Monterey’s Wilder Side
I’ve been to Monterey countless times, but never managed to discover the coastal town of Moss Landing. Located on Northern California’s coast between Santa Cruz and Monterey, it is waiting to be explored. Anchored by the iconic power plant that stands watch over the town on one side, the ocean on the other and a harbor in between, the location is ideal. Nature lovers come to Moss Landing for its’ wildlife: there are countless bird species that make their home in the Elkhorn Slough as well as Sea Otters, Harbor Seals and Sea Lions.
This is a place to experience nature, relax and eat fresh caught seafood. From my room in the Captain’s Inn Bed & Breakfast, I could sit and look out onto the estuary where birds soar, fish, and sun themselves during low tide. Sea Otters have been known to sun themselves within view of my window too. The room comes equipped with a birding guide and binoculars to aid those searching for wildlife. Each of the rooms has a nautical theme with their own identity. The rooms in the Boathouse have floor to ceiling windows looking out onto the water. Even the oversize soaking tub has a view. I could spend an entire weekend in the comfort of this room with its welcoming bed, soft sheets, down pillows and the terry cloth robes. And the fireplace is perfect for taking the chill out of the sea air.
The soaking tub comes with bubble bath, bath salts and a loofah sponge for a delightful soak any time. Next to the tub is a sand pail filled with ice, water and soft drinks but you could easily insert a bottle of champagne or white wine instead. Every day fresh baked cookies are left in the room after daily cleaning.
You can arrange for spa treatments in your room from a comprehensive menu including warm stone massage, relaxing massage, aromatherapy, reflexology and scrubs. It’s best to make the reservations in advance through the Captain’s Inn.
Breakfasts are amazing. Melanie Gideon, the Innkeeper, serves a multi-course meal with fruit, pastries, and an entree. Not one to eat a large breakfast, I found myself devouring this gourmet feast every morning. Most of the recipes come from her cookbook, Cooking for the Captain.
The Bed & Breakfast is in a 1906 building originally occupied by the Pacific Steamship Company when Moss Landing was an important harbor for transporting agricultural products from the Salinas Valley up the San Francisco and the Gold Country during the Gold Rush. The main house has been lovingly restored and transformed into an Inn. The newer Boathouse addition provides water views and modern amenities.
The local restaurants serve fresh caught seafood. Haute Enchilada is an art gallery and restaurant with outdoor dining on the sunny patio. Sister restaurant the Whole Enchilada features Seafood Mexican style, where you can dine indoors on the covered outdoor patio. Phil’s Fish Market serves sustainably harvested seafood in a casual environment. The entire menu takes a few minutes to explore, which is good because the lines to order can be lengthy. The wait is worth it because the food is delicious, no surprise that this a local favorite. The cioppino is a house specialty and they sell it by the gallon to those who prefer to dine at home. The artichokes are grown in nearby Castroville, I loved the flame roasted preparation, with a little spice and lots of flavor.
A walk to the Moss Landing State Beach afforded more views of the area’s wildlife and provided beach access. Wherever we went the sound of birds, Sea Lions or crickets followed us. An absolute must for experiencing nature is the Elkhorn Slough Safari. Run by Captain Yohn Gideon, (the Captain of Captain’s Inn) the two-hour boat adventure leisurely traverses the Slough where you will see more of everything than you can imagine.
On our trip we saw 36 bird species and since this is a migratory path for birds, the variety is amazing. We also saw 73 sea otters, 143 harbor seals and 214 sea lions. I’ve probably only seen three sea otters in the wild and getting close to the rafts of otters and watching them as they snacked on shellfish was quite a treat.
There are several art galleries and antique shops in town but the shop you must visit is Stella Page Designs. Stella designs one-of-a-kind handbags from her small shop in Moss Landing. A favorite of the Los Angeles celebrity crowd, her bags are loved by Demi Moore, Goldie Hawn and Angelina Jolie, to name just a few of her clients.
For a special meal we headed to Pacific Grove, a mere 20 minutes away to eat at Fandango Restaurant. The welcoming restaurant has a European ambiance and specializes in European and Mediterranean cuisine. It is elegant without being fussy. The rack of lamb cooked over their wood-fired grill is one of their specialties, as is the paella and countless other dishes. The Shrimp Scampi with spaghetti combined the perfect garlic flavors and herbs with the succulent, juicy shrimp served over pasta. Although we were content after our entrees, we couldn’t miss out on the Grand Marnier Souffle which takes 20 minutes to bake. It was served with Profiteroles and chocolate sauce. Eating the souffle was like eating a piece of heaven.
To view more of Monterey’s marine life visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium on Cannery Row. Current exhibits include Secret Life of Sea Horses or Hot Pink Flamingos as well as the old favorites such as Outer Bay Jelly Fish, Kelp Forest, and the popular Sea Otters.
Waking up to the rising sun painting the sky pink over the water each morning was a joy and knowing that a gourmet breakfast and coffee awaited was priceless.
Details: Captain’s Inn is located at 8122 Moss Landing Road; reservations are available by calling (831) 633-5550. Elkhorn Slough Safari can be booked in advance by calling (831) 633-5555. If you are planning a trip to the Monterey Peninsula, visit the Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau.