Pacific Coast Highway, USA: Monterey

Monterey Canning Company

Day 4 of my Pacific Coast Highway trip and we were in Monterey!

If you haven’t seen them already, check out my earlier posts on HollywoodSanta Barbara and Cambria. This post covers my day in Monterey whilst travelling from LA to San Francisco on the Pacific Coast Highway.

The journey

After starting the morning in Cambria with elephant seals (previous post) I had a feeling today was going to be a good day. As we drove the 115 miles north to Monterey the sun made an appearance and we put the roof of the Mustang down.

Roof down

Views from the mustang

It would be quicker to take route 101 between Cambria and Monterey but the drive on route 1, the Pacific Coast Highway, is superb! The road is windy, with steep climbs in places, but at all times theres the view of the ocean and fantastic forested hills. This route also takes you through Los Padres National Forest and over the famous Bixby bridge. The bridge, which opened in 1932, is one of the most photographed in California thanks to its design.

Bixby Bridge

Bixby Creek Bridge on the Pacific Coast Highway

Route 1 also takes you through Big Sur, which could be a stop in itself! Famous for its redwoods, which can grow to 350 feet (107 metres) and outdoor pursuits, its a big tourist area, but unfortunately this time we couldn’t squeeze it in. Thankfully we got to see some redwoods from the road.


We arrived in Monterey and checked in to the Hilton Garden Inn Monterey. It was a 20 minute walk or so to the Fisherman’s Wharf area, which is the main tourist haunt. The hotel had good sized rooms and ours on the top (3rd) floor had a terrace which basked in the sun on arrival (although only one sun lounger?!). It also overlooked the pool which was nice. We didn’t rate the hotel restaurant much, where we had a below average pizza and salad later in the evening, with poor service.

Fisherman’s Wharf and downtown Monterey

We walked down to Fisherman’s Wharf and soaked up the carnival atmosphere. It reminded me of the British seaside in its heyday, only with hot sunshine! The pedestrianised streets were crowded (it was Saturday) and every eatery seemed to be giving out samples of their clam chowder. After wandering for a while, we decided to find somewhere for lunch. Things became much calmer as we left the hustle and bustle of Fisherman’s Wharf and headed to the pier. We stopped for lunch at ‘LouLou’s griddle in the middle’ for a BIG portion of tasty calamari

Calamari at Lous

Fresh calamari and chips at LouLous Griddle in the Middle

Well rested, we headed on the Monterey Coastal Trail to the downtown area. Whilst on the trail there were sites of historical interest, including ‘State registered historical landmark no.1’, “Custom House” built by the Mexicans to collect taxes in 1827. I hadn’t even realised the Mexican’s once owned this part of California!

Custom house

Custom House historical plaque. The house dates back to 1827 which is really old for California!

The downtown area has a rich history of sardine canning, which has resulted in modern day Monterey having a charming character.

Monterey Canning Company

The Monterey Canning Company building

Canning co bridges

The Canning Company bridges give the downtown area character and charm (I just spotted the guy on the right waving!)

Monterey is famous for its aquarium. But at $50 a ticket and on such a sunny day, we decided we’d rather be outside. Plus, on our walk back we managed to see animals in the wild…

sunbathing seal

…a sunbathing seal in the harbour!


The next morning we jumped in the car and took the short drive to Carmel-by-the-sea. This seaside town is picture perfect and home to some very nice houses and scenic views. The 17-mile drive is a private road, which meanders past mansions and golf courses. For $10 you can enter through one of the gates, receive a map with attractions highlighted and simply follow the road around, stopping off at places of interest. One of the biggest draws is the lone cypress tree, a solitary tree growing from a granite outpost. We visited early and the mist hadn’t yet lifted, which ruined the views. On the plus side, the 17-mile drive was extremely quiet – it was like having the place to ourselves! I believe in the afternoons it can get very busy.

The Lone Cypress Tree

The Lone Cypress Tree

I had booked breakfast at the Stillwater restaurant at The lodge at Pebble Beach, which is within the 17-mile drive. This was a very nice golf resort which served a lovely breakfast and I’m sure usually would have fantastic far-reaching views over the bay. However, not on the morning we visited…

View at breakfast

Our view at breakfast from the Stillwater Bar & Grill at The Lodge at Pebble Beach. Still pretty, even in the grey mist

The food and service here were great, in particular the eggs benedict and corned beef hash.

Stomach’s satisfied, after a brief wander round the resort shops and with the rain starting to fall we got back in the car for the final stretch of our journey…. to San Francisco!

Other stops on my Californian Pacific Coast Highway adventure:


Santa Barbara


San Fransisco


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