With California to completely reopen by mid-June along with the vast majority of Americans prepared to hit the roads for weekend getaways, make sure you add Monterey County, California to your list.
Here are three must-discover road trip itineraries full of not-to-miss regional dishes and signature drinks through the stunning California central coast.
1. Artichokes and Ethnic Cuisine
Travelers heading south from San Francisco along iconic Highway 1 should make their first stop in Moss Landing, a quaint fishing village in northern Monterey County. After marveling at the diverse wildlife found in the Elkhorn Slough, continue south to Castroville for a stop at Pezzini Farms – known for its artichokes for the past 80 years – and sample French-fried artichokes and other delicacies at the Choke Coach food truck onsite. Tip: View the fields and fields of the big spiky artichoke plants heading out of town.
Continue southeast on Highway 1 to State Route 183 to marvel at acres upon acres of farmland on the way to renowned author John Steinbeck’s hometown of Salinas. Stroll historic Old Town Salinas and grab lunch at one of the dozens of authentic Mexican eateries located within just a few blocks (Villa Azteca is a locals’ favorite), and be sure to peruse the recently reopened National Steinbeck Center.
Take the back roads about 15 minutes west to Marina to indulge in Urban Wine Row: a fun tasting atmosphere that gives guests access to three boutique wineries in one spot. Then, enjoy some beach time at Marina State Beach, known for its steady winds for paragliding perfection. End the day at one of the area’s eclectic eateries showcasing a variety of cuisines – from Filipino delicacies at Lola’s Kusina to fresh Asian fare at longtime Marina staple, Ho-Wah Chinese Restaurant.
STAY: Sanctuary Beach Resort offers a secluded oasis situated on Marina State Beach. Guests can enjoy resort activities including sunset bonfires, coastal hikes, weekend beach yoga and access to a heated swimming pool. The resort also offers onsite dining at Salt Wood Kitchen and Oysterette, which includes an oyster bar and live-fire open kitchen serving delectable wood-grilled delicacies.
2. Fresh Catch and Craft Beer
Seafood lovers will be delighted to start their urban road trip in Monterey along the bay, where the best Monterey-style clam chowder can be found at Old Fisherman’s Grotto. Grab a local, hop-forward ale at Alvarado Street Brewery & Grill in the heart of downtown Monterey before biking (or walking) the stunning Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail northwest to Pacific Grove.
Lovers Point Beach in Pacific Grove is a great location to take a dip in the ocean before relaxing at the adjacent Lovers Point Park. The park is a beloved spot for picnics with its ocean views and on-site snack shop, or head inland for sustainably sourced seafood at Passionfish. Travelers also are encouraged to try Pacific Grove Brewing Company beer at one of many restaurants in the area. Fun fact: Pacific Grove was the last town in California to allow the sale of alcohol up until 1969!
Travelers can continue on 17-Mile Drive through Pebble Beach and stop to snap an Instagram-worthy photo with the Lone Cypress. End in charming Carmel-by-the-Sea, known for its whimsical shops and cobblestone streets, where travelers can indulge in local seafood at Flying Fish Grill (try the seafood clay pot) and enjoy a second round of Alvarado Street Brewery beer at its sister location. Culminate the trip with a short walk along Carmel Beach to watch the sun set.
STAY: The Vagabond’s House is an English Tudor-styled inn nestled in the heart of Carmel-by-the-Sea. Designed with a focus on Carmel’s artistic roots, the boutique inn offers fire pits in its courtyard, a spa studio and well-appointed rooms for all types of travelers.
3. Views & Vines
Start this adventure in Carmel Valley, which enjoys more than 300 days of sunshine each year. Known for its rolling hills, grapevines and tranquil experiences, indulge at Refuge – the nation’s first co-ed, outdoor spa. The cell phone-free site promotes silence and offers guests access to plunge pools with thermal waterfalls, Swedish and deep-tissue massages, and of course breathtaking views of the Santa Lucia Preserve.
Continue to Folktale Winery & Vineyards, known for its Chardonnay and Pinot Noir but also boasting a crisp, warm-weather favorite: Folktale Sparking Rosé. Dine outdoors in the Wine Garden (reservations required), with menu specialties including fresh ceviche, wood-fired pizzas, artisanal cheeses and more. Travelers who prefer multiple wine tasting options in a walkable footprint can try Carmel Valley Village, which offers dozens of wineries within a three-block radius.
Head south to Big Sur to feel the open road along Highway 1. Stop in Carmel Highlands for lunch at the California Market at Pacific’s Edge. Located in the Hyatt Carmel Highlands, the restaurant offers dishes made with locally grown ingredients and unmatched views of historic Point Lobos State Reserve. Next, set out for a hike at the stunning Andrew Molera State Park, where you can marvel at the panoramic views of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Continue on to Henry Miller Library, which pays homage to the author who found great inspiration in Big Sur. End at Nepenthe, known for its unparalleled views of the coast and famous Ambrosia Burger.
STAY: Big Sur Lodge is located within Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, allowing guests direct access to explore the diverse landscape – from riverbanks to redwoods, oaks, sycamores, maples and more. The lodge is both family- and pet-friendly, and the perfect spot to disconnect and reconnect with nature.
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