No Californian road trip is truly complete without cruising along the Pacific Coast Highway. This incredible highway is home to some of the best beachside towns and surf spots in the state. There’s also great food, towering Red Wood forests, and – would you believe it – plenty of great spots to play golf!
On this road trip, be sure to spend some time in Monterey County. You will be hard-pressed to find a destination as idyllic and breathtakingly scenic. From dramatic coastal views to verdant fields and sun-drenched mountain ranges, Monterey County’s pristine natural beauty offers travellers the perfect getaway to unwind, indulge and be transformed.
Here are 15 Reasons to Visit Monterey County, California
1. Incredible Pinnacles National Park
From paragliding off Marina State Beach dunes to rock climbing the rocky spires and pinnacles at Pinnacles National Park, Monterey County is an incredible destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Visitors can choose to explore 19 parks, an estuarine reserve, a marine sanctuary and more than a dozen beaches during their visit.
I’m a big fan of Point Lobos State Reserve, just 5 minutes from Carmel-by-the-Sea. Entrance to the reserve is $10 per adult, but if you’re lucky you will be able to spot sea lions bathing on the beach below.
2. Fresh food in abundance!
With year-round growing seasons, Monterey County is spoilt to be able to provide locals, restaurants and cafes with an abundance of fresh locally grown ingredients year-round.
Monterey County is known for its huge array of food and wine events – from the Pebble Beach Food and Wine Festival in April to the Salinas Valley Food and Wine Event in August. New in 2020, picturesque Carmel-by-the-Sea will host its first Culinary Week including special menus and immersive events.
3. Try the first-class wine!
You can thank Franciscan Friars for being the first to grow and produce wine here! The county is one of the largest wine-growing and producing regions in California made famous by its unique microclimates and diverse growing conditions allowing the region to produce 32 varietals.
September may be California wine month, but Monterey County offers wine tasting experiences year-round. Visitors can choose from 65 tasting rooms throughout Carmel-by-the-Sea, Carmel Valley, Monterey and Salinas Valley.
4. Head down to the Seaside
Monterey’s neighbouring coastal city Seaside has been seeing a renaissance over the last year. From new additions, including Other Brother Beer Company for beer-lovers to the unique coffee shop-recording studio combo Counterpoint Coffee, Seaside is quickly becoming a trendy spot to explore.
5. Discover marine life
Rounding out the list is the must-visit attraction, Monterey Bay Aquarium. Dedicated to marine research and conservation for more than 35 years, the Aquarium is home to more than 35,000 creatures representing 550 sea life and marine species including the county’s famed sea otters. Add a behind-the-scenes tour or sleepover for an intimate experience of the Aquarium’s world-class exhibits.
6. 17-Mile Drive is 17-miles of road trip bliss
Hugging the Pacific coastline, the rugged 17-Mile Drive weaves its way through Del Monte Forest, through Monterey.
Take a stroll along the wooden paths that line the shores of Spanish Beach, take a photo of the Lone Cypress, or enjoy a meal at the Pebble Beach Resorts – which is also known for their spectacular views and world-class golf course!
7. Monterey Jazz Festival
The city of Monterey has hosted the longest continuously running jazz event in the world since 1958. Held on Sept. 25-27, the Monterey Jazz Festival features more than 500 artists performing on eight stages, as well as art exhibits, jazz clinics and seminars.
8. Relive (or create) your summer camp experience… as an adult!
Adults can return to their summer camp days at the new lodging site, The Camp at Carmel Valley. Visitors can choose to lodge in cabins, houses or tents while enjoying a wide array of both self-guided and partnered activities including yoga, wine tasting, basket weaving and equine.
Speaking of new accommodation, you’ll also be treated to refreshed accommodations at many popular hotels, including the Monterey Marriott Hotel, Portola Hotel and Spa, Hotel Abrego and Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa, as well as the Sandpiper Inn in Carmel-by-the-Sea.
9. Be a spectator to incredible air displays…
Travellers can watch jaw-dropping aeronautical acrobatics from the United States Blue Angels, Patriots Jet Team, Metal Mulisha, Pemberton’s Wing Suit Jump and more during the California International Airshow in Salinas. Onlookers will enjoy military demos, fly-bys and aircraft displays.
10. Or visit the Yanks Air Museum
For more aircraft thrills, the new Yanks Air Museum will open its doors in Greenfield. The museum will feature a world-class collection of restored aircrafts that reflect the entire spectrum of American aviation, as well as an education centre devoted to stimulating and educating new generations about aviation.
11. Find your way to the rodeo
Each year, Salinas hosts the famed California Rodeo Salinas at the Salinas Sports Complex – an event that dates back to 1911. The largest rodeo in California, the event attracts more than 600 top-ranked professional cowboys and cowgirls that compete for almost $400,000 in prize money.
12. Discover the history of the Old Fisherman’s Wharf
In October 2020, Monterey’s popular tourist hub, Old Fisherman’s Wharf, will celebrate its 175th anniversary. Known for its year-round whale watching adventures, fishing excursions, restaurants serving clam chowder and gift shops, Fisherman’s Wharf will mark the occasion with a birthday bash on Oct. 11.
13. Experience the wonder of beautiful butterflies
The charming Victorian town of Pacific Grove has a long history with monarch butterflies. Named Butterfly Town USA, hundreds of monarch butterflies migrate to the town’s sanctuary to overwinter from mid-October to mid-February.
14. Bag a bargain
Antique Roadshow enthusiasts, now is the time to put all that watching to the test! The quaint fishing village of Moss Landing becomes the antique capital of the world during the Moss Landing Antique Fair. Attendees can visit more than 200 antique booths with one-of-a-kind vintage items and furnishings.
15. Take to the golfing green
There are three incredible golf courses on Monterey Peninsula’s which are considered among the most beautiful in the world! Fulfil your golfing dream by playing at the gamed Pebble Beach Golf Links or book a ticket to see the Pebble Beach Pro-Am golf tournament. Ticketholders can watch top PGA Tour professionals team up with Hollywood celebrities, world-renowned musicians and the captains of the industry as they compete on the famed Pebble Beach Golf Links, Spyglass Hill Golf Course and Monterey Peninsula Country Club Short Course. Tournament proceeds benefit hundreds of nonprofit charities.