Monterey is a popular family holiday destination on California’s rugged coast, with lots of things to do there. If you are planning a short break to Monterey or a stop on your California road trip, you may be wondering what are the best things to see and do in Monterey. This 3-day Monterey itinerary will help you see the most popular Monterey attractions. This first-timer’s guide to Monterey will help you plan your visit and give you ideas on how to spend 3 days in Monterey.
Monterey is a charming, small town, offering stunning natural beauty and wildlife. It is a great family-friendly town, with lots to do and see for children, including the amazing Monterey Aquarium and immortalized Cannery Row. Monterey has become even more famous since becoming the setting for HBO’s television adaptation of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies. We also took a day out and headed down to Point Lobos National Reserve, which is fantastic for nature lovers and the stylish town of Carmel-by-the-Sea.
This amazing 3-day Monterey itinerary will give you travel tips and ideas and help you plan your 3 days, to ensure you make the best of your time in Monterey.
Read on to find out how we spent 3 days in Monterey:-
Arrival in Monterey and Old Fisherman's Wharf
Our 3-day Monterey itinerary doesn’t start until the afternoon. We drove in from Point Reyes National Park, where we had spent 4 days as part of our 3-week California road trip.
Our accommodation was at the Monterey Bay View House, a large family home which we rented through Airbnb. It is a short drive to the shops, beach and main family attractions and had a lovely sunny garden.
On the first evening we drove to Monterey Harbour and had a wander round to get our bearings. We visited Old Fisherman’s Wharf, which used to be the original Monterey fish market, but is now a tourist attraction. If you look in the water nowadays, you will spot lots of jellyfish.
Old Fisherman’s Wharf has plenty of gift shops and restaurants looking out over Monterey Bay. There are lots of people trying to entice you in with free samples of clam chowder (which the boys loved). However, we chose the Crab House restaurant at the end of pier.
Day 1: Monterey Coastal Trail, Pacific Grove, Lovers Point Park & Cannery Row
Monterey Bay Coastal Trail
We started day 1 of our itinerary by following the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail. This popular trail follows the coast for 18 miles, from Castroville in the north to Pacific Grove in the south.
We parked in Ocean View Boulevard and hiked along the waterfront trail from Pacific Grove towards Lovers’ Point Park. This was one of the filming locations for the televised Big Little Lies.
Monterey Bay Coastal Trail follows the path of the former Southern Pacific Railroad line and offers a scenic view of Monterey’s beach, nature and wildlife. There are also a lot of fabulous houses to admire in Pacific Grove.
We stopped at the rocky beach to do some rock-pooling, rock stacks and have a picnic. You have to watch out for the rather friendly ground squirrels in Monterey, who were keen to share our lunch!
Lovers Point Park
Monterey Bay Coastal Trail will take you through the marine-protected areas and up to Lovers Point Park. We stopped to watch the harbour seals happily lazing in the sea and on the beach. If you are lucky, you can spot sea otters, sea lions and even a whale!
Lovers Point Park is a landscaped park of 4.4 acres. It has a sandy beach, a swimming pool and picnic areas. We stopped at the snack bar for an ice-cream.
It is a popular shoreline, where you can get great views of Monterey Bay and the cypress trees on the peninsular.
Cannery Row was once the home to many Monterey sardine-canning factories and was immortalized by the novelist John Steinbeck.
Cannery Row is now a very touristy area, but there are plenty of shops, restaurants and wine-tasting to stop for. The Chimptrip boys loved the magic shop, where they show you some of their best tricks.
Outside is a great John Steinback statue.
Day 2: Point Lobos National Seashore & Carmel-by-the-Sea
A visit to Point Lobos
On day 2 of our 3-day Monterey itinerary, we went out for a day trip to Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.
Point Lobos is a nature reserve which has been set up to help protect the rich natural beauty, wildlife and marine life of the area and is a must for nature lovers visiting the area. It is only about 7 miles south of Monterey, so is easy to drive to.
We spent a lovely day following the many trails at Point Lobos and were delighted to spot sea otters in the wild.
After our day in Point Lobos, we continued up the coast to upmarket Carmel-by-the Sea. This rather stylish village has a selection of stylish homes, exclusive art galleries, jewellers and high-end boutique shops.
Carmel-by-the-Sea is only 1-square mile, so is easy to look round in an afternoon. Clint Eastwood was famously once the mayor here.
We had a wander round, decided we couldn’t afford anything, so went for a play on sandy Carmel beach.
Day 3: Monterey Bay Aquarium
A visit to Monterey Bay Aquarium was probably one of the best things to do in our 3-day Monterey itinerary.
Monterey Bay Aquarium is not cheap. However, it’s a fantastic place and you could spend a whole day here discovering the mysteries of the dark oceans. We fell in love with the adorable sea otters, who charmed us with their swimming antics.
Monterey Bay Aquarium is very interactive and the Open Sea exhibit gives you a view of what it would be like under the sea.
Monterey Bay Aquarium Tickets
Ticket prices are as follows:
- Adults: $49.95
- Children: $29.95
However, there are concessions for seniors and students. Check Monterey Bay Aquarium for up-to-date admission prices. The admission costs are steep, but it is a non-profit organisation and the money is invested in ocean conservation.
What is the weather in Monterey?
In summer (May to September), it is generally sunny and dry with an average temperature of 21 degrees. However, there is regular coastal fog around Monterey Bay and Carmel, which can make summer temperatures feel cooler.
The winters are cooler, with some rain.
Eating in Monterey
As we were in self-catering accommodation we at most of our meals at home or took a picnic lunch, which we could enjoy with panoramic coastal views.
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