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Best things to do in Monterey

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Where in the world: USA  /  California  /  Monterey County  /  Monterey

Top 15 things to do in Monterey

1. Monterey Bay Aquarium

Located on the site of a former sardine cannery on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, Monterey Bay Aquarium features an 8.5 m (28 ft) viewing tank that was the first in the world to grow giant kelp. The aquarium also holds thousands of plants and animals representing more than 600 different species. You can inspect the creatures of the kelp forest from several levels in the building. Visit the largest tank in the aquarium--with one of the biggest single-paned windows in the world--for a rare chance to observe a population of ocean sunfish in captivity. Other highlights include exhibits of stingrays, bluefin tuna, jellyfish, and sea otters, viewable from above and below the waterline.
Suggested duration: 3 hours
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2. 17-Mile Drive

A scenic road winding its way over the Monterey Peninsula, 17-Mile Drive runs along the Pacific coastline and passes several well-known golf courses and private mansions. Serving as the main road of a gated community, this drive features several scenic overlooks where you can take in unobstructed views of the region's mountains and beaches. Once inside the community's gates, follow the posted signs and red lines painted on the pavement to stay on the route. For street views and a list of nearby attractions, check out the interactive map provided on the official website.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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3. Monterey Bay Food Tours

Discover...the hidden gems of the Monterey Bay

Taste...food and beverages from the Central Coast's finest

Enjoy...the sights and sounds of Monterey Bay as we stroll through the most unique eateries and restaurants
Suggested duration: 4 hours
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5. Point Lobos, Carmel

Appreciate the pristine natural landscape and thriving habitat of the California coast at Point Lobos. The nature reserve is home to hundreds of native animal and plant species on and off shore, and is an ideal location for hiking, diving, and bird watching. Enjoy panoramic views from the shore of the Pacific coast as you spot sea lions, harbor seals, and orcas, or hike through the lush vegetation on one of the reserve’s many foot trails for sightings of forest animals and local birds. On your way out, stop by the Whaler’s Cabin Museum to learn more about the history of whaling on the Monterey Peninsula.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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6. Monterey Peninsula Recreational Trail

A coastal trail with access to major local attractions, Monterey Peninsula Recreational Trail offers miles of ocean views. The 28.9 km (18 mi) trail, which runs along the former tracks of the Southern Pacific railroad, is shared by bicyclists, rollerbladers, and walkers. You can rent bicycles and surreys, or quadricycles. Keep a lookout for wildlife along the way, such as otters, seals, sea lions, and birds. To do more than look, try some of the water activities right off the trail, such as kayaking and paddle-boating.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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7. Cannery Row

A waterfront street named after John Steinbeck's novel, Cannery Row is the setting for many of Steinbeck's harrowing stories. The Pacific Biological Laboratories, a well-known location in Steinbeck's novel, is a preserved landmark, along with the Chinese-American store across the street. The biologist that once manned the laboratory gave his name to the area along the coast, now the Edward F. Ricketts State Marine Conservation Area, where sea lions thrive. The waters are open for sport fishing and water sports, such as kayaking. Pay a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium to view some of the species that populate the water.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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8. Pacific Grove Oceanview Boulevard, Pacific Grove

Offering sprawling views of the ocean, Pacific Grove Oceanview Boulevard is an easy stroll that stretches south of Monterey Bay all the way to Lovers Point Park. This wide scenic path passes beaches and picnic tables, offering plenty of street parking along the way. Fill up a picnic basket, find a bench or a rock with a view, and gaze at the waves and harbor seals enjoying the ocean breeze. The trail is wheelchair accessible.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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9. Old Fisherman's Wharf

Once a bustling fish market, Old Fisherman's Wharf combines history, entertainment, and ocean activities. The Custom House, one of the oldest U.S. government buildings in California, stands at the wharf's entrance. Custom House Plaza also houses the local-history Monterey Maritime Museum. The wharf's restaurants offer seafood and other specialties in both casual and formal settings. Take time to browse various shops for souvenirs, handicrafts, and sweets, or visit some of the art galleries. Keep an eye out for the sea lions that often swim around the wharf and take naps on the buoys.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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10. Monterey Bay

Skirted with protected areas, Monterey Bay teems with wildlife, including otters, seals, dolphins and whales. Areas around the bay are protected marine lands with dynamic ecosystems that you can explore on foot. Consider enjoying the bay's crisp waters on one of the beaches hugging the coastline or visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium. A drive along the coastal road is another way to see the area that provides views and plenty of opportunities to pull off for photos.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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11. Hearst Castle, San Simeon

It took William Randolph Hearst, the famed newspaper magnate, nearly three decades to complete Hearst Castle, one of the largest houses in the United States. Architect Julia Morgan envisioned the house with 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms, 19 sitting rooms, tennis courts, movie theaters, an airfield, and the world's largest private zoo. Part of a state park since 1958, the house Hearst called his "Enchanted Hill" now offers public tours, attracting visitors with its considerable collection of art and antiques. The estate's focal point is an outdoor swimming pool, rebuilt three times to suit its owner's tastes. The centerpiece of the pool, which offers expansive vistas of the mountains and the ocean, is the facade of an ancient Roman temple Hearst imported from Europe.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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12. Dolphin & Whale Watching, Moss Landing

Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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13. Garland Ranch Regional Park, Carmel Valley

Garland Ranch Regional Park is a 3,464 acres (1,402 ha) public recreational area at 700 West Carmel Valley Road, in Carmel Valley, California. It is owned and managed by the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District. It is located 18 miles (29 km) from Salinas on the south side of Carmel Valley Road on a .5 miles (0.80 km) stretch of the Carmel River It was the district's first land acquisition and was purchased in 1975 from William Garland II.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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14. Elkhorn Slough Safari, Moss Landing

Fully guided boat trip with a naturalist onboard telling stories about wildlife and natural history. Tour includes refreshments on the trip back. as featured in Sunset magazine, Via magazine, and many more.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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15. Dennis the Menace Park

Cartoonist Hank Ketcham designed Dennis the Menace Park, which opened in 1956. Features include a 1924 locomotive steam engine, a maze made of small hedges, a rock tunnel, and a skateboard area. Kids can also play on swings, slides, climbing walls, and a bouncing bridge. Toddlers have their own fenced-in play area. Picnic at one of the few tables or near the duck pond under weeping willows, but watch for seagulls that might steal your food. The snack stand, which serves cold drinks, snacks, and grilled food, takes cash only. The parking lot fills up fast.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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