Monterey is a beautiful central coast community that sits along California’s rocky shoreline at the southern end of Monterey Bay. Once the center of the sardine packing industry, Monterey is now a popular coastal vacation spot that offers a little something for everyone.
Immortalized by author John Steinbeck, who was born in nearby Salinas, many visitors to Monterey romanticize about the fishing community heyday of Cannery Row. Steinbeck referred to Cannery Row as “a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream.” While the canneries no longer dictate the tone and activities of the town, and the place has taken on a much different atmosphere, many of those qualities to which Steinbeck referred still exist today.
Revitalized by a group of local entrepreneurs, Monterey and its historic Cannery Row now boasts a friendly coastal vacation spot vibe. Here you will find world-class hotel accommodations, some of the best seafood restaurants along California’s coast, and a host of activities for visitors of all ages. Here a few activities we enjoy that you can look forward to on your next visit to Monterey.
Planning a trip to Monterey?
If you have a few days to stay there are plenty of things to do besides just shopping and going to the beach. Here are 10 fun ideas to get you started.
- Stroll along the waterfront from Cannery Row to Old Fisherman’s Wharf.
Signs along the way share information about the community and local wildlife. One fun fact I learned is that sea otters have over 1 million hairs per square inch of their body, giving them the densest fur of any mammal.
- Visit the aquarium. Probably Cannery Row’s largest attraction, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is a non-profit organization that features exhibits on animals in and around the bay as well as out in the open ocean, and focuses on ocean conservation. They have hands on exhibits and offer educational programs for all ages.
- Stop by the old Customhouse. Visit California’s very first landmark, an old adobe style building that was used first by the Mexican government then by the United States government to collect duties on foreign trade. It was on this site in 1846 during the Mexican-American War that Commodore John Drake Sloat of the United States Navy raised the American Flag and declared California part of the United States.
- Kayak or SUP the bay. Paddle around the bay for a closer view of the sea otters, sea lions and marine life. If you don’t have your own kayak or stand up paddleboard don’t worry. There are plenty of outfitters who can get you set up and even give you a tour.
- Take a whale watching tour.
Humpback whales and dolphins frequent the bay. In fact when we arrived Thursday night we heard we had just missed sightings of humpback whales breaching just off shore. According to Monterey Bay Whale Watch, during that day 15 humpback whales and 110 Risso’s Dolphins were spotted.
- Go scuba diving.
San Carlos Beach right next to the hotel we stayed at the end of Cannery Row on the corner of Cannery Row and Reeside Avenue is a popular spot for scuba diving. Make sure you have a nice thick wetsuit because water temperatures are chilly, usually around 50 degrees. Local dive shops can hook you up with gear and training if needed.
- Go to the races. Just a few miles away from Cannery Row, WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca hosts events for race fans year round including the FIM Superbike World Championship, Ferrari Challenge and Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix. They offering camping for race fans as well including RV and tent sites.
- Enjoy an ice cream sundae overlooking the beach. Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop on Cannery Row offers delicious ice cream concoctions that will make you feel like a kid again. Enjoy them on their patio overlooking the ocean and beach.
- Have a wine tasting with a beautiful ocean view. There are several tasting rooms in Monterey that feature local wines, but A Taste of Monterey Wine Market & Bistro offers incomparable ocean views while you enjoy your tasting.
- Eat Clam Chowder in a bread bowl. The Fish Hopper on Cannery Row serves up Monterey’s best creamy style clam chowder in warm, soft sour dough bread bowls. It’s a must have while in Monterey!
For more information and ideas about things to do in and around Monterey, California visit the Monterey County Convention & Visitor Bureau at seemonterey.com.
Related Blog Posts from us and other bloggers:
30 Things to do in the Monterey Bay Area
California’s Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail
The Big Little Lies Guide to Monterey, California