Big Sur Monterey MRY Monterey Peninsula Pebble Beach whales wildlife

Come see cars, whales and otters in Monterey this week

August is here, which means car week on the Monterey Peninsula during the annual Pebble Beach Concours d’elegance. Tens of thousands of tourists descend on Monterey for this August event.

Honestly, I did not even know Concours d’elegance was happening this week in my hometown until I found myself breaking up a race car rally team when I exited Highway 101 and merged onto the one lane road heading into Monterey. Kelley reminded me I don’t drive a race car as I sped up and then braked to snag a space on the highway between the road rally cars.

Hey man, I am just trying to get to my Monterey home on a commuter drive after spending the day helping my wife get her first grade classroom ready for the first day of the 2017-18 school year.

Concours d’elegance is an auto display spectacle entertaining to see, and tens of thousands of tourists descend on Monterey this week to be around the cars. But cars have never been my interest.  Cars are simply transportation for me. Kind of like airplanes in my life. Just get me to where I want to be. I don’t need your first class beds and showers to be my motivation for travel. A diverse selection of seat back movies and music is all I require for air travel.

The whales are around Monterey Bay and so are the French

Whales and wildlife are truly fascinating for me to be around. Most of this summer I have been in Europe and I have not been hiking around the ocean much in the two weeks I have been back in Monterey. An aspect of Central Coast California many tourists might not know, and more specifically for the Monterey Peninsula,  is July and August are typically the months with the most days of fog in this area. Monterey tends to average over 20 days of fog in August.

After two weeks back at home in Monterey, I think there were only two days with clear skies. I was feeling Vitamin D deficiency in my head after two weeks of gray skies with very little sunshine.

I saw an article in the Monterey Herald a few days ago about a large number of humpback whales currently in Monterey Bay.

Two days ago I went out to Moss Landing, a seaport town in the center of crescent shaped Monterey Bay. I turned off Highway 1 to Moss Landing State Beach. Sand dunes to my right blocked the Pacific Ocean view, however, to my left I spotted thousands of sea birds on sand bars in the Moss Landing harbor estuary, along with beached seals basking in the sun and a raft of sea otters.

Sea otter raft 

This raft of sea otters with over 20 individuals represents nearly 1% of all sea otters on the California coast hanging out together in Moss Landing harbor.

I parked my car and snapped this photo of sea otters. A French speaking family exited their mini-van with two pre-teen girls holding boogie boards. My initial thought was to make sure they were aware that sea otters and seals are federally protected wildlife around these parts and not to get too close to them if they were venturing into the harbor water. Instead, they headed across the road and over the dunes to the ocean beach. 

Upon walking up the coastal dune path, the moment my eyes sighted the ocean, whale blow and a whale body were clearly visible about one-half mile from the shore. The quiet and solitude of the ocean beach environment as the fog was breaking, revealing blue sky overhead, zapped me with a surge of natural excitement.

There were fewer than ten people on the beach as far as my eyes could see.

humpback whales

Two humpback whales off Moss Landing State Beach.

I alternated between viewing humpback whales through my binoculars and snapping photos. I saw whale blow at least every 30 seconds. These were the best whale sightings I had seen this close to Moss Landing beach since August 2014 when I photographed whales within 100 meters of the coast.

My attention changed focus when a French accent sounded in my ears. A woman I had seen on the beach with a guy snapping whale photos asked me about the whales. My attention shifted from wildlife spectator to local tour guide and wildlife aficionado.

When they mentioned being French toruistson a two day road trip from San Francisco and interested in nature and hiking around the Monterey area, I was ready with recommendations.

Interestingly, talking about local outdoor activities provided a self-awareness that I have spent less time exploring my home region this year than my time spent hiking around Central Europe in Czech Republic and Poland.

Elephant seals in Ano Nuevo between San Francisco and Santa Cruz is a sight I have never seen. I have seen elephant seals at Piedras Blancas by Hearst Castle.

A boat tour of the Elkhorn Slough is something I always thought would be a great excursion, but I have yet to do that adventure. Kayaks on Elkhorn Slough is a popular activity too.

Whale watching tours are popular in Monterey, but I think Moss Landing is a better location for a whale tour on Monterey Bay. It seems boats from Monterey spend most of the trip getting to the center of the Bay, whereas Moss Landing tours get to whales quickly.

Honestly though, I dislike the way whale watching cruises chase down whales in Monterey Bay.

Whale boat

Moss Landing whale watching tour boat chasing after humpback whales I was photographing from the beach.

Other places of interest around Monterey include Point Lobos State Park. I have written many articles about my hikes around Point Lobos.

Highway 1 Big Sur is still impassable after a bridge collapsed from last winter’s heavy rains and a massive landslide closed the highway in the southern section. Visitors can access about 30 miles of Highway 1 south of Monterey before the bridge closure. I have several articles on Loyalty Traveler about Big Sur drives and wildlife.

This is car week on the Monterey Peninsula. Many tourists come to the Monterey Peninsula in August for the cars.

If cars are not your thing, come check out the whales and other wildlife also hanging around Monterey this week and year-round.