The road winds along the coast and gains altitude until you are driving alongside cliffs with incredible views off to the left side. By the time we arrived at Big Sur, it was sunset and getting pretty foggy. We got some nice shots of the sunset and McWay falls from the side of the road and continued on at speed.
It was a very long and tiring drive to Monterey and we eventually found our hotel (Best Western Inn and Suites in Pacific Grove) after driving past it about 3 times in the pitch dark. The roads and directions made no sense in the dark and fog that consumed our view. We got into our room and flopped on to the bed and slept.
We woke early with the plan of getting to Monterey Bay Aquarium as early as possible. The Aquarium is probably the first thing people mention when you talk about going to Monterey, and in fairness after being there you can see why. It’s location is incredible located in a building on stilts on the Cannery Wharf area of Monterey. The history in the area and the preservation of the old buildings is just gorgeous to behold. It Is like a film set to walk around. There are plenty of tacky shops in the area, but the buildings themselves are true to their history, and it makes for an enjoyable wander.
The first thing to say about the Aquarium is that it ain’t cheap to go into. 49 dollars for adults and 29 dollars for children, almost brought tears to my eyes. Given all the natural beauty we had seen for free over the last few days it felt hard to justify this expense, but sometimes things are a must do, so in a way we didn’t really have a choice but to pay. Every country in the world has these must-see sights, and though you can ignore them, they are so iconic that a trip without them isn’t really complete. In Ireland it would be the Guinness Brewery and Cliffs of Moher, in London it would be Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, and in New York it would be the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. You’ve got to see these places at least once. And so it was we said farewell to 130 dollars for this privilege.
The exhibits within the aquarium were excellent though, with lots of interaction for kids. This is something new I’ve noticed with museums. They are very much geared towards children and providing practical exploration of the displays. This is probably a good thing, but some of the depth of detail that you might be interested in seeing as an adult, is removed in favour of more space for interactive displays for kids. The displays were amazing though, and I loved the Kelp Forests, and the tidal zone, which you could stand in under and the waves would wash over you. It was nice to see the Jellyfish displays too. They got lots of space for their exhibit and they are interesting creatures to view in the water. Make sure and get outside while in the aquarium, you will be treated to some nice views of Monterey Bay and all the actual wildlife, with kelp forests, otters, Sea Lions, and birds, all playing out on the water. This view is almost better than the aquarium exhibits themselves if you take time to look closely.
After making an overpriced payment for our lunch, we left the aquarium, and made our way over to 17 Mile Drive. It is 10 dollars to drive on this road, yes 10 dollars and being the cheapskate i am, i was pretty seething at this notion. This road circumnavigates the headland onto which sits the famous Pebble Beach Golf Course. The fog and mist sat on this headland so the views were not as dramatic as they could have been, unless you like the constant eerie feeling, and objects materialising slowly from the mist. But you could feel the ruggedness and beauty of this area. As usual, these places of beauty tend to attract golf courses, and for sure this area was covered in not only a golf course but extremely expensive and grand houses. The 17 mile drive itself acted as a border, but possibly not a tight enough border against future development. I’m not sure exactly what the 10 dollars was for, but if i was paying for nature and natural beauty well then it was very cheap, but one would wonder whether we should be paying for such things.
Once at the end of 17 mile drive we were dumped out into Carmel by the sea. We stopped for a little while looking at the ocean, before making our way into the little town of Carmel. It is a truly stunning little place, fake or not, the houses, shops and restaurants here are absolutely adorable. I’d thoroughly recommend a stop here, overnight if you could so you could enjoy the restaurants and shops. We had a pastry and cuppa in one of the local bakeries and wandered the streets for 2 hours, until it got dark.
I swore at the beginning of the trip that i wouldn’t do any night driving if i could avoid it, but almost every day of the trip so far, I’ve had to. I’m not necessarily scared of night driving, but in unfamiliar places, it is easy to miss something, eg., certain important road signs. Plus, it is just so dark, it is the lack of visibility, if something walks out in front of you, you’ve got less time to see it. Anyways, after another dark, foggy drive back to our hotel, we sat back and relaxed on what was a busy, but very enjoyable day. Unfortunately, there is far too much to do in the time we have allotted to this part of the trip. We will have to come back to see this coast properly some time.