Here are some excerpts from the Lonely Planet - USA chapter ‘Central Coast - Monterey and Around’:
Monterey’s allure is all about the fish and the sea. The one-time capital of the sardine-canning industry now lures visitors with a world-class aquarium that is a veritable temple to the bay’s underwater universe. A National Marine Life Sanctuary since 1992, Monterey Bay itself screams for exploration by water, be it by kayak, boat, scuba or snorkel. The city also delivers a window on the state’s Spanish and Mexican roots with a number of restored period buildings open for touring. Don’t waste time on the much-hyped ghettos of Fisherman’s Wharf and Cannery Row.
Worth The Trip: National Steinbeck Center: About 17 miles east of Monterey, Salinas is the birthplace of John Steinbeck (1902 – 68), a Stanford dropout who went on to win a Nobel Prize for Literature. Tough, funny and brash, he sensitively captured the troubled spirit of rural and working-class America in such novels as ‘The Grapes Of Wrath’ and ‘Of Mice And Men’.
Immortalized in Steinbeck’s eponymous novel, ‘Cannery Row’ was the hectic, smelly center of the sardine-canning industry, Monterey’s lifeblood until the 1950s. Nowadays it nets only tourists with its cheesy souvenir shops and mediocre restaurants. Come here for the aquarium, and then move on.
Ritzy Carmel-By-The-Sea has the genteel, manicured and exclusive feel of a country club. Simply plop down in any downtown café and watch the parade of behatted ladies toting fancy-label shopping bags, dapper gents tooling around in top-down beemers and frazzled nannies admonishing their pampered charges.
There are some great restaurants and beach sunsets are a dream on rare fog-free days, but unless you are shopping there isn’t much to make you stick around for long. Just soak up Carmel’s idiosyncratic charms and move on.
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
We had packed a picnic lunch and decided there couldn’t be a better place to stop to eat it than on the Monterey Peninsula. There were very few tourists in Cannery Row on that Saturday afternoon; I think they were all in the aquarium and the restaurants as it was lunchtime. We had our picnic by the sea and then carried on to drive the 17-mile loop through the peninsula and on to Carmel.
The drive was spectacular, much more beautiful than I remembered it. I don’t think we saw it properly so long ago; having young children with us probably cramped our style somewhat. I’m sure you know what I mean.
It was getting late in the afternoon before we tore ourselves away and turned north towards San Francisco. We knew we wouldn’t have much time in the city before dark and had booked a hotel in Benicia, a small town north of the Bay area so we had miles to go before we could sleep.