This seaside town of Pacific Grove near Monterey is Full of Fun
By Mary Charlebois
GoNOMAD Senior Writer
At 6:30 AM, the morning star was shining brightly. A thin orange-gold glow rides the tops of the Gabilans to the east. A pink and blue dawn haze embraces Monterey Bay.
Sunrise walkers start their morning on the recreational trail that rings the bay. Brave souls swim at Lovers Point Beach, where the water temp is 52°. Folks sit on sunrise benches in the park.
A few dog-walkers are out and about, seagulls and ravens swoop and dive on updrafts made by crashing waves.
Pacific Grove is the perfect place for a break from your car and driving. The small seaside village is very walkable and bikeable.
Also, it is the beginning of an easy-going paved path surrounding Monterey Bay. The recreation trail is accessible to all abilities, feet, and wheels.
Here are some of my favorite ways you can take a complete break from driving your car in Pacific Grove, California.
Homebase With A View
Oceanfront Seven Gables Inn gets my highest recommendation for Pacific Grove lodging. Seven buildings house 25 guest rooms. Each is unique—no cookie-cutter décor here. All of the pale yellow Victorian buildings are impeccably maintained. The Main House was built in 1886.
Every guest room has an ocean view. On the third floor of the Beach House, my room, Rocky Shores, had double ocean views. It was spectacular.
Included with your stay, a full hot breakfast is served each morning in the breakfast room with a Monterey Bay view from every table. The breakfast quiche was creamy and tasty; I had seconds.
Across the street from the inn is the coastal trail that skirts Monterey Bay. There is a museum, golf course, parks, eateries of many styles, a wine bar, deli, shopping, and water sports within two blocks.
The staff at Seven Gables is one of the best I’ve encountered. Friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable about the area, all are eager to make your stay comfortable.
Follow The Southern Pacific
PG, as locals call Pacific Grove, is a ‘road less traveled’ area of Monterey Bay. It’s made for a no-drive escape. Once you arrive at your Pacific Grove lodging, park your car and forget about it until departure. Then, from the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail, you can walk, roll or peddle around the entire bay, passing through some of the most visitor-friendly places on the bay.
Pacific Grove is the southern terminus of the 18-mile trail beginning at the bay’s northern end in Castroville. You can explore the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Cannery Row, Fisherman’s Wharf, and many other local attractions along the trail. Walking or rolling the route will be the highlight of your visit.
Sunrise Over The Pacific
Sunrise over the Pacific is a rare sight on California’s Pacific coast. Still, Lovers Point in Pacific Grove is one place it’s familiar. That’s because an east-facing beach places the waters of the Pacific to the east.
The ideal photo location is Lovers Point Park, across the street from Seven Gables Inn. If you are a sunrise sort of person, you are in the right place.
The park has sheltered beaches allowing easy entry to the water for swimmers or snorkelers. Picnic tables and benches are positioned for mesmerizing wave-watching.
Sand volleyball and a swimming pool are available. Don’t miss the snack bar, The Grill at Lovers Point. I hear the PG Beach Burger is the best burger in town.
PG is known for the many Victorian houses and buildings in the community. All are historical; many are on the National Historic Register. Most have plaques that show the date built and the building’s name or first owner’s name. Each is unique; many have fanciful paint and décor that keep you looking for the next ‘painted lady.’
The Heritage Society of Pacific Grove has curated three walks that will show you structures like the first tent cabins erected and the grand old dames like Seven Gables Inn. Find downloadable walking tours with a map and notes HERE.
Pacific Grove’s Natural History
Opened in 1883, the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History is one of the oldest in the US. The museum’s collections, exhibits, and scientific study will immerse you into the plants, animals, history, and stories of California’s Central Coast.
Some of the most popular exhibits illuminate the Monarch Butterflies that stop in PG during their migration, as well as whales that stop by the bay on their migratory journey up and down the Pacific Coast.
Check the website for special programs indoors and outside. There is something for all ages that want to know more about the natural world surrounding Pacific Grove.
E-Bike Escape To Monterey
I recently experienced an E-bike. What a way to travel, especially in the hilly territory. Have an e-bike delivered to your hotel and hit the coastal trail. The scenery is outstanding, with many places to stop and smell the seafoam, watch the wildlife, and unwind.
Big Sur Adventures not only rents and delivers e-bikes, but they also have guided tours of Big Sur, Monterey, Carmel, and the 17-Mile Drive. Joaquin Sullivan, the owner and guide is a ‘go-to’ expert on the region.
Buzzy Wharf And Lunch With The Fishes
Monterey Fisherman’s Wharf is the beating heart of the bay. For over a century, it has seen the bay’s fishing fleet come and go bringing the Pacific’s bounty to the tables of people worldwide. Today the fleet is small but still working.
