Parking in the City of Monterey itself can be frustrating if you don't park in a designated parking lot or garage. The city runs a diligent parking enforcement program.
Every day hundreds of parking citations are written and some cars even get the boot, a mechanical device applied to your wheels so you cannot drive away without paying a fine. I hate this kind of rich man lording over those that want to come through and enjoy the place without a collassal hassle. For now they win, there are just too many other places that are so much better and free or nearly free that we simply move on.
The city operates 31 parking facilities from parking garages, public parking lots, street parking, and RV parking facilities. You have to search long and hard to get free parking. Public transit operates trolleys and buses to get around the city and the main attractions. I recommend you base out of Carmel for overnight parking and run into Monterey each day, even still you will spend anywhere from $5 to $24 a day just to day park depending on how close you get to the main activities. If you have plenty of money to burn there is enough here to keep a family busy for a month doing it this way and avoiding the $300 a night hotel rooms.
California's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary extends 35 miles offshore and covers over 5300 square miles. The diverse array of marine life includes more than 94 species of birds, 345 species of fish, four species of turtles, whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions and sea otters. You can explore the rocky shoreline with a kayak, by diving or tide pooling along the paved path. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has a million-gallon indoor ocean. Other interesting features of the aquarium are penguins, sea otters, jellyfish, sharks, sea turtles, ocean sunfish, a big octopus, and a 3-story high kelp forest with sea creatures like sardines.
Along Monterey Bay there is an 18-mile recreation trail for bike riding, rollerblading, walking and running. The trail runs parallel to Del Monte Avenue past the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Cannery Row, beach parks, Fisherman's Wharf and Municipal Wharf, the Naval Postgraduate School and Del Monte Lake.
In 1927 Cannery Row was a major sardine cannery. Now the sardine-canning district is a popular destination with over 150 stores located along a six-block stretch with everything from renting a kayak, bike, or surrey, to full nightlife, dining, shopping, and wine tasting. John Steinbeck is Monterey County's most famous novelist. He is author of Cannery Row and The Grapes of Wrath. In the 1930s his native town almost disowned him after he published his great novels but by the time he received a Pulitzer and the Nobel Prize for Literature the town fathers had mellowed a bit.
There are several outfitters that can take you into Monterey Bay to whale watch. Killer Whales can be sighted year round. Mid December through April you can see Gray Whales. May through mid-December you can see Humpback Whales, and Blue Whales. There are six species of dolphins that are sighted year round. Northern Right Whale Dolphin, Pacific White-Sided Dolphin, Dall's Porpoise, Risso's Dolphin. California Sea Lions, Harbor Seals, and Sea Otters are easily seen near shore from the recreation trail. You may get lucky and havea rare encounters with a Northern Fur Seal, Northern Elephant Seal, Baird's Beaked Whale, or Leatherback Sea Turtle. Sea birds around Monterey include the Black-footed Albatross, shearwaters, auklets, storm petrels, fulmars, loons, grebes, jaegers, skuas, phalaropes, and many more. The whole place has the great "I'm right on the ocean" sound, smell and taste.
Rentals for bicycles, kid carriers and joggers, and surrey's are available all along the Monterey Peninsula Recreation Trail of Monterey. Rentals for sea kayaks including all the gear you need is provided for paddling Monterey oceanfront. This can be very tiring if you have never done it before especially with a wetsuit on so plan accordingly. I recommend the walk or bike first then come back the next day and if you still want more dig in with a boat rental.
You can take a self-guided art tour of Monterey through gardens, courtyards, parks, historic sites and public buildings. Paintings, sculpture, photographs, stained glass, murals, and fiber art can be seen in the conference center, Portola Plaza, Colton Hall, Friendly Plaza, and Few Memorial Hall, the Monterey Public Library, Monterey Museum of Art and Monterey Museum of Art at La Mirada, Lake El Estero, Fisherman's Wharf, and Presidio of Monterey. For the history buff there are 40 fascinating historic sites and buildings along the Path of History. You could easily spend a day just checking out the historic buildings.
Most find the lure of the huge selection of restaurants, pubs, bars, and interesting shops to be too much and end up spending hundreds of dollars a day here. Much of it is first class and obviously worth it to many.
Travel 112 miles south of San Francisco or 337 miles north of Los Angeles to visit Monterey California.
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