Spending the Day in Monterey Bay


Watching whales and visiting the city where wearing high heels is breaking the law

Day 9 of our West Coast Road Trip – San Francisco to Monterey

A very early start and on the road by 7am but for good reason, we would be spending the day in Monterey Bay. Our first stop was Moss Landing where we had booked a whale watching trip with Sanctuary Cruises. We arrived at 09:50 after only one short stop at the Starbucks in Los Gatos. So leave yourself plenty of time if you’re doing this trip from San Francisco.

Whale Watching in Monterey Bay

At the dock we were met by Dorris who featured on Big Blue Live. There were about 20 people in our group which was a good number for the size of the boat, plenty of space to move around on board. We left the dock promptly at 10:30 passing plenty of wildlife just in the harbour.

It was more big grey than big blue but you can’t control the weather and it was great to be out in Monterey Bay. I was getting a bit inpatient by 12 when we still hadn’t spotted any humpbacks. Apparently the bay had been quiet this year but they weren’t worried about the whales as they had been spotted feeding elsewhere on the coast.

Finally there was a report of a humpback in the bay! We got our first sight of the whale at 12.30 and it was really close to shore near Seaside and Monterey. A very rare occurrence apparently and it was on its own. It was exciting to see it lunge feeding but I have to admit I was hoping to see a few more!

We had to leave around 1pm to get back to the dock in time – we had travelled so far. On the way back we saw some more sea lions, bottlenose dolphins, harbour porpoise, a few pelicans and a couple of sea otters – which are a lot bigger than I expected them to be!

Dorris came round showing us some baleen and answering questions from everyone. She has a lot of experience and a wealth of knowledge on Monterey Bay. I’d definitely recommend taking a tour with Sanctuary, even though I’d have liked to see more whales on our trip I wouldn’t hesitate to book again.


We checked in at the Stevenson to stay after spending the day in Monterey Bay. It all started well, there were street works on one side of the hotel but the check in clerk made sure we had a room away from these so we weren’t disturbed by the noise. This is a very tired hotel, not the cheapest hotel of the road trip though and we expected better. It was another motel style property where your room opens onto the car park which isn’t for everyone but we didn’t mind this at all.

We walked down to where the clerk showed us Fisherman’s Wharf was without checking ourselves. It was very quiet when we got there and not a lot on offer, very disappointing! We were hungry by this point and decided rather than waste more time here we would get back in the car and head to Carmel for dinner.



It is Carmel that has a law against wearing high heels!

Carmel is lovely, lots of boutique shops and restaurants, galleries and had a great feeling about the place. It is also Carmel that has a law against wearing high heels! We chose Pepe’s Little Napoli for dinner, as seen on Diners Drive Ins and Dives, which does have quite an Italian feel about the place. The food tasted great and the staff provided great service. Portions are large but like most places in America you can get a to go box for your leftovers – something we should really think about doing in the UK.

Point Lobos State Reserve

Point Lobos State Reserve is right next to Carmel and the one park open on our trip down the Pacific Coast Highway. We had planned to visit the following morning but since we were so close already we decided to have a look now and save time tomorrow.

Visiting Point Lobos later in the day seems like the way to go, apparently it can be very busy during the day but when we arrived it was really quiet. The downside was we only had about an hour to explore before it closed for the day. This was just enough time to have a drive around and a quick hike around one of the trails – the Sea Lion Trail. We did get to see more sea lions and also the Lone Cypress tree.

Cannery Row – Monterey

We returned to Monterey to give it another chance and try to see some of the otters near the aquarium. It’s very hard to find parking in this area of Monterey, we managed to find somewhere a short walk from the main street. This is the area we had wanted to visit while spending the day in Monterey Bay – Cannery Row, Monterey. Big mistake to head to the Fisherman’s Wharf area and we were disappointed we had missed seeing Cannery Row during the day. However it’s reason to go back again and check out the aquarium then as well. No otters out at this time either since it was now dark.

Where not to stay!

There had to be one so-so day on the trip I suppose. We arrived back at the hotel and there were problems with the toilet in our room which was continuously running and making a racket. While I was in the bathroom the cistern started spraying everywhere – just missing hitting me in the face! Not impressed we headed to the reception to speak to the clerk from earlier who was very unsympathetic but did tell us he would send a handy man asap. The handyman was great when he arrived, had it fixed in 10 minutes and was much more apologetic than front desk.

We won’t be returning to the Stevenson. I’d also recommend having a look at hotels closer to Cannery Row if you’re taking a trip to Monterey, a bit more expensive but most likely worth it!

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