What to do in Monterey
Spend an afternoon at the Monterey Aquarium. Here’s the latest on the new exhibit. Dive into the food scene of Pacific Grove. Meander along the pedestrian trail to Lover’s Point. Go for a walk along the unsoiled nature beaches. Enjoy fine dining in Carmel by the Sea and Monterey. We have even taken our pet with us to Carmel and Monterey.
Every time we travel to the Monterey Peninsula, we try to spend a couple hours at the world-famous aquarium. We are always awed by the playful sea otters, the adorable penguins, the mysterious and magical jellyfish, and the hypnotizing beauty of the deep kelp forest. Before we leave, we are drawn to the outdoor deck perched on the Monterey Bay and we wonder what lives in the depths of the Monterey Canyon. The canyon begins at Moss Landing, extends 95-miles under the Pacific Ocean, and reaches depths of 11,800’ below the surface.
We need wonder no longer, as the new “Into the Deep” exhibit offers a glimpse of the marine life that thrives from 600 feet to almost two miles below the surface, an area that is usually completely inaccessible to people, but is thriving with life. In the past, exploring the murky depths of the ocean plunged us into the realm of science fiction: monstrous octopuses, robot submarines, underwater volcanoes, and sea monsters.
“Although we know that the health of our planet is closely tied to the health of the sea, we know more about outer space than this vital ecosystem,” said Beth Redmond-Jones, vice president of exhibitions at the aquarium. It is estimated that the seafloor represents 71% of the Earth’s surface, yet only about 15% has been mapped. Nearly 90% of Mar’s surface has been mapped.
Unless you are a budding marine biologist or a science nerd, most of us have not heard of the mesopelagic. It is a layer of ocean stretching from 650 to 3,200 feet below the surface – known as the twilight zone because there is so little sunlight and it’s an area where algae do not live but is home to abundant sea life. It’s also an area that is ripe for deep ocean exploitation, such as massive fishing.
The marine life in the show includes translucent sea angels with tiny wings, crimson-colored bloody-belly comb jellies and giant spider crabs who crawl next to the tank windows with legs that extend up to 10 feet. In one exhibit we touched a foot-long giant isopod, resembling a roly-poly you might find in your garden.
“Into the Deep” is the largest exhibition of ocean life in North America, cost $15 million and was in development for five years. The Monterey Bay Aquarium, 886 Cannery Row, Monterey, is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Tickets ($34.95 to $49.95) must be reserved. ,
On previous visits, we’ve stayed in Carmel, Carmel Valley, Monterey, and Big Sur so this time we decided to explore the small coastal town of Pacific Grove, located a short .9-mile walk (along the coast) or a 3-minute drive to the aquarium. We booked a gable room, offering views on three-sides, at the Seven Gables Inn. We relaxed on pillows in the window alcove to listen to the crashing waves and watch kayakers, seals and families tide pooling off nearby Lover’s Point. We learned for ourselves why the Seven Gables Inn has been designated one of the “Ten Most Romantic Inns in America” by American Historic Inns.
Pacific Grove is a small town with a friendly vibe, an approximate 2.5 hour drive from Tiburon. The Seven Gables Inn is so centrally located that we parked our car and didn’t drive again for two days. Across the street from the Inn, a protected pedestrian trail leads to the aquarium in one direction and to Lover’s Point and beyond in the other direction. We took time to smell the salty sea spray along the rocky edge of the coast adorned with a vibrant pink carpet of ice plant and purple flowers. On the walk to the aquarium, we passed a beach crowded with harbor seals with their pups. In the fall or winter, you can often see the migration of Monarch Butterflies at the Butterfly Sanctuary.
Multi-colored Victorian-era homes dot the side streets and Lighthouse Avenue next to coffee shops, inns, and restaurants. Pacific Grove offers a wonderful choice of restaurants serving fresh seafood straight from Monterey’s harbors. Our choice for my birthday dinner was Passionfish, an elegant restaurant known for sustainable seafood and a lovely collection of wine. Don’t miss the spicy fish stew, sea scallops and the divine Myers Lemon Pana Cota for dessert. Another day we walked to the Red House Café, a historic Victorian House in the heart of Pacific Grove for a superb meal. The fresh Dungeness crab cakes, lamb chops and homemade cookies are not to be missed.
Visiting the Aquarium is always a pleasure, but the new “Into the Deep” exhibit turned it into an enlightening experience. When combined with a special getaway in Pacific Grove, our mini vacation was a huge success.