Monterey and the Big Sur Coastline is one of my favorite places for a weekend getaway from the Bay Area. It's a relatively short drive down the coast, yet it feels a world away from home.
The world class Monterey Bay Aquarium is definitely the biggest draw card for our family of sea life loving kiddos, but the beaches and the stunning coastal views are enough to make Monterey County a great destination on their own.
Here's a look at some of our favorite destinations in Monterey County for families...
Monterey Bay Aquarium
Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of my most favorite places in the whole world. The sea life on display here is very diverse and the facilities are world class. There is good reason why Monterey Bay Aquarium is often listed as the best in the world. There is plenty of interactive fun for children, including the touch pools and the toddler play area. My girls loved that not only could they see sea creatures inside the aquarium, but they were also able to spot wild sea otters, seal lions and plenty of bird life from the decks outside. At certain times of the year, whales can be spotted too! Plan on spending a whole day at Monterey Bay Aquarium and you will not be disappointed.
Monterey's Cannery Row is certainly a touristy spot, but hey, whenever we visit Monterey we are tourists, so why not act the part with a little shopping and dining along this famous strip! The buildings along Cannery Row are like a picture perfect step back into the past, with restored canning factories and warehouses now home to galleries, gift shops and restaurants. Of course, the views over the ocean are pretty great too.
Monterey County is certainly not lacking when it comes to scenic drives that will take your breath away. 17 Mile Drive offers stunning views along the rugged coastline, as does the drive along Highway 1 to Big Sur. There are many look out points along both drives where the views can be taken in. I love stopping along Highway 1 and seeing the curving road stretched out along the coast. It adds a good sense of scale to the wild landscape. While the views are amazing on a sunny day, there's nothing like seeing the coast in the fog of sunset. The colors are just stunning.
No drive along the Monterey Country coastline is complete without a stop at the look out point by Bixby Bridge. This bridge is not only an engineering marvel, it's a picture perfect icon of the coast, fitting seamlessly in with its stunning surrounds. The views down from the bridge are nothing short of jaw dropping with the such a big plunge down to the water below. Just look at that view!
The beaches in Monterey County are stunningly beautiful. We've never visited at a time of year that has been warm enough to go swimming, but I'm more of a Winter beach person anyway. I love how atmospheric the beaches here are with the rugged cliffs and morning/late afternoon fog. While my girls love to swim at the beach, they're also big fans of building sandcastles and exploring tide pools. They were excited to discover a wealth of sea life in the tide pools that they explored and enjoyed climbing over the many large rocks.
Dennis the Menace Park
Before we even moved to the Bay Area from Australia I was told by a friend that we had to visit Dennis the Menace Park at some point. I figured it was probably just a nice park with a few pieces of good play equipment, and promptly forgot about it. Then we visited Monterey for the first time and my memory was jogged. We had a little spare time on our way home after a day at the aquarium so I figured we'd stop by for half an hour. Well, it turns out that Dennis the Menace Park is one of the most amazing playgrounds my kids have ever been to! That half hour we thought we'd stop for quickly turned into an hour, and it would've turned into two had we arrived with enough time to spare! Dennis the Menace Park is such a great place for the kids to run around, and the variety of play equipment makes it perfect for families with children of varying ages.
While these are my favorite things to do/see on family trips to Monterey County, there are still so many more delights waiting to be explored. Wineries, gourmet food, golf courses, spas... A trip without the kids sounds just as good too!
For more information on visiting Monterey County, check out See Monterey. Here you will find a wealth of information about Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Big Sur, Pacific Grove, Pebble Beach, Carmel Valley, Salinas Valley, Moss Landing and more.
Two nights at Monterey Tides
Two tickets to Monterey Bay Aquarium
Wine blending at Joullian Vineyards
How amazing does that prize sound? To enter, simply visit See Monterey by clicking here, then leave a comment below telling me what you'd love to see/do in Monterey County. See Monterey will randomly select a winner from the comments after October 17th 2016.