Day trips from Monterey. Suggestions sought

Back in June, while I was on leave recovering from surgery, I planned a road trip with my fiancée. The idea was to drive from Orange County, check into a hotel in Monterey for several days, and do a day trip every day, then drive to see her sister and niece in Sacramento before heading back down.

Well, an ER visit caused that one to fall through, so we hope to plan a similar trip next summer. In the meantime, I’m taking a leave next week, and we’re going to have an abridged version of the trip. We’ll drive to Monterey on Sunday, do day trips, and drive back down on Wednesday. I’ve only got vague ideas about what day trips to take, and I could use some suggestions.

Possibly relevant information: Fiancée is blind, 70 years old, uses either a wheelchair or a walker, and is accompanied by a service animal. OP is sighted, 65 years old, able-bodied and healthy.


Do you guys like wine?

Well, there is a lot to do right in Monterey, proper. You can simply stroll along the paved pathway that leads from Fisherman’s Wharf out toward Cannery Row. You don’t need to go very far to see seals and other wildlife right at the water’s edge, and then turn around. Driving out to Pacific Grove and Asilomar beach - just park anywhere and enjoy the view. You can also drive 17-Mile Drive to Carmel - there are plenty of places to pull-over and enjoy the spectacular views. Keep in mind the mornings along the coast can be foggy until about 10am. Carmel has it’s Mission, if you are into that whole thing, and a nice beach.

As for other destinations, as mentioned, there are wineries all over. Additional food-related spots would be farm stands, like Pezzini Farms near Castroville, where you can get deep-fried artichokes, fruit pies, and produce. You can also drive up the coast to Capitola, or Santa Cruz - both have piers, with restaurants and other shops on/near the pier.

Not sure what else you all would be interested in.

She definitely wants to experience Big Sur, and I’m planning to feature that on the way home. A few wineries also sounds like a good idea. Isn’t San Simeon and Hearst Castle in the region? I wonder if that’s a fun excursion.

There are also a few lavender farms around the central coast area. This would be better saved for a future trip in late spring to mid-summer, when the flowers will be in bloom, and you’ll have to check on who’s still open as the date gets closer. Between COVID and the fires, it’s all touch-and-go. But it could be a nice trip if it works out.

San Simeon is WAY down the coast - IMHO too far for a day trip from Monterey. It’s closer to Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo. That said, you can experience some of Big Sur from Monterey - driving to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park (redwoods), and having lunch in the town of Big Sur is very doable as a day trip.

Yeah, for someone with physical limitations, I like the idea of going to Capitola and Santa Cruz. The Capitola Village is probably past the worst of its busy season though the weather’s still probably warm enough to attract beachgoers from over the hill on weekends.

In Monterey, there’s several beachy type places. Old Fisherman’s Wharf has a pier and some restaurants. There’s the Cannery Row and so forth. There’s also a Redwood Forest train (I think it’s in Big Basin, IIRC).

My Jeopardy prize was a week in a resort in Carmel Valley, about 50 miles from home, so we did lots of trips around it. Downtown Monterey is interesting. Depending on when you are going, Ano Nuevo State Park, north on 1, has elephant seals, who come there to breed. You need to get a tour these days, when we went over 20 years ago you could walk on the beach yourself before Dec. 1.
It’s a bit north of Santa Cruz, but plenty close enough for a day trip.
There was a beautiful park with redwoods not far, but it was caught in the fire and might not be reopened yet.

If you want to do Hearst Castle take Hwy 1 from San Luis Obispo and do it on your way to Monterey. My wife and I spent a weekend in Monterey about 6 weeks ago. The highlights were a pinball arcade called Lynn’s in Seaside - $20 for free play all day - and the cheese shop in Carmel. We have done the 17-mile drive in Pebble Beach on previous trips and it’s beautiful once you get through all of the golf estates and reach the shore.

You might find some ideas here, a site about visiting Monterey.

Hello KD, here are some good places I’ve been to.

Point Lobos state park is fantastic.

Moss Landing. Eat at Phil’s Fish Market.

Castroville. Artichokes.

Wineries in Paso Robles, 2hrs away. Good views from the Daou winery. Maybe best to hit it on your way to/from Monterey.

San Francisco is 2 hrs away.

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Founded in 1907, it is the oldest amusement park in California.

Monterey Bay Aquarium. One of the best in the US.

If you have an SUV, the offroading trails at Hollister Hills is a good place to practice your skills. Trails are rated easy, medium, and hard. Good views at the top, at Hector Heights.

Alice’s Restaurant in Woodside. On a weekend day it is a gathering place for fancy cars.

The San Gregorio General Store. A historic place, and their bloody mary’s are excellent.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse in Pescadero.

Nepenthe, in Big Sur. An eatery with great views of Big Sur.


Thanks, everyone, for the tips. We returned last night a bit before 10 pm.

