monterey.
We Enjoyed Some Time In Carmel
Probably the nicest part of the package was the morning delivery of our breakfast basket. Each day was different. We poured through the contents looking for each day’s surprise. It was a good way to get some nourishment and breakfast in bed.
We were warned that the hotel was both up the hill from the beach and up the hill from the main road down to the Carmel beach. So we set off downhill to find a spot for dinner. We made town that night but not the beach.
Arriving at Flaherty’s Seafood, we debated the two seating options. We could sit at the bar or in the more formal restaurant. Take the restaurant. The menu is the same. But since we were not at the bar drinking, we found the service slow. Both the mussels and the special risotto with crab and scallops were delicious. We cleaned the plates with our bread.
The walk back uphill was much slower. But we took advantage of the romance package fireplace and jacuzzi to ease out some of the aches.
Heading Into Monterey
We were no longer surprised when the morning arrived cloaked in fog. It meant that we started our day slowly before the short drive to Monterey.
We booked our aquarium tickets online to make sure we could see the Jelly Experience. So we were free to wander around Cannery Row when we arrived. It was great to find a spot overlooking the water for yet another seafood lunch. I would soon start dreaming of beef!!
The Jellyfish At The Monterey Aquarium
The Aquarium and the private tour of the jellyfish exhibit were delightful. There were a wide variety of exhibits and we got a good education on jellys with behind the scenes views.
This did not make me less squeamish about the jellies, especially when David pushed me to touch one with the other “kids”.
We loved our visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium when we stopped in Carmel and Monterey.
Wandering In Fisherman’s Wharf
Tired after walking for several hours, we boarded the free Monterey trolley to get to the parking. But when we got a second wind, we decided to go to Fisherman’s Wharf. It reminded us very much of the Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, if smaller. In typical fashion, we could not agree on where to eat among the multitude of options. So we grabbed take out calamari and chips to hold us over.
As we walked along the wharf, the sea lions provided entertainment. They lounged on the docks. Or valiantly tried to jump up. Sea lions were a constant source of fun in Carmel and Monterey.
We talked to a couple of tour operators, trying to find a whale watching trip. But finally decided we would be better going to Moss Harbour. That was where the whales lounged and fed at the mouth of the river at this time of year. Tired again after almost 2 hours of walking, we got back on the trolley to finally reach the parking lot.
Whale Watching In Monterey
That night David booked our whale watching tickets online. He put our supplies together (food, layers of clothes, water, sunscreen, camera and lots of spare batteries). And we set our alarm, not a not frequent task on vacation. But since we had to drive back north to Moss Harbour, we didn’t want to sleep through this whale watching adventure.
The fog worried us a little when we woke up. But in now predictable fashion, by 10am when the boat pushed off, the sun was shining. The weather could not have been better for our entire 4 hours on the water. We saw whales almost immediately and on a regular basis.
There were quite a few boats out. They constantly changed spots to track the whales. But the boat etiquette generally kept good distances back from the whales. Over the 4 hours, we saw dozens of whales, often 2 or 3 at a time. Much to our delight, the whales often nudged up quite close to the boats, providing great photo opportunities (see WhaleTails ).
The harbour seals provided entertainment interludes while we waited for the next batch of whales. They frolicked alone or rafted together. When we returned to the marina, we found yet another group of sea lions as they lounged on the decks. While they were much noisier than the whales or harbour seals, they seemed quite tame by comparison. The sound of honking sea lions seemed to be the one constant we heard in California!
17 Mile Drive Between Carmel And Monterey
Heading back south to Carmel, we detoured into Monterey to pick up the starting point for the 17 Mile Drive. No trip to Carmel and Monterey could be complete without this drive. We paid for the pleasure of the drive through this seaside golf course and community. But it was worth the money. Even if we only did the water side of the trip before we exited at the Carmel gate.
