In the days when San Francisco was just a gold miners' shantytown, Monterey, then California's capital, was a thriving city of wealth. Now it's the place for newly rich dot-commers and San Franciscans to get away from the hassle of city life. Only three hours from the Golden Gate Bridge, the Monterey Peninsula area has a world-class aquarium in Monterey, stunning redwood forests in Big Sur, a historic boardwalk in Santa Cruz, and some spectacular drives in Carmel and Pacific Grove. So pack a pile jacket, get out the camera, and see the central California coast in all its splendor.
GETTING THERE AND AROUND
If you're heading to the Monterey area from San Francisco, you can follow scenic Highway 1, which hugs the coast for much of the 3 1/2-hour drive. That may be the most direct route, but it takes longer than the commuter artery, Highway 101, which connects with Highway 68 West near Salinas. The Monterey Peninsula Airport (831/648-7000), just outside Monterey, is served by several major airlines. From Los Angeles, the drive takes seven-plus hours.
Though technically the peninsula consists only of Pacific Grove, residents of Monterey and Carmel would beg to differ. And you'd be missing out if you didn't also make side trips to Big Sur (26 miles south of Monterey) and the boardwalk at Santa Cruz (42 miles to the north).