Summertime is a great time to take a drive on Highway 1 — the scenic, occasionally harrowing road that hugs California’s Pacific Coast.
Harrowing, in part, because of the hairpin turns and narrow lanes, but even more so because many first-time visitors are trying to drive and soak in the scenery at the same time. But if you can manage to dodge them, you can have a fabulous day of sightseeing, wine tasting and casual dining.
I suggest staying in Monterey, and waking up to breakfast at Loulou’s Griddle in the Middle. If you’re adventurous, or feel like solidifying your seaside cred, try the Squiddle & Eggs (tender calamari steak, lightly breaded and grilled to a crispy brown, served with eggs as you like them). If you have a sweet tooth, there’s only one choice: the chocolate chip “hubcap” griddle cakes (served with butter and syrup).
The nearby (everything is nearby in this quaint town) Monterey Bay Aquarium continues to be a world-class attraction 31 years after it opened. And unlike many aquariums, it requires only a few hours to experience everything it has to offer.
Next, head south toward Carmel, then cut inland (east) on Carmel Valley Road. Your destination: Cowgirl Winery, where an authentic “western” experience awaits. The tasting room is housed in an old redwood barn, and nine chickens roam the grounds.
For a totally different vibe, head to nearby Joyce Vineyards, where visitors encounter a 1,700-square-foot industrial urban and contemporary tasting room. Wine can be sampled at a spacious bar or in one of several lounge areas.
You can then head back toward the ocean, check out the shops of Carmel-by-the-Sea, and then unwind with a casual dinner at Monterey’s Jeninni Kitchen + Wine Bar. There, you can choose between enticing entrees or small bites, accompanied by a glass of wine from a well curated list. The menu changes daily, but if the Gazpachuelo (clams, white beans and local petrale sole) is available… go for it.
So if you’re looking to escape the heat, plan a day, a weekend or a week in California’s Monterey and Carmel area. Trust me, you won’t run out of fun wineries or fine restaurants to visit.