The sea vistas were great with lots of places to pull off and take pics or walk on the beach. We watched for the various holes of the Pebble Beach Golf course. Although we found it harder to find golfers on the course. The drive provided a great view of luxurious houses. I snapped several pics of ones that I was sure would be just perfect for my best friend Rob. If he ever decided to abandon his 6,000’ Bahamas condo.
Our last stop on this long day was the actual beach in Carmel. We didn’t have swimwear with us but we wanted to be sure to see it in case we did not get back. The broad expanse of white sand was sparsely populated but stretched in both directions from town. We were hoping we would find some time to just laze on the beach but we never did make it back. It will go on the list for a return visit for sure.
Planning The Rest Of Our Visit To Carmel And Monterey
Totally exhausted, we got take out pizza and picnicked in the room. We had been pointed to Bicyclette Pizza with a strong recommendation to try the mushroom pizza. But it had too much mushrooms even for me (since David would not touch it). The two alternates we ordered were “ok”. One had crispy kale and another’ s authentic Margerita style. But we have been so spoiled by real Italian pizza that it is hard to wow us.
When we planned our trip, we talked with my friend Donna who had just returned from 2 weeks in California. We had initially only booked one night at our next stop in Santa Barbara. But she convinced us to add another night, at the expense of Carmel. She also told us that the trip from Carmel to Santa Barbara provided lots of opportunities for stops. She suggested we cover part of it as a day trip from Carmel.
Thus advised, for our last full day in Carmel we planned to head down Hwy 1 to Big Sur. And beyond to the Hearst Castle.
Heading Down Highway 1 (PCH or Pacific Coast Highway)
It was another slow twisty turny road the hugged the cliff walls over the ocean. In the morning, the fog surged and receded along the coast. As we went up and down, we saw spectacular views from on high with many drops down to sea level.
We moved at Saturday spectator pace. Our progress was made ever slower by the drivers that refused to pull over to view the sights. They slowed to gawk as they drove. I looked for waves and surfers. But didn’t see them even though there were lots of places with mighty breakers. We really weren’t sure when we got to Big Sur. There was no road marker other than the Big Sur park sign (which may or may not have gotten us down to the Coast).
Located just north of the turnoff for the Hearst Castle was the vista point for the elephant seals. We parked at the north end. The walkway took us above 3 or more full coves of beaches covered with lounging seals. We saw them as they wiggled up on the beach, flipped sand on themselves to cool down and talked to the crowd. They swam in the kelp beds and ate away until it was time to sun themselves again.
It Was Time To Head Back To Carmel And Monterey
We were told to book tickets in advance for Hearst Castle. But we were not sure where our trip along Hwy 1 would take us. So we arrived at the castle to see if we could get lucky. Unfortunately, the castle had closed early for a private event. So we only could do a quick walk around the reception area before it was closing time. We would visit Hearst Castle on another trip.
We turned around after the Heast Castle. The trip back went inland to catch Hwy 101 back to Carmel. We were certain we did not have the stamina for a return trip up Hwy 1. It was a surprising trip across a large valley of wine growing country. Grape vines were on the hills and we saw a large number of smaller wineries. This day trip convinced us that we would take the more direct route when we headed the next day to Santa Barbara.
While tired after our long day trip, we were starved by the time we returned to Carmel. The Vesuvio restaurant was a quick walk from our hotel and the menu looked great. Our dinner was a perfect combination. It was made for sharing between David and I. We loved our meal of Italian Caprese salad with fresh Roma tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella cheese, mussels in a tomato sauce and seafood risotto with a lobster sauce. And I finally got my beef with a medium rare fillet mignon. Local California wine and white chocolate creme brûlée were the perfect complements to dinner.
A Busy Visit To Carmel And Monterey
Our stop to visit Carmel and Monterey provided us with 4 days of great natural sights (animal and nature) and good food. But we had too little little time to enjoy the great white sand beach when the fog finally stayed away. We wondered if we would lose the fog when we got to Santa Barbara next?
Did we miss anything on our 5 days in Carmel and Monterey? What should be on our list for next time?