Perched on California’s central coast, Monterey County is just 100 miles south of San Francisco and the perfect getaway for some of the very best wine, art, history and culture.
One of the biggest draws is its more 175 vineyards, nearly 60 wineries and tasting rooms, and 42 varietals. There are wine tasting opportunities throughout the county including in Salinas, Carmel Valley, Carmel-by-the-Sea and Monterey.
If you are seeking time at the beach, there are many public areas for walking, picnicking, surfing, snorkeling, kite flying and tide pool and sand dune exploration.
If you love to drive, there’s the famous 17-Mile Drive, a scenic driving tour of Pebble Beach, scenic lookouts and famous golf courses.
Another popular scenic area is Big Sur, which encompasses a 90-mile stretch of breathtaking dramatic coastline from Carmel to Hearst Castle. Here you’ll find inns, restaurants, camping spots, beaches and hiking trails can be found along the iconic Highway 1.
A friend and I decided to spend a weekend in Carmel-by-the-Sea, one of the most quaint little towns in the U.S and the heart of Monterey County.
This cute coastal city has almost 110 art galleries and continues to celebrate both the heritage and the future of a community whose vision is still to advance the knowledge of and interest in art, and to create a spirit of cooperation and fellowship between local artists and the public.
Arriving by car from Los Angeles, we checking in at our home away from home for the weekend at Vendange Carmel Inn & Suites.
Vendange offers 20 unique guest rooms and suites with 15 wine themed rooms (they do a hosted wine hour on weekends too!).
This boutique inn descends from a strong heritage of wine, providing a romantic ambiance of charm and luxury.
Whether it’s a walk around the intimate gardens or a quiet read under the grand pergola, guests find themselves pampered by individualized customer service.
Once unpacked, we decided to explore the Monterey Bay Recreation Trail and Lover’s Point in Pacific Grove.
The trail stretches 29 miles, from Castroville in the north to Pacific Grove in the south. It is a paved path that hugs the coast, following the same route as the old Southern Pacific Railway, and is a great way to reach the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Cannery Row, the American Tin Cannery shopping and outlet mall, the Museum of Monterey, Fisherman’s Wharf, and much more.
After spending the afternoon enjoying the trails and crashing sound of the waves, we decided on an early dinner at Jeninni Kitchen +Wine Bar at 542 Lighthouse Ave. in Pacific Grove.
Redefining the modern wine bar experience, the restaurant offers a contemporary take on the sultry cuisines of the Mediterranean coast – with special emphasis on Southern Spain – alongside unique, quality wines and house-made specialty beverages.
The next day, we enjoyed coffee in downtown Carmel before taking a walk to Carmel Beach at the end of Ocean Avenue.
Here we took photos along the white sand beach to capture stunning images of Pt. Lobos to the south, Pebble Beach to the north and the Pacific Ocean.
Fun Fact: Carmel Beach is a dog and alcohol friendly beach.
Next up was wine tasting. One of our favorites wineries, Morgan Winery, has a tasting room a few minutes drive from town.
Here we enjoyed some fabulous reds while chatting with the manager the whole time. We ended up purchasing two bottles to take home.
Next up was the Historic Fisherman’s Wharf, the heart of Monterey, just a few minutes away.
Fisherman’s Wharf is full of opportunities to view wildlife on the Monterey Bay.
Here you can see sea lions and otters frolicking in the calm inner harbor waters and there’s plenty of shops to enjoy while you stroll the area.
For lunch we wandered to the end of the wharf to find Big Fish Grill.
This restaurant celebrates Monterey’s fishing tradition and enjoys the wharf’s most expansive, panoramic views of the working harbor.
After lunch, it was time to enjoy the local art scene just a stone’s throw away from the wharf at the Dali17 Museum, located at 5 Custom House Plaza.
Dali17, the first permanent Salvador Dalí exhibition on the West Coast, debuted in July 2016 at the Museum of Monterey.
It features more than 570 works including original etchings, mixed media, lithographs, and rare sculptures from the private collection of entrepreneur and art collector Dmitry Piterman.
Dali17 is the second largest collection of work by the famous Spanish surrealist in the United States.
After enjoying all the wonderful art, we decided to drive back to Carmel to drop off our car and explore the local streets and wine tasting rooms since it was late afternoon.
One of the best ways to experience the tasting rooms is the Carmel Wine Walk by-the-Sea Wine Tasting Passport.
For $65, it entitles the buyer to one $10 flight at each of nine tasting rooms (a $90 value). It can be used in one day or spread out over a weekend, several weeks, or even months.
The Wine Tasting Passport is available for purchase at the Carmel Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center on San Carlos between 5th & 6th in Carmel-by-the-Sea.
The Wine Walk by-the-Sea is a self-paced self-guided stroll to the tasting rooms which are all within a few blocks of each other on the both sides of Ocean Avenue.
The Wine Walk tasting rooms are Blair Estate Artisan Wines, Caraccioli Cellars, De Tierra Vineyards, Figge Cellars, Galante Vineyards, Manzoni Cellars, Scheid Vineyards, Shale Canyon Wines, Vino Napoli and Wrath Wines.
If it’s wine, art or culture, there’s no shortage of things to do and see in Monterey.
For an extensive overview of everything on offer in Monterey, visit www.seemonterey.com.