Photos, from top to bottom: 1, 2. Coastal trail at Garrapate State Park 3. Rocky Point trail 3. Pacific Grove coast 4. Bird Island Trail at Point Lobos 5. Bird Island 6. China Cove 7, 8, 9. Views of Rocky Point from the Rocky Point Restaurant 10. Grazing sheep at Mission Ranch Hotel & Restaurant
Even though I grew up in the Bay Area and have made my share of road trips up and down the California coast, I know that there are always new places to explore! This time, we visited the Monterey, Carmel and Big Sur coastal areas and found some great places that we will definitely return to: China Cove and Bird Island inside the Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, Garrapata State Park, and Rocky Point. These are all located within about 30 minutes from Pacific Grove, where we stayed at the Intercontinental The Clement Monterey, a beautiful hotel in a great location.
Although it was a bit colder and windier than we expected for a summer day, we were fortunate to see at least some sun and also some deep blue waters in some of the spots were visited, including China Cove and Rocky Point, where the waters were incredibly blue and beautiful. The magnificent “magic carpet” of purple flowers that we saw in Pacific Grove in May is gone, but we saw plenty of yellow wildflowers by the coast at the Garrapata State Park.
China Cove and Bird Island are located within the Point Lobos State Natural Reserve and are well worth the trip alone. They are located next to each other and both can be viewed from the Bird Island Trail, an easy and very scenic 0.8 mile round-trip trail. This area not only features deep blue-green waters, but also many opportunities for wildlife observation, including sea lions, sea otters, lots of cormorants, western gulls, and many other types of birds. The Point Lobos Foundation has some useful printable brochures, including a general guide and a birds guide. I could easily spend several hours here!
Just 20 minutes south of Point Lobos is the Rocky Point Restaurant, where we had a great lunch with the prettiest coastal views! Rocky Point and the beach below are framed beautifully by the red flowers that the restaurant maintains, and Bixby Bridge can be seen further down Highway 1 on a clear day. Even though the waters were gray-blue further north, they were a beautiful deep blue at Rocky Point. The restaurant has both indoor seating and plentiful outdoor seating in their open patio.
Garrapata State Park is located in between Point Lobos and Rocky Point, and the coastal trails are currently (late June/early July) covered with yellow wildflowers. The soft yellow and green tones complemented the blue-grey coastal waters beautifully. On the way back up, we also stopped by the Mission Ranch Hotel and Restaurant. Even though the restaurant was not yet open for dinner, we enjoyed watching the grazing sheep that they maintain. Several of them ran up to graze near us at the fence even!