36 Hours in Monterey Bay

This post has been sitting in my drafts file for almost a whole year!!! Which is ridiculous, because I’ve really wanted to share it with you all.

Last summer, for Fourth of July weekend, Mark and I traveled a bit north to spend a few relaxing days in Monterey Bay. Mark’s been raving about this super quaint beach town for years to me, and after watching Big Little Lies (Reese Witherspoon is everything) I was ready to find out what all the fuss was about.

You know how in the NYTimes Travel section they do “36 Hours in _____”? I love them! It’s a great resource for planning a short but awesome trip somewhere new. So I thought I’d do my own little version: 36 Hours in Monterey Bay.


We left L.A around 8 am. It’s a 6 hour drive so we thought it best to get started early. Around 2 we arrived in Carmel, a small but charming town adjacent to Monterey. It’s small enough that we decided it would be totally doable to fit into the trip and honestly was really worth it. After so long in the car we decided the first thing on the itinerary would be to stop at the Point Lobos State Reserve and hike around. The trails are easy and take you through the woods till you hit the water, where you can see tons of sea lions, birds, and other marine life. It was gorgeous!

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After hiking, we made a point to explore the little town of Carmel a bit. Everything was picturesque and exactly what you’d expect of a beach town. Lots of cute shops, good coffee and bakeries, and the marina was adorable. I couldn’t snap enough pictures. We stopped in to A.W Shucks for light dinner, enjoyed some wine and oysters, and then drove to Monterey and checked in to our AirB&B to turn in since Saturday was going to be a full day!

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The first task of the day was (predictably) to get coffee. We drove over to Cafe Lumiere and grabbed lattes and smoked salmon breakfast toasts. So good! The decor was (also predictably) nautical themed, which got us in the mood for our next stop: the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

The aquarium is in the middle of Cannery Row in Monterey. It’s a pretty touristy zone, but the history is interesting. It was (is?) apparently home to canning factories, which were responsible for most of the revenue and jobs in Monterey for a long time. I had big hopes for the aquarium, but I hate to say I was pretty disappointed. There were some cool smaller exhibits, and we loved the penguins and otters, but the tickets were sooo expensive and the aquarium really wasn’t worth the price tag.

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After the aquarium we did some strolling and found ourselves on the pier. We grabbed another snack and an iced coffee at Water & Leaves and enjoyed some pretty sweet views of the marina. Then we hustled over to Adventures By The Sea where we got to rent kayaks and freely boat around the bay for hours! We got so close to wild otters and had sea lions mere feet from us. It was so much fun and even though both of us got reaaally sunburnt, the best excursion from the trip.

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For dinner, we chose The Sardine Factory in Cannery Row. Don’t let the name scare you off! We chose to eat in the “garden”, which was a greenhouse-like room surrounded by beautiful greenery and it honestly felt like we were in a dream. The sun was setting so the light was nice and soft, and slowly the ambiance shifted to twinkle lights and candles. It was so sweet! We loved our food (and wine) but the part of the meal that I will never forget was the clam chowder with sherry. So. GOOD.

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It was the Fourth of July at this point so we woke up early, grabbed some coffee and pastries, got one last view of the beach, and headed home to get started on our celebrations!

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P.s if you like travel posts, especially California based, you have to follow my girl Elizabeth’s blog at Have Dog, Will Drive! She and her fiancé are absolute travel pros.

One response to “36 Hours in Monterey Bay”

  1. Yay oysters!! I love the ocean pics. It looks just like in the show!


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