Monterey sits on the spectacular, breathtaking central California coast just south of San Francisco. This scenic destination offers something for everyone.
Discover the top things to do in Monterey
1. Hop on the free MST Trolley
The free MST Trolley is a great way to easily explore Monterey. This free tolley usually runs daily 10 am – 6 pm from June 25 until Labour Day. It makes stops at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, downtown Monterey, Fisherman’s Wharf and Cannery Row. See a route map here.
2. Monterey Bay Aquarium
The Monterey Bay Aquarium has now operated for more that 30 years. Originally a sardine cannery, the aquarium offers interactive exhibits, daily feedings, shows and behind-the-scenes tours.
During the summer, stop at the back deck Wildlife Viewing station and watch the crazy feeding fest of area whales, turtles and other wildlife. There are about 300,00 marine plants and animals here.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium was instrumental in establishing and the protection of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. This sanctuary runs from just south of Big Sur to up past San Francisco, covering 6,000 square miles. This area features an undersea mountain and a submarine canyon deeper than the Grand Canyon.
3. Old Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey
Take a stroll along Old Fisherman’s Wharf. Watch for playful otters and seal lions. See fishing boats enter the harbour to unload their catch. Try a cup of clam chowder or check out one of the several restaurants offering incredible views of the inner harbor.
4. Whale Watching
Whale watching is a year round experience in Monterey. Many varieties of whales will come close to the shoreline for feeding. There are many whale watching tour available. Watch for sea lions as well.
5. Kayaking or sailing
Take a guided kayak tour along the Monterey shores to spot wildlife in their natural habitat.
6. Historic Cannery Row
Cannery Row is a charming street full of history. Canneries popped up here during World War I, when sardines were in high demand. During its production peak in 1918, 1.4 million cases were processed.
Sardines disappeared from the area and the canneries collapsed after World War ll. Today the cannery buildings have been updated and you can browse through shops, boutiques and art galleries. There are also restaurants and hotels along this strip.
7. Discover the Monterey Wine Trail
Explore the wine tasting rooms of some of the vintners from Monterey County.
Wine growing started in the Monterey area way back in the 1790s when the first planting was made by Spanish conquistadors and missionaries.
Vines were reintroduced and established in the early 1970s and today, there are about 85 vineyards in the region. Download a tasting room map.
Bird Watching reaches its peak in the Monterey Bay area in September. The annual Monterey Bay Birding Festival in nearby Watsonville is usually held in September. Watch the skies for California condors and golden eagles, along with other numerous species.
9. Take a Trolley Tour
Take a trolley tour on a historic trolley. There are a few to choose from; a Wine Trolley tour or a Ghost Tour of Old Monterey.
10. Attend the Monterey Jazz Festival
The Monterey Jazz Festival is held annually in September and it is the world’s longest continually running jazz festival.
- In 1602, Spanish merchant Sebastian Vizcaino was the first European to set foot on the peninsula.
- There are 26 public and private golf courses in the area.
- The first fish cannery on Cannery Row was Pacific Fish Company. It started in 1908.
- The area boasts the same grape growing climate as Sonoma and Napa, California and also Bordeaux and Burgundy, France.
- Built during the Mexican era in 1827, Monterey’s Custom House is the oldest standing California public building. The American flag was raised here in 1846.
- Famous authors who spent time in Monterey County: Robert Louis Stevenson, Ed Ricketts, Henry Miller, John Steinbeck and poet Robinson Jeffers.
Getting to Monterey
Located on California’s central coast, Monterey is located 100 miles south of San Francisco and 200 miles north of Los Angeles.
You can fly into Monterey, or into other cities along the coast, like San Francisco, and then rent a car to drive the scenic coastline. You can also take a train or a bus.
Find out more about Monterey and hotels in the area.
Nearby Monterey points of interest
- Visit Moss Landing, one of the top spots to view sea otters.
- 17-Mile Drive at Pebble Beach, one of the most scenic roads in Califorina
- The Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary in Pacific Grove is where thousands of butterflies migrate to spend winter from October to February.
- Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is home to 36 species of marine mammals. You can spot three types of whales; orca, humpback or gray. Porpoises and dolphins are also visible, depending on the season.
- Monterey Wine Country offers a variety of tasting rooms. Download a tasting room map.
- Explore Carmel-by-the-Sea.
- If you are a sports car racing fan, check out Laguna Seca Raceway.
- Attend the racing school, run by a Formula One World Champion driver.
- Explore the top things to do in San Francisco.
- Discover dozens of painted ladies in Ferndale, California
Do you have questions or comments about your trip? Please leave a comment below.
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I had no idea that Monterey is known for its historic wine-tasting rooms! My sisters and I are visiting Monterey in three months to see a concert and we’re hoping to do some other fun activities while we’re there. It would be good to try a wine tasting since we all love wine.
Here’s a great tip. Call around to the wine tours and also the private limo ones to see how much and where they go. We called to ask how much it was for a private limo tour for the two of us and then asked about their group tour and booked that instead for a much lower rate and we were the only ones on the tour.