Packed with pristine coastline, picturesque Monterey is one of the beautiful ones places in California explore. What makes it even better is how many cool places and best things to do in Monterey. From places to eat, beautiful beaches to historic streets – Monterey has it all!
It was best for me to explore this relatively small town and somehow I wanted to spend even longer in the area. It’s wonderful.
So to make sure you don’t regret it and use your time, I wanted to share some of the best places to see in Monterey that I absolutely loved. This way you can make the most of your time in the city.
Check out the best things you can do in Monterey below. Have fun visiting California.
1.) Canning order
Cannery Row is a street that runs along the beautiful coast of Monterey City and one place you can’t miss while exploring.
One of the best things in Monterey, Cannery Row gives a little insight into the city’s history of packing fish with its historic canning factory buildings lining the street. Although the last cannery was closed in the 1970s, there are still a bunch of things to see today.
You see, today Cannery Row is full of boutique lodgings, Monterey Bay aquariums and piles of delicious places that fill the belly.
I adored Ghirardelli for their puddings. Just like the one in San Francisco, it was delicious!
2.) Old fishing port
About a 30-minute walk from the Monterey Bay Aquarium is another well-known spot that can be seen, Old Fisherman’s Wharf.
Once a working port exclusively for fishing, Monterey’s Old Fisherman Wharf is now filled with a multitude of small shops, restaurants and promenades.
It is a paradise for shoppers and probably one of the places most visitors will go to at least once. Kind of like Monterey Time Square! 😉
Do you want to surf? Jump into one of the glass-bottomed boat tours or venture out on a whale watching tour that you can book right at the dock.
If you don’t want to ride the waves, take a chilled walk around the ocean shore. Here you can spot sea lions and otters staying in the inner part of the harbor.
Although, before arriving, I honestly didn’t realize how stinky they were; it stinks!
Then head towards Aliotti’s Victorian Corner Restaurant for their delicious meals. Their homemade pasta and ravioli are everything and more!
3.) Monterey State Historical Park
As one of the oldest cities in California, Monterey has many historic buildings that can date back to the 19th century. Now protected in Monterey State Historical Park, Old Monterey was the former capital of California!
The homes and buildings of Monterey State Historical Park are absolutely amazing to see, and you will even see beautiful rose gardens.
During the walk, don’t forget to tour the Cactus Garden and First Brick House. In addition, you will be able to walk along the whalebone sidewalk and spot the Garden of Custom House, which offers a pleasant view of Monterey Harbor.
4.) Coastal recreational trail in Monterey Bay
If you want to stretch your legs, join the coastal recreational trail of Monterey Bay which occupies some of the best places.
18 miles long, the route starts at the coastal point of Castroville and ends all the way to Pacific Grove.
Along the way, you’ll curiously bypass some of the key gems in Monterey that surround the city’s coastline. You will see your favorite companies in Monterey itself, but also busy places like Lovers Point Park.
Oh, and don’t forget to stop The first awakenings for a little afternoon lift. They make the most delicious French toast from cinnamon bread.
5.) Point Lobos State Nature Reserve
Exploring the coast around the city is easily one of the best things to do in Monterey while driving. For me, it is one of the best coastal areas in the Point Lobos State Nature Reserve.
With its perfect views and high granite cliffs, Point Lobos State Nature Reserve is perfect for exploring for a half-day trip.
If this is the beach you are looking for, check out Monastery Beach, which is easily reached by the Cabrillo Highway or the Carmel Meadows Trail.
If hiking is more for you, check out the Pine Ridge trail that runs through the park and the rugged coastline.
Oh, and for the best sunset, head to Sea Lion Point.
6.) Monterey Museum of Art
The Monterey Museum of Art proudly recognizes California artists and their works. They really try to place them under the spotlight, which is so amazing to see.
Visiting Monterey Museum of Art lies along Pacific Street and is one of the best things to do in Monterey if you want to explore the local and state art that is housed inside. It celebrates and emphasizes photography and contemporary art, while artists such as Ansel Adams, William Ritschel and Edward Weston take part in it.
7.) Monterey Bay National Marine Shrine
The Monterey Bay National Marine Shrine is a protected area located on the pristine coastline in between San Francisco and Cambria.
Simply put, it is a large area of the ocean coast that is protected for wildlife to thrive and is considered one of the most impressive wildlife watching sites in California.
You can easily explore the Monterey Bay National Sea Sanctuary by driving down the coast by booking a whale tour (at Monterey Pier).
It is usually best to spot whales in Monterey Bay in the summer, but they can be a little different each year.
8.) Lovers Point Park and Beach
Lovers Point, easily reached by the Monterey Bay coastal trail, is wonderful to visit.
In addition to the great and enchanting views of Monterey Bay, the park is a great little place for a picnic while hiking along the coast. If you like it, get into the clothes for ‘Adventure By The Sea’ and rent a kayak to go surfing.
If that’s none of your business, take a walk to the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History. It is about a 10 minute walk from the park and is well worth it.
9.) Farmer’s Market at Old Monterey Market
If you’re in Monterey on Tuesday, visit the weekly Farmers Market at the Old Monterey Marketplace. It is held every Tuesday on Alvarado Street, and is a place to prepare delicious local treats.
The market serves a bunch of street food and packed treats that you can take home. Although I always eat them before I leave!
From Mexican to barbecue; a lot of different places to bite were spilled there. Oh, and take a look at little Baker’s Alley to see all the freshly fried and baked goodies!
10.) 17 mile drive
Starting from the Pacific Grove Gate and continuing to the Del Monte Forest, the 17-mile drive is a great way to explore the coast and small towns around the cape between Monterey and Carmel Bay.
You will now have to pay a ticket to travel 17 miles to the gate. If I remember correctly, it’s about $ 10, but it will make up for it if you spend $ 35 in stores and restaurants.
Along the way, you’ll reach the beautiful coastline and stop at Pebble Beach Market.
Do you want to sleep over? Check in at the cottage on Pebble Beach.
Alternatively, take some time to cool off on Carmel Beach which is equally beautiful.
11.) Fort Ord Dunes State Park
North of town, visit Fort Ord Dunes State Park is one of the best things to do in Monterey if you want to explore the pristine coastline.
From the parking lot you will walk straight through the dunes that open onto the most amazing shoreline.
On a quiet day you can easily spot whales (if they are nearby) and it is absolutely wonderful to watch the sunset right from the beach.
Opposite Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea is worth a visit during your stay in Monterey or a 17 mile drive to Pebble Beach.
When you arrive here, you will be able to visit the Carmel Mission Basilica Museum which is absolutely beautiful inside and out. Are you getting hungry? Stand on Forge in the woods for lunch; their foundation in San Francisco is so delicious.
Also, be sure to visit the Candy Hut and The Tuck Box building which is almost 100 years old.
They are both like something from a fairy tale.
You can easily spot them (and more) by following a independent walking tour which will occupy most of the historic buildings in the cities.