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11 Places you NEED to Visit in Monterey County

Having lived in Monterey County for almost all of my life, and having traveled to many beautiful places this world has to offer; I can safely say that Monterey County is one of the most beautiful places in the world! I may be a little biased as this is my home town, but I don't have to do much persuading to make you want to have a visit.

Monterey County is typically known for it's aquarium, John Steinbeck, or Big Sur. But it has so much more to offer.

From stunningly beautiful hiking trails, kayaking with otters, to history, art, cinemas, dining and shopping; there is something here for everyone!

Here are the 11 places I feel you NEED to visit in Monterey County ! (from North to South):

1) Moss Landing-- Elkhorn Slough

The Elkhorn Slough in Moss Landing is a stretch of water that comes from the sea going back about 7 miles. The dictionary says the meaning of slough is swap, but if that's the case it will be the most beautiful swap you will ever see! It is full of swimming otters, sunbathing seals, and pelacains diving for fish. Theres no way to experience the bay's wildlife like kayaking right through it!

You can find the kayak rentals here:

2) Marina Dunes State Beach

If your looking to beat the crowds, run through some light blue water, and rolling down sand dunes, then this is the place to go!

This is the northern stretch of the beach that runs from the Warf all the way to moss landing. The sand dunes make a great place to sit, watch the waves roll in, and the sun roll down. Just make sure you're extra careful if you want to surf here; it's shark territory!! From here you can see all the way to Santa Cruz and the Monterey Warf. And it's a dog on leash friendly beach, which is nice compared to the Marina & Seaside beaches that ban dogs.

3) Abandoned Fort Ord

Fort Ord was an army post back in the day, but now it is home to over 80+ miles of trails! & In 2012 it became a national park! The trails are stunning & are really fun to hike in the spring and winter when the grass is green. But what makes Fort Ord special is what has been left behind by the army. One of my favorite places to take pitures is at the abandoned pool. To find the abandoned swimming pool, type 'Water City Sports & Roller Hockey' into your gps and its right around the back. There's also an old church as well as many dorms where the troops used to stay. But be very careful wherever you go as it was an army base and they have found many explosives. (Also beware of homeless living in them) There is also a graffiti tunnel that leads to Fort Ord Dunes State Beach & Park. Just continue on 2nd and take a right on Divarty and follow it all the way down to the tunnel. It's a very pretty walk down to the beach. And if you want to terrify yourself go at night!

4) Toro Park

Toro park is a hot spot amung seniors for senior portraits for its many trees, large grass fields, and tons of trails with spectacular views of surrounding mountians and valleys. There is even a trail where you can see a view of the whole salinas valley! There are 2 play structers and many many babeque stations and picnik tabels for a perfect afternoon. You can find a map of trails here:

5) Cannery Row/ The Aquarium

No doubt the best aquarium in the world!! Monterey Bay Aquarium will even be starring in the new Disney film Dory, the sequel to Finding Nemo! It is also the only aquarium that has ever had a great white shark! (Which had to be taken out do to it's very large appetite) The aquarium is located on Cannery Row, which has tons of shops and novelty stores, along with an iMax theater, glow in the dark mini golf, lazer tag, & tons of candy shops! Stop by First Awakenings for breakfast & Bubba Gumps for dinner! If you're a John Steinbeck fan there are tons of old buildings that represented places in his book Cannery Row!

6) Lover's Point to Asilomar

Where do I begin? Right around the corner from the aquarium is a 5 mile trail along the sea. Where the rocky coast is broken up you will find little tide pools, crabs, and sometimes even starfish! Along this beach in Pacific Grove you will find Lover's Point! There's a cute little snack shack there along with a big beach and lots of climbing rocks! There is even an HBO tv series that is being filmed here right now Starring Reese Witherspoon & Kate Winslet! If you keep following this road you will end up at Asilomar beach that will eventually lead to the famous 17 mile drive that everyone should do at least once inn their life. If you get lucky it will be foggy & you can experience the beautiful eeriey-ness of the spasnish mossed covered cypress trees! If you want a good place to stop and eat along the way reccomed Roy's!

7) Carmel Beach & Scenic Drive

Carmel Beach is my absolute favorite beach, I have been here waay too many times to count! The right side of the beach is right up against the world famous Pebble Beach Golf Course, where you can even walk up onto the golf course! The sand is white and fluffy & is a dog's paradise, as they can run free off-leash! There are also some beach volleyball courts as well as a bathroom and changing area. This used to be the perfect place for bonfires, but they have recently been suspended. Yet, after much political debate they will now be allowed again in May, but only in the fire rings that they are installing.

If you drive down south along the beach you will end up on scenic drive showing you all of the cute fairytale type houses that are worth millions. At the end of the road, you will end up at Carmel River State Beach, which is much less populated and equally gorgeous. The beach is in between the river and the ocean & has pretty blue water and lots of climbing rocks!

8) Carmel Mission

Very close to Carmel River Beach you will find the Carmel Mission! This mission was the second built in all of California and was established in 1770!! There is a beautiful garden with many bogenvilia walls, as well as a meuseum featuring Junipero Serra. If there is no event or service going on you should definetly take a look at the Basilica, it's quite impressive! It's a $6.50 entrace fee, but often times I have been able to enter for free if you go later in the afternoon. If you see the gates open, just walk right on in! You can find out more information here:

Also if your a fan of Clint Eastwood you should definetly check out his Mission Ranch. Many people have seen him there! But if you're not a big fan you can still have a drink while looking at the beautiful property and watching the field of grazing sheep.

9) Garland Ranch

Garland Ranch is miles of beautiful walking trails with plenty beautiful trees, a little stream with walking bridge over it, and cute fences and an old barn! A great place for taking pictures! There are also stunning valley views if you do the big hike up the mountain. Also, depending on the time of year, and the weather permitting, you can even find a waterfall or two!

Trail Map:

10) Point Lobos

Point Lobos is one of my favoirte places for a beach hike. Heck, it's probablly one of my favorite places ever! The $10 entry fee is beyond worth it to see the beautiful blue water, beautiful cliff sides and ampul amouts of wild life! They even have a beach that is entirely for seals! Make sure to bring your camera, you will be snapping away. And if you have a GoPro, definetly bring it to film the tide pools! There is also a place to picnic so make sure to bring a lunch!

11) Big Sur

Need I say why you should come here? The iconic Big Sur is iconic for a reason with it's ginormous cliffs, ragged points, skyscraper redwoods, and stunning waves this is the goldmine on the gold coast! You can hike, camp, eat, and do LOTs of photo snapping! My must go's in Big Sur:

-Rocky Point Restaurant: A restaurant with stunning views of the Bixby Bridge & gorgeous climbing rocks, perfect for a sunset dinner and walk!

-Bixby Bridge: Right on Highway 1, you can't miss it!

-River Inn: They have chairs in the river that you can sit in!

-McWay Falls: Right in Julia Pfeiffer Park, it's a short hike for a stunning view!

-Hare Creek: Absolutely beautiful Redwood trail w/ a creek to accompany you!

&&& That wraps up my list! Of course there are many many more things to see, but I have to cut off the list at some point!

And if you think I should add anything to the list, leave a comment or send me a message!