San Francisco Day Four: To Monterey and Carmel

Monterey Bay

Birds sighted: Stellar’s Jay, Western Scrub Jay, Brewer’s Blackbird, Brown Pelican, Pigeon Guillemot, Brandt Cormorant, Heerman’s Gull, Western Gull, brown creeper, Black Turnstone, Turkey Vulture, Egret
Mammals sighted: Black Tailed Deer (mule deer), Harbor seal, Sea Lion, California ground squirrel, Sea Otter

This day the fog had rolled in and decided to stay all the way down the coast to Monterey. As we traveled from Half Moon Bay down the coast we saw a moody and gray Pacific coast. There are many beaches and places to explore. If I do this trip again I’m doing it over several days to have enough time to explore the coastal trails and get really good views of the flora and fauna because its there in abundance and oh so beautiful.


The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, a federally protected ocean area, surrounds the city of Monterey. Here sea otters, several kinds of seal, whale, shark, and many species of birds can be observed. Many rare and endangered species benefit from this protected zone. In addition, Monterey sits in a rather high seismic risk zone surrounded by several active fault systems.

Pelicans, Sea Lions, and Brandt Cormorants. I loved watching the sea lions climbing up the rocks. They can walk on all fours unlike some other seal species. Click for larger view.

The city began as a port and served as the capital of California, under Spain and Mexico, from 1777 to 1849. You can still see the old mission and Custom House and other buildings dating from this time period. Look for diamond shaped paving stones outside of some of the older buildings. These are made from whale vertebrae. Yes, this was also a big center of whaling.

Paving stones made from whale vertebrae

Detail of one of the whale bone paving stones

Don’t miss the Monterey Bay Aquarium, of course. Give yourself plenty of time to explore or just sit outside and watch the show the birds, seals, and sea otters out in the bay put on for free. Kayak out to see the otters more closely. I loved watching them roll and flip around the kelp and then crack crustaceans on their chests. Interestingly, I also saw turkey vultures landing on the kelp getting a meal. I've never seen vultures land out in the water before.

And of course, fans of John Steinbeck should walk the city with his stories in mind.

We then headed down the coast onto the 17-mile drive to Carmel-by-the-Sea. As you drive down the coast look for black-tailed deer hiding in the pines and oaks lining the road.

Hugh Comstock home

Carmel is horribly cute and good for shopping. Also you can see examples of Hugh Comstock’s fairy tale style homes. All you need is hobbits to move in and they would be perfect. We had a damned good cannoli at Carmel Bakery.

We drove through Castroville, the artichoke capitol of the world. We also drove through Gilroy, California, the garlic capital of the US. The entire town reeks of garlic. We were glad to reach the town limits, let me tell you.

This night we ate in San Francisco's North Beach area at L'Osteria. We then had very good gelato across the street at Naia. I highly recommend the peanut butter and chocolate chip made with Tcho chocolate.

Pigeon Guillemot

Heerman's Gull

Heerman's Gull

California Ground Squirrel. Yes, I'm snarky!

California Ground Squirrel

At any moment my nefarious plan will come to fruition! Watch out seagulls!

Who? Me? I wasn't planning anything!

Observing sea otters from kayak

Sea otter swimming by

Brown pelican

Brown pelicans

Either a molting harbor seal or elephant seal...

Harbor seal in middle, Brandt cormorants to the right, not sure what's on the left...

Brandt Cormorant. Love their teal eyes.


Young cormorant

Western Scrub Jay

Brewer's Blackbird

Young Brewer's Blackbird

Young Brewer's Blackbird

Stellar's Jay

Mission at Carmel, detail

Don't know what it is but I love it