Monterey by the Sea

October 22, 2017

The Monterey Aquarium
Monterey Bay Aquarium
Monterey Bay Aquarium

The Monterey Aquarium is ranked #1 on TripAdvisor’s list of things to do in Monterey and for good reason. This is one of the largest aquariums in the United States but its real claim to fame is its conservation efforts. The aquarium has over 550 different marine species, including two collections of seabirds, pacific octopus, penguins, and an adorable group of sea otters. While the aquarium does not house any mammals aside from the otters, it is an excellent attraction that focuses on proper care, rehabilitation, and scientific inquiry.

The aquarium’s focal point is a three story tall natural giant kelp forest. The exhibit is filled with animals native to Monterey Bay. This forest is credited as the first successful attempt to maintain a living kelp forest in captivity. The reason for this success is the fact that the Monterey Aquarium researched and spared no expense in building it. The kelp forest is open at the roof of the aquarium, allowing natural oxygenation, and also has a filtration system, a giant plunger, and a wave machine. All of these features serve to keep the enclosure as close as possible to its natural version.

There are several scheduled feedings throughout the day that you can watch, complete with a knowledgeable employee providing information on the animals. These feedings are incredibly popular and it can be difficult to get a good vantage point. Aquarium staff are really good at making sure as many people as possible can see, including encouraging taller people to let children stand in front of them. Most of the exhibits also have television screens around the exhibit, so people can watch the feeding even if they can’t see through the tank directly.

Bixby Creek Bridge

After finishing our morning at the aquarium we decided to continue our drive along the Coastal Highway further south. There are a number of really nice beaches and pull outs with amazing views of the coast. There are also quite a few bridges that are very photogenic, including the Bixby Creek Bridge. The Bixby Creek Bridge is one of the most photographed bridges in the entire state of California and is one of the tallest concrete bridges in the entire world.

The bridge itself offers amazing views of the ocean, but for the best views of the bridge you have to go a bit further south. We made a stop at the bridge for some photo opportunities before continuing along the highway to the next pull out to see the bridge in its full glory. Unfortunately, due to a landslide earlier this year, the Coastal Highway was closed down not too far past the Bixby Bridge, so we turned around and made our way back to Monterey.

Along the way back we made a detour to Carmel State Beach and Asilomar State Beach. The latter of these beaches also provided great views of the Point Pinos Lighthouse, and the road leads back directly into Monterey.

Point Pinos Lighthouse
Fisherman’s Wharf

Starting along Cannery Road and the aquarium is the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail. This is a really nice walk, and if you follow the trail for about a mile and a half from the aquarium you will reach Fisherman’s Wharf. This is a lovely pier filled with a variety of shops and restaurants. There are also a number of whale watching and fishing charters that leave from the wharf. There are also some great sights that you can see for free. The wharf almost always has a number of harbor seals and sea lions basking on the rocks or swimming around the pier. The sounds of barking sea lions fill the air and complete the local atmosphere.

This was our last night in Monterey, and even though the primary purpose of this adventure was to visit China and Japan I am very glad we made this detour. Monterey is a beautiful, scenic area and well worth a visit, even for just a couple days.

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