Monterey, CA Wheelchair Access Travel Guide

Monterey is one of the ocean cities along Monterey Bay, Northern California with a cool coastal vibe and an emphasis on the outdoors. What draws most people to Monterey is the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium located on Cannery Row (details below), but it is not the only attraction in the area.

Old Fisherman’s Wharf at the Monterey Harbor is another popular destination to check out while visiting Monterey. There is a large parking lot with a number of handicapped accessible spots and a handful of spaces actually on the wharf. Lots of people like to come here for a stroll and to enjoy some fresh seafood, like clam chowder. Fresh seafood is also available for purchase at markets. There are also a couple of little unique stores and old-fashion candy shops right at the front of the wharf.

The Monterey Coastal Trail is an 18-mile-long loop that takes you along the water’s edge and through the town of Monterey and to other beach cities. This wide, 2-way traffic trail is a favorite for people riding bikes or excising.

The City of Monterey and the Monterey Bay area have a lot of wheelchair friendly outdoor attractions and activities. Seacliff State Beach has a beach wheelchair and more at the northern end of Monterey. The Monarch Grove is incredible to see at the right time, and in the next town over, Pacific Grove, has the Asilomar State Beach with a long boardwalk beach trail. One of the entrance gates to the 17 Mile Drive, a multi-stop visitor destination, is basically located on the boarder of Monterey. The 17-Mile Drive ends in Carmel where people may explore the Carmel River State Beach, Carmel City Beach and Point Lobos State Park Trails.

Monterey Bay Aquarium & Cannery Row
 

Monterey Bay Aquarium
Each year, the  Monterey Bay Aquarium draws millions of visitors from all over the world, and sitting right on the edge of the bay and featuring some of the largest under water exhibits ever constructed, it’s no wonder. For a wheelchair traveler, the aquarium has all the modern ADA upgrades to make your visit comfortable. Overall, the Monterey Bay Aquarium was very wheelchair accessible. There are elevators and accessible restrooms all over the aquarium’s two floors and they are marked by clear signs. Even on the second floor patio, there is a telescope at a level for a wheelchair user.

In general, no matter what day you visit, be prepared for lots of kid activity after 12pm. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is an extremely popular destination for school field trips and because of the many kid play/learn “zones”, it is a well-traveled day-trip spot for young families.  It’s almost inevitable that you’ll end up sharing elevators and accessible restrooms with parents pushing strollers. If you want to have the whole aquarium basically to yourself, then plan for a morning visit

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is set right on the Pacific Ocean coast and features over 35,000 plants and animals, all of which can be found right in the Monterey Bay Area. Founded in 1984, this nationally recognized aquarium features an array of exhibits one of them being a 33-foot high (1.3 million liter) tank, which holds a number or large aquatic animals including sharks.

Sharks are a popular exhibit that draws crowds all day long. The sharks can be found in a number of tanks. Many are smaller sharks but a couple of massive tanks showcase the power of larger ones, like the Hammerhead Shark in the “Outer Bay” exhibit that is a 4.5 million liter tank.

The Jellyfish Exhibit is an underwater fireworks display underwater. There are several kinds of Jellyfish that are different shapes, sizes, and colors but all are just as mesmerizing. The lighting for this exhibit makes it truly a piece of ever-changing art that makes you feel weightless.

The Secret Lives of Seahorses is the newest addition to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. There are a number of different kinds of seahorses, like the classic pot belly, dwarf seahorses that are circled in the above middle photo, and exotic ones. Of course, one can expect to see many displays of brightly-colored coral, sea anemonies, crustaceans, and fish

There is little wheelchair accessible parking. There Monterey Bay Aquarium does have handicapped parking for those with a disabled placard or license plate but very limited (around 6 spots). The hidden parking lot is located off Cannery Row at the stop sign right before reaching the aquarium. It does not look as if you can turn right, but you can, then you then simply let the staff know you’re looking for handicapped parking. If coming on the weekend, you can bet these spots will be taken, so look for a meter spot along Cannery Row, which I recommend doing regardless of when you come. Cannery Row is extremely flat and a very short distance to the entrance of the aquarium.

Cannery Row
Cannery Row is the historic street that the Monterey Bay Aquarium is located on and is virtually flat for wheelchair users. Most of the buildings were seafood cannery factories but have now been transformed into boutique shops and restaurants.

Art lovers will enjoy browsing the many galleries found on Cannery Row. Paintings, sculptures and jewelry by local and international artists are more commonly found, but other miscellaneous pieces, like blown glass, are also displayed.

The aroma of sweet treats will entice you as you walk past many candy shops and ice cream parlors. There is even a cinnamon bun bakery and salt water taffy shop. There is even a wax museum if you get really bored called Steinbeck’s Spirit of Monterey. John Steinbeck drew inspiration for his novels Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday from Monterey canning industry.

The Fish Hopper is one of many seafood restaurants on Cannery Row. This is a particularly beautiful location because it sits on a dock right over the Monterey Bay. There is indoor seating with lots of window tables and a large outdoor patio, where most people choose to dine. Nonetheless, if you are not in the mood for seafood, there are many other restaurants, like a Mexican restaurant that also sits right on the water.

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