The wharf has become one of Monterey Bay’s most popular attractions. Whale-watching tours, fishing tours, glass-bottom boats, and sunset cruises load and unload passengers at the end of the pier.
All along the way, seafood restaurants beckon with tantalizing aromas. Fishmongers display the days catch on ice in front of their stores. Most sell sidewalk shrimp or crab cocktails or a small cup of clam chowder.
Souvenir, clothing, candy, and ice cream shops rub shoulders with fine art galleries. Buskers greet you at the wharf entrance. Jugglers, musicians, artists, an organ grinder with a cheeky monkey, and an assortment of others are very entertaining.
Have a long lazy lunch at the wharf. One of the best views is at the Rockfish Harbor Grill. The menu sports traditional favorites like fish and chips, chowder, and Cioppino.
Some dishes feature a local catch like my favorites, sanddabs. After lunch, go to the rooftop observation deck for a birds-eye view of the entire bay.
Say Hi To John S
Cannery Row and John Steinbeck fans flock to Monterey Bay’s Cannery Row. In the early 20th century, this waterfront property was alive with the world’s largest fish canning industry. John Steinbeck’s novel, Cannery Row, comes alive as you meander along the street. A few of the old cannery buildings still stand but have been repurposed into hotels, eateries, shopping, and the world-class Monterey Bay Aquarium.
If you are a Steinbeck fan, spend some time at the Cannery Row Monument at Steinbeck Plaza. The intriguing fountain has a gathering of Steinbeck’s characters and Cannery Row notables from past and present.
Sunset Walk And Dinner By The Fire
After a day out on the trail and exploring Pacific Grove, I suggest a walk at sunset for dinner at Fandango. This PG institution is cozy, romantic, and charming. Fandango serves Mediterranean/European cuisine. Local seafood and produce are proudly featured. The wine list is extensive and includes domestic and international selections. The full bar highlights spirits from around the globe.
Kevin and I had a lovely dinner with exemplary service, a glass of bubbles, and an unforgettable atmosphere. We love Cesar Salad. Fandango’s came with fresh anchovies – yum!
Pro Tip: The best seat in the house for two is the fireplace table.
How To Plan A No-Drive Escape to Pacific Grove
What the heck is a no-drive escape? It’s my favorite way to explore. Get to your lodging, park your car, and don’t drive it again until you depart. Your transportation will be your feet, public transit, taxi, or boat.
Select the right location
Open your favorite map program. For example, I like the Microsoft mapping app included with Windows. Then, find the place you are thinking of exploring without a car. After that, I enlarge the map and look for things to do shown on the map. Google Maps are similar. The map of Pacific Grove above shows the results of my search.
Find The Right Lodging
The best place to stay is in the center of things you found you’d like to do. Again, check out that map. Most map programs will show hotels. My favorite has a ‘What’s Nearby?’ menu to ask for lodging. It’s a bed icon.
Other things to look for at your lodging are nearby bus stops, sidewalks, or trails, safe for pedestrians, wheeled chairs, strollers, and cycles.
I use a booking site to check out the places I find on the map. Read the reviews; they can be very enlightening. Check rates on booking sites, but also go directly to the hotel’s site. Often you will find special packages or deals not available online. Don’t hesitate to call or email the hotel with questions.
Getting Around Pacific Grove
Walking is my favorite, but e-bikes and peddle cycles come in a close second. Of course, public transportation is always an option. Many cities have special discount bus passes for short-term visitors. In addition, some communities have free trolleys or shuttles that serve popular visitor areas. For example, you can ride the MST Monterey Trolley free between Fisherman’s Wharf, Cannery Row, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It’s handy with departures every 10—15 minutes from 10 AM—7 PM.
Wear Your Friendly Explorer’s Hat
Be ready for the unknown with your attitude and with gear. Treat it as an adventure. If you get lost, chances are you’ll find something unexpected and delightful while trying to get back to your route.
Have some sort of map. I love Google Maps on my phone but occasionally carry along an old-school paper map. In some cases, I bring a guide or small book that’s the source of my research. Have a phone with you, but only use it for maps, photos, or an emergency!
Ask questions. Locals are usually glad to offer advice or directions. Let them know you are exploring the city on foot or via public transit. I’ve made friends this way and learned about secret beaches, hidden monuments, the best tea shops, and many things that didn’t show on my maps.
No-drive escapes are a delightful way to explore a destination. Pacific Grove on Monterey Bay, California is the gold standard for a ‘park it and forget it’ break.
To learn more about Pacific Grove and Monterey Bay, visit See Monterey.
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