California Road Trip 2017 Part 4 – Big Sur and Monterey Aquarium

California Road Trip 2017 Part 1 – San Diego
California Road Trip 2017 Part 2 – San Diego to LA
California Road Trip 2017 Part 3 – Solvang

Because of the road closures we were unable to drive Hwy 1 along the coast so we headed inland directly to Monterey from Solvang and then backtracked along the open portions of Hwy 1 to check out some of the coast views.

Day 11 – Big Sur and the Coastal Drive

We left Solvang fuelled up on Danish pastries and headed north toward Monterey. It was sort of interesting traveling through the interior – lots of vegetable fields – but not so exciting that we were pulling over to see things. Instead I looked up facts about the history of California and relayed them to Jon as he drove. At some point we stopped in a random state park to feed the little guy and snack on our leftovers from the previous evening. I can’t remember the name of the park but it seemed to be focused on the history of agricultural equipment.

We arrived in Monterey mid-afternoon and immediately headed down Hwy 1. We only made it about 15 minutes south of town before pulling over at Monastery Beach. The beach is beautiful but not a place to get too close to the water – there are lots of signs explaining how dangerous the waves can be at this location. We parked ourselves far up on the beach (in what the signs indicated was the “safe zone”) and watched the ocean for a little bit. They also have nice restrooms.

Hanging out on the berm far away from the waves!
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After our break we decided to keep driving and just see how far we could go with the little guy. I was surprised at the number of other people out driving but it still wasn’t super busy and there was parking spaces at all the pull outs. We were able to stop a few times to look around but only made it about 8 miles down the road before the little guy started screaming. We gave up and pulled over at Garrapata Beach where we bundled him into his carrier and went for a walk.

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So different from the southern coastline
Garrapata Beach

Luckily the break calmed everyone down and we were able to drive the rest of the open highway as far as Bg Sur State Park where we stopped to feed and buy a pop from the park store before turning back.

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Once we got to Monterey we hit up Whole Foods for some dinner items and checked into our hotel. It was a big day of driving so everyone was happy just to take it easy.

Day 12 – Monterey Aquarium

We purposely chose hotel location over quality in Monterey to make it easier to access the aquarium so after a very mediocre breakfast at our hotel we set off to walk to the aquarium. It was just under 2 miles and was quite pretty along the water.

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Even though it was a Saturday the line to get in wasn’t too long and we were able to get in in time to see the morning penguin feeding. The feedings seemed very popular so we only timed our exhibit visits to see one other at the open ocean exhibit (worth it as the feeding draws up a huge school of sardines that aren’t usually visible) and then just wandered around. There is so much to see and we spent all day checking it out. My favourites were definitely the sea otters and the cuttlefish. Even baby E. took notice of some of the displays.

The most photogenic of the sea creatures

We left the museum around 3:30 pm and walked back to our hotel along Cannery Row.

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After all the walking we crashed pretty early at our hotel. Neither of us felt like going out for dinner so we dined on the previous night’s leftovers. Then it was off to bed so we could get an early start to our final stop on our trip – San Francisco!

Some Final Thoughts On Big Sur and Monterey

  • I wish we had been able to drive the coast the whole way but I think that driving it north to south did allow us to pull over more easily.
  • The aquarium is not cheap ($50 USD each!) so we really tried to see everything. It was very cool but also very tiring.
  • Monterey is pretty and worth a walk around either as part of your trip to the aquarium or on a separate putting.

Up next – our final stop in San Francisco…

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