Sea Life, Monterey
Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve is a 1400-acre laboratory for scientific research and estuarine education. It is one of just 26 National Estuarine Research Reserves nationwide and is administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and managed by the California Department of Fish and Game. The reserve has a visitors center, 5 miles of trails, and various kayaking routes. To walk the trails there is a $2.50 day-use fee.
During my visit I hiked all three major trail loops and a few of the spur trails in about two hours. Sure it was a fast walk and I didn't see much wildlife, but to me, a bird is a bird is a bird... I did see some cool crabs and a mule deer during my hike. This is not the best hiking around in my opinion, and could get expensive at $2.50 a person if you had a big group, so I'd recommend Pinnacles, the Santa Cruz Redwoods, Point Lobos, or Big Sur for a much more entertaining hiking experience.
From Highway 1, take Dolan Road east, which is right at the power plant. Go about 5 miles then take a left on Elkhon Road, another 2-3 miles and the front entrance will be on the left.
Most tourists view the sea lions between Fishermans Wharf and Cannery Row while they sun themselves on the rocks like lazy old cows. People who have spent more than a night or two in town know the sea lions get loud and obnoxious from about sunset until 2 or 3 in the morning. Where do they go when its time to frolic in the the Monterey Bay? Many head to Commercial Wharf.
Here you will see groups of 20-30 begging for food, swimming, diving, and playing sea lion king of the mountain on the buoys and piers. We saw a couple of big fellas out at the very tip of the Commercial Wharf fighting for position on a small horizontal slab of concrete just a few feet above the water. The bigger one had been there long enough that he was dry, but a younger, and stronger sea lion jumped up and threw him off as we watched.
Sea lions occasionally swim with one flipper out of the water. When the water is cool, they stick a flipper out into the sun to absorb the sun's warmth. When the water is too warm, they will wet a flipper, then stick it into the air so it gets cooled off by the breeze.
Of course if you want to see even more of the noisy buggers, try the Coast Guard Wharf.
All around the harbor area, as well as along the rocky areas of the coast, you'll find tidal pools. When the tide is out, these pools are left with starfish and other sea critters. They also offer a spot for kids to play in the water without having to worry about rip-tides and currents that are in the ocean.
Be careful handling any of the animals...they could you or you could hurt them. But they're neat to look at and I got to see some huge starfish up close.
Moneterey is one of the places on the Californian coast where you can go whale watching. A word of caution though, these boats are not for the squeemish!. The waves can be several metres high once you go out of the bay.
For one of the oparators of such tours have a look at http://www.montereybaywhalewatch.com.
This isn't actually off the beaten path, but it is a seperate area in the aquariu, so I guess I can put it here. Besides, this is just another way to post more pictures..
The penguins are a new addition to the aquarium. In fact an entire area is dedicated to them. They are very playful and smart. This picture is blurred, even though I used the freeze frame function on my camera, they were just too lively.
Walk below the pier to where the fishing boats are tied up and you may spot a huge Sea Lion...but don't get too close..he is not really asleep!!
Everyone says there are many seals there...and guess what...we only saw one!!! Think we wen to the wrong place. If you look carefully you can see that one seal.