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Getting Away to the Monterey Peninsula

by Beverly Dubrin

Getting away to California's Monterey Peninsula means spending a day at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, browsing in the shops and art galleries of the quaint village of Carmel, taking a leisurely ride on the Seventeen-Mile Drive, and even playing a round of golf at Pebble Beach or Spyglass Hill. The Monterey Peninsula offers as much to family travelers as it does to the couple seeking a romantic escape.

Take a sunset stroll along the beach at Asilomar or at Carmel Beach City Park. For more exercise, hike the trails at the Point Lobos State Reserve. Or, instead of driving the Seventeen-Mile Drive, bicycle it for some invigorating exercise and the opportunity to stop whenever a breathtaking view catches your fancy. Let the kids run around at the Dennis The Menace Playground.

Enjoy a fresh seafood dinner and views of Monterey Bay from Fisherman's Wharf or dine in the more quaint atmosphere of Carmel or Pacific Grove.

Relive history with a walk along Monterey's Path of History. This two-mile, self-guided tour (maps are at the Custom House Plaza) will take you past adobe buildings, Colton Hall, the Presidio, and other landmarks. You'll see some of the places that attracted Robert Louis Stevenson, John Steinbeck, and Ansel Adams to this area. Visit the Carmel Mission where Father Junipero Serra lived, worked, and is buried.

One of the largest aquariums in the world, the Monterey Bay Aquarium focuses on the marine life found in and around Monterey Bay. Since it opened in 1984, on the site of Cannery Row's largest sardine cannery, it has been the major attraction to the Monterey Peninsula. Allow at least half a day for your visit. Most Aquarium visitors first rush to the two-story Sea Otter exhibit; the three regularly-scheduled feedings are the most entertaining times to observe these playful creatures. Feeding times at the Kelp Forest are narrated by a scuba diver in the three-story tank. Observers are invited to ask questions. Other Aquarium attractions include the Monterey Bay Habitats exhibits, the walk-through "Sandy Shore Aviary", and the hands-on "Tidepool Touch Pool" and "Bat Ray Petting Pool". Be sure to see the new "Sharks Myth & Mystery" exhibit and "Jellies: Living Art."

Where to Stay

When the Aquarium is on my itinerary, and I cannot take advantage of a discount room package in the town of Monterey, I prefer to stay in Pacific Grove, a friendly town nestled between Pebble Beach and Monterey's Cannery Row. I like Pacific Grove's downtown for dining and shopping and its miles of beachfront for walking, bicycling, and watching frolicking sea otters. Pacific Grove was established in 1874 as a Methodist Retreat. In its early years it was nothing more than an encampment of tents. Many of the board and batten cottages and larger Victorian homes still stand today. Pacific Grove is actually closer to the Aquarium than are some sections of Monterey. Another attraction of Pacific Grove is its Monarch butterfly population. The "official" Monarch butterfly season is from October until March when the colorful butterflies migrate to Pacific Grove, clustering in the trees off Lighthouse Avenue on Ridge Road and the surrounding area. On cloudy days the butterflies cling to the pine trees, but as soon as the sun comes out, they swarm around, displaying their orange and black wings.

If I am on the Monterey Peninsula for attractions other than the Aquarium, I stay in Carmel at an inn or hotel that has its own parking and is within walking distance of Ocean Avenue, the main street in the village. Since parking is at a premium in the village and parking time restrictions are rigorously enforced, if I stay near town I can walk everywhere I want to go and need only use my car when my explorations take me farther afield. Carmel was established in 1904 as a retreat for artists and writers and still maintains its bohemian feel.

Asilomar Lodge

Asilomar is both a lodge and conference center in a California State Park. Its original buildings were designed in 1913 by California architect Julia Morgan, designer of Hearst Castle. Rooms in the lodge or guest cabins can be reserved by private parties up to thirty days in advance. Room rates include breakfast. Meals are served cafeteria or family-style; lunch and dinner can be purchased at the door. A swimming pool, exercise trail, and forested pathways are on the grounds. Park Rangers are available for guided nature walks and slide shows. For beachcombing or walking, just head over the dunes to Asilomar State Beach. Asilomar is the most unusual place to stay in Pacific Grove, and the one that families may enjoy the most.

