I didn’t think it was possible to love California more. Every time I visit I have a harder time leaving. And this trip was no exception. A truly special and unique place, with some of coastal California’s best scenery. This is our photo diary of our 2019 Northern California Tour.
The iconic Bixby Creek Bridge, that connects Monterey and Carmel to Big Sur. Look familiar? Big Little Lies fans may recognize this beautiful landscape!
Lover’s Point Beach in Pacific Grove, CA. This small town neighbors Monterey and has its own adorable downtown and tons of attractions.
The lookout at Lover’s Point, complete with an incredible view of the ocean and beach landscape.
The Airbnb we stayed in was one block from the beach along Ocean Boulevard. We started each morning with a walk along one of many beach paths. This scenic overlook was a favorite spot.
Pacific Grove is an older town founded in the late 1800’s, with many original homes still standing. Small quaint beach cottages lines the streets, each bustling with its own unique twist. Vibriant decor and plenty of local foliage brightens the entire area.
We must have seen 20 different varieties of succulents throughout the neighborhood. Nearly ever home was overflowing with different species of these beautiful cactus.
We had the opportunity to visit the world renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium, and it was even more incredible than I had hoped. It included some of the best displays we have ever seen, plus a large focus on education, preservation of the ocean, and supporting marine life.
Getting immersed in the community really helps you feel connected to the area. And is a great reminder of how small a part we play in the circle of life!
There was an entire Jellyfish area at the MBA and it was awesome. Aren’t they such fascinating creatures? We saw numerous species we had never even heard of.
Sea Otters have been a favorite animal since I was young, and they just so happen to be native to Monterey. There is a large section front and center as you enter, and everyone gets to experience these adorable creatures. They do live feedings several times a day, where you get to watch the otters swim around on their backs while they snack on shrimp. They are pretty much the cutest things ever.
Thanks to a recommendation from our dentist, who also loves this area of California, we visited a local favorite seafood haven. Phil’s Fish Market is a casual, comfortable market and restaurant that seriously knows their seafood. They have the largest, most elaborate, most incredible menu you will ever see. Including lots of gluten free options. We could have come back 5 times and not even made a dent in the menu. Seriously, check it out for yourselves.
This area is also known for their artichokes, considering you pass hundreds of acres of farms on your way in. I love me some artichokes, so I knew they had to be front and center. Pictured above is their Artichoke Provencal, with sautéed fresh local Scallops and Shrimp, Garlic and Wine. And it was just as delicious as it looks.
Oh we tasted the love, let me tell you. This was hands down the best allergy friendly ice cream experience of my life. Revival Ice Cream is entirely gluten-free, they use all organic and local ingredients, plus they hand craft everything daily. I mean, can you get a better quality experience anywhere else?
They had a great selection of dairy-free options as well. But the best part? The waffle cone picture here? Is totally gluten AND dairy-free. Seriously! We found this shop on our last day in Monterey and I have been dreaming about it ever since!
Another major attraction in the Monterey Bay Area is the 17 Mile Drive. This historic path, that is exactly 17 miles long, runs along the coastline from Pacific Grove to Carmel by the Sea. There are 17 stops along the way, and each is as captivating as the last.
Pictured here is a long stretch of rocky beach in Pebble Beach (hence the name), near their infamous golf courses.
A dreamy path off of 17 Mile Drive, lined with local flora and including a postcard worthy backdrop. The weather in the Monterey Bay Area often looks just like this. Overcast, cool, damp and straight out of a novel.
One of the many stops along the picturesque drive, most of which overlook the ocean. Just prior to this shot, we marveled in the world famous Lone Cypress, a single standing tree that has survived hundreds of years along a rocky cliff.
A view of the Spanish Bay Beach, which is one of the most popular spots along the drive. You can see the road in the background, which overlooks this dramatic beach scene.
After our driving tour, we stopped in Carmel by the Sea for some lunch. This incredible well manicured seaside town is home to dozens of art galleries, high end shops and restaurants, and an affluent community. Fun fact: Clint Eastwood used to be the Mayor here.