A brief rundown of what we did ( because I KNOW you’re all itching to find out):

Left Huntington Beach shortly after noon on Sunday. Took the 1 through Malibu, Ventura County and Santa Barbara, then hitched up to the 101 to Buellton for a couple of bowls of soup at Pea Soup Andersen’s. Gassed up and made a short jaunt to Solvang, just to get a feel for how far it would be, promising ourselves that we’d hit it again on the way down (spoiler alert: we didn’t). Stayed on 101 almost to Salinas, then cut west back to the coast and our motel in Monterey. Rolled in at 9:45, checked in and experienced our first king-sized bed in at least twenty years for both of us.

Dawdled Monday morning away, then drove to Pacific Grove for breakfast. After a couple of hours in a gift shop, we decided to take a chance on the 17-mile drive. We made a few stops for pictures and to hear the crashing surf, seals, and cormorants, and to smell the salt air. At about four miles from the end, we saw a turnoff for Carmel-by-the-Sea, which we took, promising ourselves to re-enter after we’d explored the place (spoiler alert: we didn’t). Visited an art gallery we couldn’t afford, and found a wine-tasting room that we could. It was getting late when we asked a local to direct us back to where we’d left the 17-mile drive. The directions instead brought us back to Pacific Grove (dammit), so we found a steakhouse and got dinner, then back to the motel.

We left the room a lot earlier on Tuesday, and drove thirty miles south to Big Sur. I learned the joys of buying gas at 6.50/gallon, and bought a bunch of souvenirs. Joan joined me in that endeavor as well. We also found that something had broken on her wheelchair and the right side of the seat wasn’t stretching out all the way unless I held pressure on the handle. Joan can ambulate, with assistance (and I had left her walker in the motel, so I did a LOT of assisting). She had been told by her nephew that Cambria is beautiful, so I drove the ninety miles along Hwy 1 to there. It’s a beautiful drive, but awfully scary, and I had white knuckles for nearly the entire distance. Tried to pull into Hearst Castle, but it was closed, so we proceeded to Cambria. It’s a lovely, bucolic community, but next time we go there, we’re gonna have to get a list of the high points from Joan’s nephew. We did find another winery that could accommodate a tasting, and got another couple of bottles, then headed back up Hwy 1 to Monterey. The area had become very foggy, but at least I was on the mountain side of the road instead of the cliff side, so not quite as scary. We found a roadhouse in Big Sur Center that had the most wheelchair-inaccessible building I’ve ever encountered (even if the chair isn’t broken), so we took a picture with a moderately-sized redwood and proceeded back to the motel where we ordered a pizza delivered (Pelican Pizza, if you’re ever in Monterey. Would order again), and crashed out again.

We got back on the road at the 11:00 am checkout time and drove up to Roaring Camp near Santa Cruz, where I got some shots of Joan communing with a slice of redwood trunk about five-and-a-half feet in diameter. That was as close as she came to hugging a redwood. Headed back to San Luis Obispo, had a late lunch at the Madonna Inn, then pointed the Prius at Santa Barbara. My iPhone evidently thought it would be funny to put me on a treacherous-feeling road called the Chumash Highway. I’m sure it’s a very nice highway, but at night there are way too many people driving in the opposite direction with their brights on, and there are way too many twists and turns for that.

Finally got back to familiar territory around 8:30 and fell into our bed where we slept like Frodo Baggins when he and Sam ditched the orcs on their forced march (like a dead thing. We slept like a dead thing).

Did you go to the men’s room at the Madonna Inn? Definitely the highlight of the place. When we went, it was so cool that after checking I was the only one in it my wife and daughters came in to check it out also.
The place also has cool theme rooms. Not the very best, but interesting. Worth staying at some time.
Glad your trip was a success.

Sounds like a great trip. Yes that Chumash Highway is nice during daylight, especially coming from the north and you drop down into Santa Barbara, where it has good views over Goleta and SB, and on out to the Pacific.

In your visit to Cambria, did you perchance swing by Nitt Witt Ridge?

Much more, with lots of pictures here: This is the first I’ve ever seen that visitors are allowed inside the place:

I’ve been to the men’s room several times. Back in the Seventies, my college choir would take a tour bus up to San Francisco every spring, with small concerts along the way. The men’s room at Madonna Inn was a designated rest stop each time. And more recently (as in fifteen years ago), kaylasmom, Kayla and I drove to Arroyo Grande to spend Christmas with kaylasauntie. The men’s room was definitely part of the trip back.

I hope to do a longer trip with Joan next year, in which we stay at a different hotel each night, instead of doing day trips from a “base camp,” as it were. A night at the Madonna Inn is definitely on the bucket list.

Didn’t get there, as I was flying by the seat of my pants this time around. Joan definitely wants that town to be on our next itinerary, so thanks for the suggestion!