Butterfly Grove Inn
1073 Lighthouse Ave.

The Wilkie's Motel
1038 Lighthouse Ave.
toll free: 866.372.5960

These are two of the several moderately-priced motels near the butterfly groves.

The Gosby House
643 Lighthouse Ave.
toll free: 800.527.8828

The Martine Inn
255 Oceanview Blvd.
toll free: 800.852.5588
Staying at a Victorian bed & breakfast inn is the most luxurious and relaxing option. Most B & Bs serve a full breakfast and afternoon hors d'oeuvres and wine. The Martine Inn is an 1890 Mediterranean inn overlooking the coastline. It is within easy walking distance of the Aquarium and has 24 rooms with private baths. The Gosby House, a Queen Anne inn dating back to 1887, is conveniently located in the heart of downtown Pacific Grove. Twenty of its 22 rooms have private baths.

In Carmel Village:
Adobe Inn
Dolores & Eighth
toll free: 800.388.3933
One of the newer and more expensive hotels, the Adobe Inn offers two-bedroom suites that sleep four -- perfect for a family.

Cypress Inn
Lincoln & Seventh
The Cypress Inn dates back to 1929. Its architecture is Mediterranean, there is a garden courtyard, and pets are welcomed guests. Cypress Inn is part-owned by Doris Day.

Vagabond's House Inn
Dolores & Fourth
toll free: 800.262.1262
This brick, half-timbered English Tudor country inn has large rooms and suites and antique furnishings. Look for copies of Don Blanding's "Vagabond's House" and collections of British lead soldiers in the parlour.

Where to Dine

Domenico's On the Wharf
50 Fisherman's Wharf
Monterey; 831/372-3655
Lunch and Dinner daily
Yes, you can get good food on Fisherman's Wharf. The view goes without saying and the menu features seafood, pasta dishes, and mesquite-grilled meats.

Em Le's
Dolores between Fifth & Sixth
Carmel; 831/625-6780
Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner daily
French toast is the breakfast specialty at this lively restaurant.

First Awakenings
125 Ocean View Blvd.
(in American Tin Cannery )
Pacific Grove; 831/372-1125
Breakfast and Lunch daily
Perfect for breakfast near the Aquarium. Try the apple pancakes and the over-sized omelets.

The Fishwife at Asilomar
1996 Sunset Dr.
Pacific Grove; 831/375-7107
Lunch and Dinner daily; Sunday Brunch
Enjoy some of the area's best seafood and a terrific view of Asilomar Beach. Many dishes, such as the grilled tuna with ginger and cucumber soy sauce, have Caribbean flavors.

Flaherty's Oyster Bar & Seafood Grill
Sixth between Dolores & San Carlos
Carmel; 831/625-1500
Lunch and Dinner daily
While the steamed Maine lobster may be tempting, your most interesting choices (lower-priced, too) are such local specialties as Carmel Bay cioppino, calamari Sicilian, or any of the day's fresh catch choices. Flaherty's is offering a 15% discount with a print out of this offer from Sally's Place.

La Boheme
Dolores & Seventh
Carmel; 831/624-7500
Reservations Accepted
Dinner nightly
Each night La Boheme prepares a fixed-price $28.75-$31.00 three-course dinner consisting of soup, salad and main course. Coffee, dessert, and beverages are extra. The monthly Country French menu is posted at the door. See: http://www.laboheme.com.

414 Calle Principal
Monterey; 831/648-8880
Lunch weekdays and Saturday, Dinner nightly
A "shining star" on the Monterey dining scene, this restaurant in a converted fire house features Italian, French and American dishes.

Portola Cafe & Restaurant in the Monterey Bay Aquarium
886 Cannery Row
Monterey; 831/648-4870
This is your best bet for lunch at the Aquarium. For under $6 you can enjoy salads, soups, and tasty made-to-order sandwiches. Both the cafeteria and the table-service sections of the Cafe share the same bay-view dining room.

Taste Cafe & Bistro
1199 Forest Ave. at Prescott
Pacific Grove; 831/655-0324
Dinner Tues - Sun; No reservations
Cash and local checks only.
Off the beaten path in a small strip mall, Taste is popular for its country French and rustic Italian dishes. Appealing entrees include garlic roast chicken and Steak with white beans. Be sure to request the "signature" au gratin potatoes as a side dish. For dessert, the brioche Bread Pudding with fresh fruit and creme fraiche is hard to beat.