We couldn’t resist enjoying a leisurely lunch at The Forge in the Forest, with their beautiful patio nestled among the “forest.” We dined right next to the burning fire place to keep warm.
After three nights spent in Monterey Bay, we headed south down the Pacific Coast Highway to Big Sur. This drive, which includes the Bixby Creek Bridge pictured at the start of this post, is labeled as one of the country’s most scenic drives.
I am not exaggerating when I tell you you can spend weeks enjoying all the stop offs along this winding coastal road. It should only take about an hour to get from Monterey to Big Sur, but we spent most of the day exploring as much as we could. Every 5-10 minutes we would see something else worth seeing, and were rewarded with incredible views every single time.
Pictured here is the California Sea Otter State Refuge, which provides mountain and ocean views, and a lovely path down to a small beach.
The landscape changes constantly along Pacific Coast Highway, as you move up, down and around the mountains. You start out at sea level as you leave Monterey Bay, and then progress through the mountains into Big Sur. You can easily access numerous beaches and paths along the way as well, which make for great sidebars along the drive.
Near Big Sur, and even further south, there are plenty of narrow and windy portions of the road. Along with ragged cliffs on one side, and mountain right out your window on the other side. Here is view from above, when were higher in the mountains and hiked down to get the view of the ocean.
Locals refer to this area as “Where the Earth Meets the Sea” and you can clearly see why. It is truly incredible to view the edge of our continent and look out in the great beyond. This once again puts things in perspective.
After our highway adventure, we arrive at our final destination, Ventana Big Sur. A truly spectacular resort situated on a massive property, tucked in between the sea, mountains, and dense forest. We learned during our time there, how the Ventata forest is one of the only remaining true wildernesses in the U.S.
Our room was in a cottage at the top of a hill, where we had a walkway down to the lobby and other areas of the resort. This was the view on the way, and we were able to catch a peak of the sunset one night.
Ventana is rooted in nature and very much a wellness retreat. Their amenities include several pools, Japanese Hot Baths, daily guided hikes, yoga or Thai Chi, fresh healthy food, and much more. Coupled with connecting to mother earth and breathing the freshest air possible, it is a place to truly relax.
There are three restaurants at the resort, which allowed us to try each of them throughout our couple of days. There is a casual BBQ restaurant (that happens to sell the amazing ice cream referenced earlier), a luxury three meal a day restaurant with incredible views, and this adorable casual camper. This Air Stream serves up beverages and bar bites, and even hand mixes cocktails. But it is all about the landscape here, as you are nestled low in the valley tucked in between hundreds of Redwoods. The balcony of trees shelters an awesome camp area including Ventana’s version of luxury glamping.
Overlooking the edge of the earth, and a small portion of dense forest, from the main resort restaurant, Sur House. We enjoyed a casual lunch on the patio here one day, and an early dinner in the bar the next night. The views from every angle of the restaurant are amazing, and the food was fresh and delicious. They have an organic garden on property especially for the restaurant, and make nearly everything in house.
Our first morning at the resort, we took advantage of their guided hike around the resort’s property. They had an emphasis on flora and fauna, and we learned a lot about edible and medicinal herbs and flowers, how to distinguish poison ivy and oak, Redwood history, and much more. There were some amazing sites along the hike, including plenty of areas to sit and enjoy the surroundings. I found the perfect light for this photo, and love the perspective of the chairs against the magnificence of the Redwoods.
In between enjoying down time at the resort, we also visited numerous portions of the nearby State Parks. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is one of the most popular and happened to be a really quick drive from where we stayed. We visited twice, once to revel in the glory of nearly 1,000 year old Redwoods, and again to hike along the river.
And that my friends, is a glimpse into our Northern California Coast Tour. Besides the beautiful sites we also enjoyed some serious relaxation and reconnected with each other. That is what anniversary celebrations are all about ❤️
What was the best part of your travel adventures this year, share with us below!
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