Where Cal­i­for­ni­ans go to re­lax

Travel Guide to California - - CONTENTS - BY JILL K. ROBIN­SON

97 Gil­roy

South of the San Fran­cisco Bay Area, the coastal re­gion from Santa Cruz through Big Sur has views that ri­val the rest of the state. Within earshot of the crash­ing waves of the Pa­cific Ocean, this is where many Cal­i­for­ni­ans va­ca­tion, so it’s the ideal place to slow down and adopt a Cal­i­for­nia-style ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the great out­doors and a laid-back life­style.

The Big Sur coast­line in­spired artist Fran­cis Mc­co­mas to claim that the area was the “great­est meet­ing of land and sea,” and the wild coast has lured artists and fans of the great out­doors to en­joy its re­mote­ness as well as its rich restau­rant choices—from Ne­penthe to the Big Sur Bak­ery and Restau­rant. On the other side of the Santa Lu­cia Range lie the oth­er­worldly spires and crags of Pin­na­cles Na­tional Park, an ex­tinct vol­cano on a long voy­age north at the edge of the San An­dreas Fault. Both re­gions lure hik­ers, bik­ers, climbers, campers and bird­watch­ers.

The two big­gest pop­u­la­tion cen­ters of the re­gion are Santa Cruz and the Mon­terey Penin­sula. In his­toric Mon­terey, small-town Pa­cific Grove and fash­ion­able artist re­treat Carmel-by-the-sea, there are beau­ti­ful beaches, per­form­ing and fine arts venues, out­door pur­suits, stylish shops, epi­curean de­lights and an in­land re­gion known for wine and agri­cul­ture. Much of the same can be said of funky Santa Cruz, but away from the red­woods, the univer­sity town re­sem­bles a beach­side play­ground, with its his­toric boardwalk and many surf spots.

Wine lovers won’t have much chance to miss Napa and Sonoma, with a wealth of qual­ity vine­yards in this re­gion. From Carmel Val­ley to the Mon­terey River Road, there are more than enough award-win­ning wines to quench an oenophile’s thirst.

With its rich and var­ied geog­ra­phy, it’s a good thing that the won­ders of Mon­terey Bay and Big Sur are laid wide open for peo­ple to ap­pre­ci­ate them. Whether your pref­er­ence is a charm­ing ur­ban es­cape, camp­ing un­der the stars, fresh re­gional cui­sine, world-fa­mous wines, get­ting ac­tive out­doors or a leisurely beach­comb­ing stroll—all can be found here, and no­body’s rush­ing you, so you can dis­cover it all in your own time.

City & Town

Down­town Santa Cruz lies be­tween the city’s vi­brant beach at­trac­tions and the red­wood-rich moun­tains, where the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia at Santa Cruz is perched among groves of the huge trees. Fish­er­man’s Wharf in Mon­terey is steps from the city’s his­toric build­ings that date from the 18th and 19th cen­turies— be­fore Cal­i­for­nia was part of the United States. The new Dalí17 mu­seum show­cases the sec­ond-largest col­lec­tion of works by Sal­vador Dalí in the United States. Once a res­i­dent of Mon­terey, Dalí con­trib­uted greatly to the re­gion’s tal­ented artist com­mu­nity. Made fa­mous by John Stein­beck’s epony­mous novel, Can­nery Row has mor­phed from a

fish­ing cen­ter to a bustling street with shops and ocean-view restau­rants. Stein­beck’s home­town, Sali­nas, is a work­ing-class agri­cul­tural city, known as the “Salad Bowl of the World.” Carmel, a free­thinker’s re­treat born as an artist vil­lage, is home to stylish shops, ex­quis­ite din­ing and top-notch art.

The Great Out­doors

While well-known ur­ban ar­eas dot this re­gion, there’s more than enough wideopen space for fans of the out­doors. Take a whale watch­ing boat tour in Mon­terey Bay, where you can spot mi­grat­ing gray, hump­back and blue whales. Seven­teen-mile Drive in Pebble Beach winds through for­est and along the Pa­cific coast­line as it skirts ex­clu­sive golf cour­ses and re­sorts. South of Carmel, Point Lo­bos State Nat­u­ral Re­serve has long been con­sid­ered the “crown jewel” of the Cal­i­for­nia State Park sys­tem.

The eerie-look­ing mono­liths of Pin­na­cles Na­tional Park beckon to rock climbers and hik­ers in­ter­ested in the added ben­e­fits of the ex­plo­sion of col­or­ful spring wild­flow­ers and soar­ing Cal­i­for­nia con­dors in the park.

In Big Sur, where rocky cliffs drop into the Pa­cific Ocean and cypress trees twist in the coastal wind, na­ture lovers can walk along the beach or hike deep into red­wood forests, both places where water­falls spring to life.

Her­itage & Cul­ture

Agri­cul­ture dom­i­nates the in­land re­gion— from the Sali­nas salad bowl to Carmel Val­ley wines. The re­gion’s coast is home to fish­er­men, artists, surfers and a boom­ing tourism in­dus­try. Whether it’s a chef from Carmel, an artist from Santa Cruz or a farmer from Soledad—all take time to en­joy the beauty of Mon­terey Bay and Big Sur.

Fam­ily Fun

The Mon­terey Penin­sula is a won­der­land for fam­i­lies, with his­toric sites, ac­ces­si­ble beaches, Den­nis the Men­ace Park and the Mon­terey Bay Aquar­ium. South through Big Sur, the va­ri­ety of hik­ing paths can lead you to a pink-sand beach or a sea­side wa­ter­fall. No mat­ter your age, you can’t go wrong at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, with rides and en­ter­tain­ment for ev­ery­one. In­land, get a look at Cal­i­for­nia’s pre-state­hood past and fol­low the Cal­i­for­nia Mis­sions Trail along High­way 101—al­ways a good les­son for grade-school­ers and adults alike.

THE LONE CYPRESS from 17-Mile Drive in Pebble Beach, op­po­site; Can­nery Row in Mon­terey, above; Cal­i­for­nia pop­pies, the state flower, right.

ROWS OF LET­TUCE in the Sali­nas Val­ley, the “salad bowl” of the USA, be­low; a tran­sient orca swims through Mon­terey Bay, right.

THE KELP FOR­EST TANK at the Mon­terey Bay Aquar­ium is a pop­u­lar at­trac­tion, left; get­ting a lift over the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, be­low.

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