7 Best Things to Do in Monterey, California (with map)

Updated: May 21, 2020 | Contains affiliate links

Jellyfish at the Monterey Aquarium.Monterey is my favorite California beach town. Then entire Monterey Bay peninsula is absolutely gorgeous to visit, and actually visit slowly. In addition to gorgeous scenery, Monterey is one of the oldest towns in California dating to the old Spanish days. So, come along with me as we explore the best things to do in Monterey California.

Monterey is the quintessential California beach town.  Ritzy, gorgeous but laid back and comfortable. We love coming for a visit to Monterey every chance we get. So, take your beach clothes and put on some flip flops and come along with me as we explore my best things to do in Monterey, California

My Favorite Things to Do in Monterey

  • Drive around the Monterey peninsula from the Monterey Bay Aquarium towards Lover’s Point and continue around the tip all the way to the North entrance to the 17 mile Drive.
  • Drive along the 17 Mile Drive. It costs about $10 as far as I remember, but it’s worth every penny. Best way is from Monterey to Carmel.
  • Visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It hosts one of the largest fish tanks in the world.
  • Walk around Old Cannery Road
  • Stroll around Fishermen’s Wharf and sample lots of Clam Chowder from the various restaurants. Pay attention to the abundant wildlife as well.
  • Relax on the Monterey Municipal Beach. This is a great beach for small children because the water is very shallow.

Map of best things to do in Monterey
Map of best things to do in Monterey
Red: see, blue: drive
See my photos from Monterey

1. Drive Along Ocean View Boulevard and Stop Often

Driving along the ocean is one of the best things to do in Monterey Bay.
Driving along the ocean is one of the best things to do in Monterey Bay
See my photos from Monterey

My favorite thing to do in Monterey is to drive from Monterey Aquarium to Lovers’ Point and continue around the peninsula. Some people ask what is the big deal about driving around the coast? It’s just rocks and water ! Well that may be true, but the same people who say that will not say it anymore after driving on the 17 Mile Drive in Monterey. It’s like the Big Sur area concentrated in a smaller area.

2. The 17 Mile Drive

Beautiful ocean scenery on the Seventeen Mile Drive in Monterey, California.
Beautiful ocean scenery on the 17 Mile Drive in Monterey, California.
See more photos from Monterey, California

Next on my list of best things to do in Monterey, involves driving again. This time, driving the world famous 17 Mile Drive, is one experience that most Californians want to accomplish at least once during their lives. If you happen to be in Monterey on a sunny and clear day, you will find the Monterey Peninsula simply breathtaking. The ocean views and the many birds you can see are just delightful. We found ourselves stopping very often. So the short 17 mile drive turned into more than an hour drive because of the many stops we were making and the many pictures we were taking.

Read More: 15 Best Drives in California

3. Lots of Sea Life

A lonely seagull on the 17 mile drive in Monterey, California.
A lonely seagull on the 17 mile drive in Monterey, California.
See more photos from Monterey, California

As we drove around the peninsula and stopping at every bend in the road we kept seeing lots of birds everywhere. I think they like the rocks that stick out of the ocean. Some of the larger rocks were filled with birds. It looks like the birds find lots of spots to lay eggs.

4. Monterey Bay Aquarium

A lonely seagull on the 17 mile drive in Monterey, California.
Colorful tropical fish on display at the Monterey Bay Aquarium
See my photos from Monterey

This is a must visit attraction in Monterey. It’s great for children and adults. It boasts one of the largest aquariums in the world and you can easily spend the whole day studying the fish and ocean animals shown on display.

Checkout the Monterey Bay Aquarium website Monterey Bay Aquarium website for up to date information.

5. Walk Old Cannery Row

Old Cannery Row in Monterey
Old Cannery Row in Monterey
See my photos from Monterey

While visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium, near the entrance, there is a small historical section about Cannery Row.  It depicts the life in Monterey when it was the place for the large fish cannery operations.  Then when you walk out of the Aquarium just take some time to enjoy a short historical walk on the old Cannery Row which will be to your left.  Now, filled with shops and antique stores, Cannery Row in Monterey is a beautiful walk with plenty of chances to see the beautiful California Coast.

6. Old Fisherman’s  Warf

A sea otter playing around Fishermans Warf in Monterey
A sea otter playing around Fishermans Warf in Monterey
See more photos from Monterey, California

A lively place lined up with restaurants and boat docks, Fisherman’s Warf in Monterey is beautiful to walk through and simply enjoy.  With all the fresh fish coming in on all the fishing boats, the delicious fresh sea food abounds at all the local restaurants.  We have tried lots of different clam chowders and they all tasted very good. In addition to food, Fisherman’s  Warf is a great place to observe local sea life that is just swimming right there among the fishing boats and docks.  Our kids were surprised with delight when they noticed especially sea lions and otters just casually swimming by.

7. Go To the Beach

The uninspiringly named Municipal Beach in Monterey is a beautiful place to relax, sunbathe or take a refreshing swim. This beach is very suitable for very young children as the water stays shallow and sandy for a long distance into the water. Located near Fishermans Warf, the Monterey Municipal Beach is clearly one of the best things to do in Monterey.

Directions for Monterey, California

The easiest way to get to Monterey from Silicon Valley is to take the 17 Highway from the 85 Freeway. You’ll pass through Santa Cruz and then keep driving down the 1 Highway (Pacific Coast Highway) all the way to Monterey. If you come from the 101 freeway just take the 156 Highway that will also take you to Highway 1 which will take you to Monterey.

Map of Monterey, California and surrounding areas.

Is it Worth Visiting Monterey, California?

We tell all our visiting friends and family to take the time and visit Monterey. I know I have said it before, but Monterey is our favorite place to visit in California. So, visit my best things to do in Monterey and you will love it.

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