Monterey County is a good place to hit the beach. With nearly 100 miles of coastline, sheer numbers mean there are bound to be plenty of great places to get sandy. Some beaches are well known, others off the beaten path, but pretty much no matter where you go, a beach is never far away.
A popular spot with locals and visitors alike, Carmel Beach is an easy walk down shop-lined Ocean Avenue (there’s also some parking by the beach). Foggy or sunny, the views are award winners. But for surfers, kids, and especially dogs it just a great place to play.
Seagulls at Carmel River Beach
Carmel River Beach
This Carmel beach is easy to get to, yet doesn’t attract the crowds of its neighbor Carmel Beach. Carmel River State Beach includes the Carmel River Lagoon and Wetlands Natural Reserve, a popular birding area, and Monastery Beach, a popular diving area. Along with being popular with birders and divers, fisherman and plenty of walkers take advantage of the stretch of sand. Parking is easy in the gated lot at the entrance to the beach. To get there: From downtown Carmel take Ocean Avenue down toward Carmel Beach. Take a left on Scenic Road and follow the shoreline a little less than two miles to the beach parking lot. There’s a big sign, so you can’t miss it.
Lovers Point Park and Beach, Pacific Grove
You can have the best of the beach without actually getting sandy at this picnic-perfect park. Open, grassy sections at Lovers Point Park and Beach offer room to run or stretch out for an afternoon nap in the sun. It’s a popular spot for surfers, and there’s a pint-sized pier where onlookers can see all the action. To get there: From Lighthouse Avenue, turn on Grand Avenue headed toward the coast. When you hit Ocean View Boulevard, turn left and look for street parking.
Snoozing Seals at Hopkins State Marine Reserve
Hopkins State Marine Reserve
Just up the road from Lovers Point Park and Beach is Hopkins State Marine Reserve, a frequent haul-out spot for resident harbor seals. A tall, chain-link fence prevents access to the beach, but the seals make the stretch worth a stop. If a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium is on your to-do list, it’s just a quick walk from here. To get there: Simply follow the signs to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Hopkins State Marine Reserve is its neighbor to the left, facing the ocean.
17-Mile Drive Pebble Beach
Pay the $9.75 entrance fee, follow the dashed red line and take it all in. From the forest to the coast, there’s plenty packed into the 17-Mile Drive, including more than a few fun beaches. Rock stacking is a popular activity at Spanish Bay (stop five). Walk on to the beach at Bird Rock (stop ten) to get a better view of the harbor seals and sea lions lounging in the sun on the distant rocks.
Dana can be found on Twitter @drebmann