Weekend Getaways: Monterey
Oct 04, 2017 01:29PM ● Published by Fran Miller
By Fran Miller
Long before John Steinbeck glorified the sardine factories of Cannery Row, Monterey was a rugged coastal outpost. Founded by Franciscan friar Junípero Serra and Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portolá in 1770, the onetime hunting grounds of the Ohlone Indians served as the capital of the Spanish province Alta California. A couple of hours south of the East Bay, today’s Monterey attracts tourists from all over the world, who are lured by the world-famous aquarium, abundant coastal sea life, and humbling views of the Pacific Ocean. Despite the tourism, this former mission town has managed to preserve its historic character, lending to its unassuming charm.
Sleek and elegant, the InterContinental welcomes honeymooning couples with as much fervor as vacationing families. Visitors love its location in the heart of Cannery Row where vibrant art galleries, boutiques, and candy shops line the streets. Perched above the waters of the bay, rooms and suites feature fireplaces, mini bars, and plasma televisions. Live orchids enhance the marble bathrooms with separate shower and soaking tubs. Work off the day’s indulgences at the hotel’s fitness center, schedule a massage at the on-site spa, or swim a few laps in the second floor pool. The famed Monterey Bay Aquarium is less than a block away, where it’s easy to get up close and personal with all kinds of ocean life. After a day of activity, dine at the hotel’s C Restaurant & Bar, where every table and booth are poised to take advantage of spectacular bay views. 750 Cannery Row, ictheclementmonterey.com.
Monterey Plaza Hotel
Well-appointed and far enough away from Cannery Row to escape the tourist action and sleep soundly at night, the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa is known as the ‘grand dame of the bay.’ Traditional in its décor, the hotel’s large-yet-cozy lobby welcomes with a genteel graciousness. Bay facing rooms come equipped with binoculars for the best in harbor seal and otter spotting. The newly renovated Vista Blue Spa offers seasonally inspired services like the ‘Bliss on the Bay’ body treatment – a dry brush scrub followed by a lavender body polish and nourishing massage oils. Oxygen Infusion Facials are also a standout; hydrating and plumping the skin. Don’t miss a meal at the hotel’s signature restaurant, Schooners Coastal Kitchen & Bar, where the fish is the freshest, the cocktails are creatively crafted, and the views are unparalleled. 400 Cannery Row, montereyplazahotel.com.
Sanctuary Beach Resort
Though not technically in Monterey, this family-friendly resort in nearby Marina sits directly on the edge of Monterey Bay. No other hotel in the area provides this proximity to the beach. Featuring 60 bungalow style rooms, some directly on the sand, this hidden gem has something for everyone: a large central pool and hot tub, sand volleyball court, spa services, miles of beach, complimentary wine and cheese each evening, plus nightly beach bonfires. The recently opened Salt Wood Kitchen and Oysterette, overseen by executive chef David Baron—previously of Casanova and Michelin-starred Atelier Crenn—further makes this a destination not to be missed. 3295 Dunes Drive, Marina, thesanctuarybeachresort.com.
One of the country’s most popular destinations, the Monterey Bay Aquarium provides a front row seat to ocean life. Watch penguins and otters enjoy a mid-day meal, touch a jellyfish, and learn about issues affecting the ocean’s health.
Adventures by the Sea offers a variety of ways to explore land and sea. Rent a bike and follow the rocky shores of Pacific Grove’s coastline all the way to famed 17-mile drive. Or grab a paddle, hit the Bay, and kayak alongside harbor seals.
Cannery Row may attract the biggest crowds, but a walk along the planks of the pier at Fisherman’s Wharf is a must. From here you can hop on a boat to go whale watching.
If your wanderlust beckons beyond the Bay, take a drive to Pacific Grove, known for its Monarch Grove Sanctuary, where migrating monarch butterflies seek shelter every winter. Visit Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, the crown jewel of the California State Park system. Stop for dinner at Passionfish where foodies flock for the truffle butter scallops.
Named Monterey County’s number one steak house for 45 years running, The Whaling Station features tuxedoed wait staff, classic cocktails, pastas, seafood, and every cut of beef imaginable. 763 Wave Street, whalingstation.net.
Enjoy casual California cuisine on the protected outdoor patio at Beach House at Lover’s Point. Catch the early bird sunset bargains on sand dabs almandine and bacon wrapped meatloaf. 620 Ocean View Boulevard, Pacific Grove, beachhousepg.com.
Located in a historic landmark, stylish Restaurant 1833, dishes New American fare that is hearty yet elegant—bacon-cheddar biscuits with maple-chili butter, crisp hen egg with prosciutto—and the vibe is welcoming. 500 Hartnell Street, restaurant1833.com.
Charming Bistro Moulin serves classic French dishes in an intimate setting. House specialties include escargot and coq au vin. But the real showstoppers are the gnocchi doused with a heavenly cream sauce. 867 Wave Street, bistromoulin.com.
The thirty seven beers on tap at Cannery Row Brewing Company are paired with classic pub fare: sliders, corn dogs, cheddar bacon biscuits, and a whole lot more. During NFL season, they do breakfast. 95 Prescott Avenue, canneryrowbrewingcompany.com.