With so much to see and do, youll need to choose whether to go out to sea or drive inland to the hills. Either way, you should start at the rocky shoreline between Fishermans Wharf and Cannery Row in Monterey.
After breakfast, make your way to Cannery Row, immortalized by John Steinbeck in his well-loved novel. Anchoring one end of the famous street where the sardine was once king is the Monterey Bay Aquarium, one of the worlds finest. Exploring its fascinating galleries will absorb most of the morning. You can then walk (or bike, or rollerskate, or surrey) towards Fishermans Wharf, departure point for a veritable fleet of whalewatching boats. Cruises run between two and four hours, depending on which whales youll be watching: different species visit us almost year-round.
When you return to shore, you can explore the Path of History in Old Monterey, viewing Colton Hall, where Californias state constitution was drafted in 1846, Pacific House, Custom House, and the Monterey Maritime Museum.
Weather not great for boating? Walk the Path of History now, then drive inland to Salinas, the county seat, to visit the National Steinbeck Center. It covers the works novels, movies, essays and more by the controversial author, and introduces visitors to the many-faceted world of farming in the new Agriculture Wing.
With just a little more time to spend, your sightseeing opportunities widen dramatically.
Spend the first morning on Cannery Row, visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium and learning about the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary at our doorstep. Ramble the Recreation Trail over to Monterey, and spend the afternoon out whalewatching or, if the weather discourages voyaging, go walk the Path of History through Old Monterey. Start at Custom House and Pacific House Museum, both near Fishermans Wharf, then go on to visit Cooper-Molera Adobe, Casa Serrano and Casa Soberanes.
On Day Two, drive the beautiful coast road connecting Monterey to Carmel, passing through into Pebble Beach, renowned for its superb golf courses and the picturesque 17-Mile Drive. Dawdle Carmels leafy streets to investigate innumerable art galleries, antique shops and quality boutiques, or play on its silvery, dog-friendly beach before lunch.
In the afternoon, head up Carmel Valley. This is the sunniest part of the coast, equally highly regarded for its sunsoaked golf courses, horseback riding and hiking trails, and wineries. At Laureles Grade, you can choose to go straight on to Carmel Valley Village for more wine-tasting and antiquing, or go over the hills to Salinas and the National Steinbeck Center.
Now youre really ready to combine sightseeing with relaxation and recreation. (But remember, theres so much more, youll still have to make some hard decisions or just come back another time!)
Again, start your stay by learning more about our wonderful bay at the Monterey Bay Aquarium on Cannery Row, then follow it up with an afternoon in Old Monterey (the Maritime Museum is a fascinating place to start), or out whalewatching.
The next morning, take the coast road through Pacific Grove (known as Americas Last Hometown) and Pebble Beach, passing Seal Rock, Pebble Beach Lodge and immaculately kept golf courses on 17-Mile Drive. Explore Carmel, taking time before lunch for its art galleries, antique shops and boutiques.
Leave Carmel by way of Mission San Carlos Borromeo; third of the chain of missions founded in the 1770s, it houses a magnificent bronze sarcophagus honoring Father Junipero Serra, sculpted by artist Jo Mora.
Spend the afternoon roaming Big Sur on and off Highway One, perhaps Americas most scenic auto route, with high windswept hills perfect for hiking or horseback riding to one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other.
Day Three is prime-time for relaxation and refreshment. You might start the day with a round of golf: some of the best and sunniest are located in Carmel Valley. Not a golfer? How about a body-wrap or massage at one of the many elegant spas in the area? Spend the afternoon in Carmel Valley Village doing some wine-tasting and antiquing.
Traveling with the family? Choose the Salinas Valley instead. You can begin with the National Steinbeck Centers educational (but so much fun!) galleries, including its new Agriculture Wing, and stroll Salinas Oldtowns mellow Main Street. Then head for The Farm to learn about organic veggies and strawberries or Wild Things animal training center, to meet Josef, the model for The Lion King. Bring a picnic along, and everyone can enjoy a visit to one of the many wineries lining the Salinas Valley, a great way to toast to your Monterey County vacation.