Toasties Cafe
702 Lighthouse Ave.
Pacific Grove; 831/373-7543
Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner daily
At 8:30 a.m. this cozy cafe is packed with local folk who breakfast here every day. Order the Eggs Benedict with extra Hollandaise sauce (because it's so good). Variations on this classic breakfast dish can be ordered with turkey, shrimp, or avocado. Toasties serves breakfast all day, as well as a full menu of hearty lunch and dinner items.

Tuck Box
Dolores between Ocean and Seventh
Carmel; 831/624-6365 Breakfast, Lunch, and Afternoon Tea Wed - Sun
For breakfast or afternoon tea, the Tuck Box has been my favorite for over 20 years. Their scones, with homemade olallieberry preserves and orange marmalade, are the best.

Where to Shop

Carmel Village is my favorite for browsing in shops and art galleries. Just wander up and down Ocean Avenue and the streets that intersect it and let whim be your guide. Keeping its original village ambiance, buildings in Carmel have no address numbers; you find them by the street they are on and their nearby intersecting streets. I always stop at the Holiday Hutch (now in Crossroads Shopping Village) to take a look at their year-round stock of Christmas decorations, especially those with Disney characters. George Baird displays his opal and gold jewelry designs at Hammersmith. A visit to Golf Arts & Imports is a must, especially if you are looking for Scottish tartan club covers or St. Andrews blazer buttons. "Chocoholics" must drop in at the Cottage of Sweets at least for a piece of candy, if not for a chocolate sculpture. The "Law, Order, and Ice Cream" poster at Jim Miller Gallery (831.625.0425) is a collector's item. It was used in Clint Eastwood's campaign for mayor of Carmel when a major political issue concerned whether or not ice cream shops should be allowed to carry on business in town.
Get your bargain-shopping "fix" at The American Tin Cannery in Pacific Grove, a multi-level indoor shopping mall in a building where, during the heyday of this area's sardine fishing industry, the tin cans for the sardines were manufactured. Find more bargains in Carmel at the Coach Store (leather goods) and at the Dansk Factory Outlet (cook and tableware) or head over to Carmel Valley to the Talbott Tie for bargains on the famous classic neckties.

The Shops

Coach Store
Ocean & San Carlos

Talbott Tie
Carmel Village
Carmel Valley

Dansk Factory Outlet
Ocean & San Carlos

Golf Arts & Imports
Dolores at Sixth

Su Vecino Ct. off Dolores between Fifth & Sixth

Holiday Hutch
143 Crossroads Blvd., Crossroads Shopping Center
Carmel Valley

Jim Miller Gallery
Corner of Lincoln & Sixth in the Pine Inn

More Details

Dennis the Menace Playground
In the park El Estero at Pearl Street

Mission San Carlos Borromeo Del Rio Carmelo
(Carmel Mission)
3080 Rio Rd.
Carmel; 831/624-3600
Open daily; Donations requested

Monterey Bay Aquarium
886 Cannery Row
Monterey; 831/648-4888 (24 hour information line); Daily, except Christmas: 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Adults: $19.95, Children 3-12: $8.95, Seniors (65 +) $17.95; Students 13-17 or with college ID $15.95; under 3-free; Disabled $8.95.
Advance tickets: 831.648.4937; 800/756-3737(CA)
Park on the street at two-hour meters ($1/hr.) or at nearby lots along Prescott, Wave or Foam Streets where parking costs about $8 a day.

Seventeen-Mile Drive
Gate fee for cars: $8.25
No fee for bicycles, but riders must stop at the Gate House and sign a waiver. Weekends and holidays, bicycle entrance through Pacific Grove gate only.

Monterey-Salinas Transit #22 Bus
A unique way to see the scenic coastal Highway 1 from Monterey to Big Sur, although only during the "busy" season from Memorial Day through Labor Day weekends, is by public transportation. The bus leaves the Monterey Transit Plaza twice a day for a 70-minute ride down to Nepenthe. The fare each way is $2.50.
For schedule information call 831/899-2555.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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