CA Trip: Driving to Monterey

May 27, 2012 – Happy 6th Anniversary to us!  We’re spending the day making our way from San Francisco to Monterey.  Highway 1 is a lovely road that follows the Pacific Ocean, but the drive tends to be a bit congested until things even out far outside the city.  Just as the traffic began to clear so did our view, and we pulled over to admire the rocky coastline and a few dozen ocean birds swimming around and drying off on a giant rock.

Starfish

Fitzgerald Marine Reserve – Come for the starfish, stay for the sea lions.

Next up was the real destination, Fitzgerald Marine Reserve.  We got there relatively early, before 10:00, and had no trouble finding a parking spot.  People who came after 11 were having more difficulties, so if you’re driving you want to get there in the first half of the morning to get a spot.  We’d timed our arrival to coincide with low tide so we’d have the most chance of seeing little creatures in the tidal pools.  First we had to walk by the sea lion pupping area.  The seals were very inactive, and seemed quite content to simply sit on the rocky coast.  The tidal pools were covered in various kinds of seaweed, which made walking a bit tricky (little steps and a good center of balance are key).  We saw orange and red starfish, sea anemones, and a sea urchin.  A bit further down the road we found a lighthouse at Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel; you couldn’t go inside, but it was still a nice break from the car.

Lighthouse

Pigeon Point Lighthouse is just a few miles from Año Nuevo State Reserve.

Next up was Año Nuevo State Reserve where we walked out to see pupping elephant seals.  The pups were fairly large juveniles that were beginning to learn how to fight.  Occasionally one of the larger and older seals would walk over to a fighting pair and separate them (i.e. win the fight) and then leave.  Of course the original two combatants would begin fighting again as soon as the coast was clear.  While we were watching the seals a female swam up and surveyed the crowd to see if there was space for her.  She’d finished her migration from the southern hemisphere and was looking for a place to rest.

Elephant Seal

It’s ok, the weird-looking things behind the fence are only tourists.

A few sugar cookies and a bit of driving meant that we were ready for lunch.  The best option along the coast was a local place in Davenport called the Davenport Roadhouse.  Tony tried the Monterey Panini (think chicken, mushrooms, cheese) and loved it, while Louisa was underwhelmed with her (very, very over spiced) fish tacos.  The screaming kids in the restaurant may have had taken away some points on atmosphere as well.  But, we were fed, and the food was hot and well-prepared, we were just split on our opinions.  If you want to grab a bite to eat before you hit the hustle and bustle of Santa Cruz, this is a good option.

Coastline

The fog eventually cleared, and we were left with clear views of the coast.

Regardless, we were soon back on the road and driving south.  Monterey was congested, as usual, but it wasn’t too difficult to find the Jaberwock Inn.  The inn has parking, but it’s down a steep and narrow driveway; we opted to park on the street a few blocks away.  Our room is nice, it’s a corner room on the second floor with a private bath down the hall.  The building itself is lovely, but the only complaint is the walls are very (very) thin – normal, “indoor” voices travel through two closed doors, or between floors.  If you’re a light sleeper, earplugs are recommended.  We arrived in time for the afternoon hor d’ourves – crostini with cheese and honey and turkey meatballs, as well as wine and home made limoncello.

Coast Guard Pier

The Coast Guard Pier in Monterey is a great place to watch birds and sea lions.

The appetizers are enjoyed while sitting around chatting with the other guests, which is fine as long as multiple people are carrying the conversation.  Fortunately, this was the case, and allowed us to quickly eat and then excuse ourselves as we wanted to go into town while the afternoon was still fairly sunny.  The inn is just a few blocks from the waterfront; we prefer to enjoy the view while sipping an iced mocha.  Later in the evening after we returned from town we enjoyed cookies and tea.  Our destination was the small marina and concrete pier a few blocks away.  Harbor seals like to swim in the water, sea lions sun themselves on the breakwater’s rocky face, and cormorants like to nest there.

Ricketts

Posing with Edward Ricketts, marine biologist? It’s probably time for dinner.

Dinner was at Hula’s – the fish is always delicious and fresh. We started the meal with the coconut shrimp roll appetizer and mixed drinks.  The shrimp rolls were crispy, and the pineapple dip added a spicy kick.  Louisa likes the lemongrass mahi mahi, while Tony prefers the pan fried, miso glazed ahi tuna.  Both entrees were cooked perfectly, and contained great flavor.

Links:

The Davenport Roadhouse on Urbanspoon Hula's Island Grill on Urbanspoon