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Wednesday 17 May 2017

Monterey Day Trip

Here in the Bay Area we're pretty lucky to be surrounded by amazing natural beauty. Stunning beaches, towering redwoods, snow capped mountains, rolling hills, lush forests, natural hot springs... all of these can be found within just a few hours drive of the Bay Area. We're pretty spoiled for choice.

One of our favorite places to visit either for a weekend away or a day trip is Monterey county, located just a two hour drive along the coast south of San Francisco. We've visited Monterey many times and we always find something new to do. Whether it be spending a day at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, taking in a little of California's history at the Carmel Mission, soaking in the views along the Big Sur coastline, playing in the amazing Dennis the Menace Park, or just relaxing at the beach, we always enjoy our visit to Monterey and can't wait to come back.

This past weekend we took a day trip to down Monterey and it was the perfect day out. We spent much of our time at the beach, with the kids chasing waves, exploring tide pools, searching for treasure, climbing on rocks and making sand castles. We also visited the quaint Point Pinos Lighthouse for a little history, and took a drive along the famous 17 Mile Drive.

Keep reading to see more of our adventure in Monterey as well as your chance to win tickets to Monterey Bay Aquarium and MY Museum.

Our first destination for our Monterey day trip was Point Pinos Lighthouse. Kim and I are both history buffs and when we travel we love to learn a little about the history of the local area. Our past visits to Monterey have been all about nature, in particular the local marine life, so it was nice to experience a little of Monterey's history for a change.

In use since 1855, Point Pinos Lighthouse is the oldest operating lighthouse on the west coast. It's a pretty tiny lighthouse, but what it may lack in stature, it makes up for in charm and character. Visitors will find Point Pinos Lighthouse furnished as it would have been during the time of lighthouse keeper Emily Fish who lived and worked there from 1893 to her retirement in 1914.

Point Pinos Lighthouse is located at 80 Asilomar Ave, Pacific Grove and is open Thursdays through Mondays from 1:00pm - 4:00pm. There is no entry fee, however a suggested donation of $4 per adult and $2 per child (6-12) ensures ongoing preservation by local volunteers.

From Point Pinos Lighthouse we made our way down to the beach at nearby Pacific Grove Marine Gardens Park.

Now, I know that when a lot of people think of Californian beaches they think of long stretches of sand. While beautiful sandy beaches can definitely be found along the Monterey coast, rocky beaches with tide pools full of marine life and rocks for climbing are more our thing - especially at this time of year when it's still a little too cool to swim. The beach at Pacific Grove Marine Gardens Park perfectly fit the bill for the type of beach we like to visit. Lola and Mathilde were happy to stay by the small sandy area searching for shells and playing with their sand toys, but Ava, being the adventurous child she is, was all about scaling the rocks and dodging the waves as they crashed at her feet.

Mathilde and Lola hunted for treasures on the beach and were excited to find lots of discarded shells and smooth pieces of beach glass in the sand and among the rocks. As the beach is a marine reserve we made sure to leave all of the shells and beach glass behind when we left.

In the tide pools there were many more shells to be found, however these we left alone and just observed. The shells were home to snails and hermit crabs, with the latter scurrying around on the rocks. We also spotted beautiful sea anemones that swayed gracefully as the waves washed in and out of the tide pools and various types of seaweed. Ava enjoyed using my GoPro camera to film life under the waves in the tide pools. She was amazed to see a hermit crab scurry over a sea anemone which in turn closed up in a split second to protect itself. You can see this amazing sight for yourself in the short video below.

Back on dry land, the beauty of the sea anemones was mirrored in the wild flowers that lined the shore. The girls thought it was pretty hilarious that Kim and I referred to the succulents growing along the beach as Pigface, their common name back home in Australia where it's also commonly found along beaches!

After spending quite some time on the beach, we set off for the famous 17 Mile Drive and yet more stunning beach views.

17 Mile Drive is, as you can probably guess, a 17 mile long scenic drive that makes its way along the coast line. Located in the prestigious Pebble Beach area, the drive is flanked by the ocean on one side and a golf course along the other. An entry fee of $10 per vehicle is charged and allows visitors entrance at any of the 5 gates. Along 17 Mile Drive there are many beautiful spots to stop and take in the view, hike or enjoy a picnic on the beach.

We stopped multiple times along the drive to enjoy the views. The girls had fun scrambling over the rocks at China Rock where we spent the most time. It's really such a scenic spot. I couldn't get enough of that one windswept tree in the background. Just off shore, sea otters floated on their backs appearing briefly between waves before being swept out of view again. The girls were pretty excited to sea the otters.

At Spanish Bay Ava and Lola spent quite some time running from the waves as the sun set over the ocean. Mathilde was not keen to get her feet wet so she stuck to the softer, dry sand where she tested out Lola's metal detector. No treasure to be found on the beach today, but plenty of fun was had. Had we arrived at Spanish Bay earlier in the day I can imagine that the girls would have spent quite some time making sand castles in the soft sand and would have enjoyed paddling in the water. As the sun was now setting, the temperatures had started to drop so we were not able to stop quite as long as the girls would have liked.

We stopped again at The Restless Sea where birds sheltered from the wind along the rocky cliff faces and at nearby Point Joe where the flat grassy area on the rocks marks the location of an early shanty.

By now the sun had set and the stunning views were no longer to be seen. We continued our drive along 17 Mile Drive toward Carmel before heading back home to the Bay Area. A day spent on the beach had tired the girls out and all three of them fell asleep before we were back on the freeway heading home.

Our day in Monterey had come to and end, but the memories will last a lifetime.

Ready to make your own memories in Monterey? Visit the See Monterey homepage here to plan your Monterey adventure.

Oh, and remember I mentioned a giveaway? Enter the Family Travel Sweepstakes here for your chance to win four tickets to Monterey Bay Aquarium and Monterey Country Youth Museum (MY Museum). Two lucky winners will be chosen. Good luck!

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