We left Yosemite to arrive at Moss Landing, adjacent to Elkhorn Slough, the second largest estuary in California. An estuary is where fresh and saltwater co-mingle. Moss Landing is a quaint fishing village with a working marina, where fishermen go out at first light and return in the early afternoons with their fresh catch to be sold to individuals and nearby restaurants. In the mornings we were awakened by the barks of seals and when walking Jackson we watched otters rolling in the water as they played and clapped their paws.
We took the opportunity to drive south to nearby Carmel, Monterrey and the Big Sur area. While in Carmel we really didn’t want to miss the iconic 17-mile Drive, a private toll-road coast-hugging drive which snakes through a gated residential neighborhood with spectacular coastal vistas. Unfortunately, due to the US Open, it was closed to tourists so we did not receive the brochure explaining the markers along the way. However, because we voiced our desire to enjoy lunch in one of the waterfront restaurants, we were allowed through (toll-free) and thus were able to drive most of it, stopping at Pebble Beach Golf Links where preparations were well on the way for the impending US Open. We walked the entire village and decided to stop for lunch at Stillwater Grill overlooking the golf course.
Carmel, the gateway to the Monterey peninsula, is a beautiful seaside town with a lovely and aesthetically pleasing upscale shopping district surrounded by trees. It has outlawed high-rises, neon signs, traffic lights, parking meters and anything else that resembles city life. It also has an off leash, pet-friendly beach which we visited on a cloudless day. The reflection of the sun on its bright white sand blinded you and was quite the contrast against the cyan-blue water. Had it not been because we wanted to continue our drive south to the Big Sur area, I could have stayed there for hours.
Monterrey was next and we drove through the infamous Cannery Row, the waterfront street, home to now-defunct sardine-canning factories renovated to house world-class restaurants, luxurious hotels and boutiques and which basks in the glory of John Steinbeck’s novel, Cannery Row, set back in the Great Depression.
Each of these towns have wharfs, some more notable than others, and each unique in their own way.
We continued our journey south and with each turn on the windy and narrow stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway, (State Road 1), the views became more spectacular. The 94 mile stretch from Monterey Peninsula to Mt. Simeon, home to the Hearst Castle, is known as Big Sur, where the sheer cliffs of the Santa Lucia Mountains meet the Pacific Ocean. This area has its own weather pattern, usually fog but the weather gods kept us in mind as the day was absolutely gorgeous with not a cloud in the sky.
We stopped at Bixby Bridge, one of the most photographed areas in California, and for good reason.