The world has changed since starting this annual post on Monterey Bay webcams. Until we’re done with COVID-19, webcams are still a good way to visit the bay or plan your visit. So here are the best coastal webcams for your viewing pleasure starting with the Monterey Peninsula, moving south into Carmel and Big Sur, and then up the coast to Santa Cruz.
The best live cam view of Custom House Plaza, Fisherman’s Wharf I & II and Monterey Harbor is from the Portola Hotel roof in Monterey. This is the only cam on the Plaza —
an iconic downtown hub. The view is especially nice at dawn, dusk and during storms.
This old shot shows people in the Plaza. Today’s live view will be mostly peopleless.
I look forward to the time when the area opens and special events return to the Plaza.
The most awesome cam view of southern Monterey Bay is from atop A Taste of Monterey on Cannery Row. The webcam gently scans back and forth between the Intercontinental Hotel and A Taste of Monterey. This is my go-to cam for blissing out on blue-sky days and dark-gray stormy ones. If you visit this webcam, watch closely. On clear spring days you can sometimes see the misty spouts of gray or humpback whales. I’m looking forward to using the water-conditions guidance for when I get back to kayaking.
Just down Cannery Row is the Monterey Bay Aquarium with several live webcams, mostly focused on inside exhibits, but the Monterey Bay Cam offers shoreline views with the soothing sound of the surf. The location is perfect for close-up sightings of seabirds, shorebirds and sleepy seals on rocks and beaches. While visiting the Aquarium’s site, check out the cams showing what’s inside.
They’re almost as good as visiting the exhibits in person.
Venturing south of Monterey, be sure to visit Pebble Beach Resorts’ Golf Cams. There are several, each at a different Pebble Beach Golf Links hole. My favorite is the golf cam at the 18th Green the renowned finishing hole on Carmel Bay. Whether you’re a golf fan or not, the Stillwater Cove view is spectacular.
In Carmel there’s the unpretentious Carmel ClamCam, which works sometimes better than others. I know nothing about the website or sponsor except that this cam provides a long-shot view of Carmel Beach, a beautiful dog-friendly shoreline, that no one else has.
If we continue on our virtual tour, the south end of Carmel — Carmel Highlands —
won’t disappoint with the webcam view from the Tickle Pink Inn. Settled in with
my favorite beverage and I could watch this scene forever.
Turning back north through Monterey along the Monterey Bay coastline to
mid-bay is a lovely working harbor and town called Moss Landing. It’s home to
Elkhorn Slough, the second largest tidal salt marsh along the California coast.
The Slough has two “OtterCams.” What’s wonderful about these secretly located cams is that you never know what you’ll see. Oftentimes it’s sea otters but you may also get sightings of seals, shorebirds and other shoreline life. It’s always a surprise.
North of Moss Landing toward Santa Cruz, is Seascape Beach in Aptos. It’s a lovely beach and images are from Seascape Beach Resort. The focus is off as the camera pans, but you can get a sense of this secluded spot. This webcam (and the Monterey Harbor one) are on HDOnTap, which has live webcams of amazing places (like Donner Lake dusted with snow or an osprey nest in San Francisco Bay). So, if you can’t get outside, and want to visit some place other than Monterey Bay, HDOnTap allows you to take a multitude of virtual tours.
At the north end of Monterey Bay is Santa Cruz, a lively beach community. The Small Craft Harbor cam offers a shot of the lighthouse and harbor mouth with boats coming and going, sea lions basking on the breakwater, and sometimes surfers catching waves. It also offers other views that you can control (although I haven’t quite figured our how that works). So have fun!
As you visit Monterey Bay vicariously, we hope you enjoy these eyes on the bay.
Wishing you well wherever you are. And looking forward to your return to our lovely area for real.
Since these shots were taken on the morning of Halloween, the last photo celebrates that “scarey” day. (It was actually a gorgeous day on the water.)
If you live near a wetland, take some time to enjoy the beauty of the water and wildlife. There are always surprises.
Our local sloughs (pronounced slews) are precious coastal wetlands (once extensive along the California coast, now about only 10% remain). The largest is Elkhorn Slough (officially the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve). With partners, the Elkhorn Slough Foundation and other local individuals, groups and agencies, the Reserve protects about 1,700 acres (687 ha) of oak woodlands, tidal creeks and freshwater marshes.
Elkhorn Slough’s trails are great to walk, but I especially enjoy kayaking its waters. Each trip is amazing and unique, with varied weather, tidal changes and the comings and goings of wild residents and visitors.
I recently received as a birthday present a special “We Paddle, You Photo” tour with Kayak Connection, Brian, my guide, did the kayaking work, while I focused on the wildlife. The day was perfect — clear sky, calm water, low tide, no wind. I had a wonderfully lazy (for me) view of the slough.
Here are shots of the harbor seals and sea otters we spotted. (Note: I used a telephoto to take the shots. Kayakers and other boaters are required to stay far enough away from these protected marine mammals so that the animals don’t change their behaviors. That’s tough when a friendly joins the tour and disregards the regulations, as this young sea otter did.)
And check out the cute curls on this harbor seal’s whiskers. I’ve never seen that before.
Next the birds will get to show off.
Yesterday was a lovely Monterey Bay day. It was also the second leg of my walk with 25 other local walkers guided by historian Sandy Lydon. We started at Zmudowski State Beach north of Moss Landing (about mid-point on the bay’s shoreline) and were headed to Marina State Beach about 10 miles (16 km) to the south. (This day closely followed the third day of my walk last year with Slow Adventure. See my earlier post about walking the north part of the bay.)
We were expecting a warm day (near 80°F/27°C — actually hot for us) so enjoyed the cool morning air. Zmudowski Beach is named after Mary Zmudowski (pronounced mud-us-key), a local teacher who donated the property to the state in 1950. After about an hour of walking, our first big stop was Moss Landing. This harbor is home to an active fishing community, the esteemed Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) (started in 1987), and Phil’s Fish Market & Eatery, a fairly famous spot for fresh seafood. The town got its start when Charles Moss built wharves here in the 1860s to ship grains from the Salinas Valley. This spot was also home to a whaling station (where MBARI currently sits) from 1918 to 1927. The harbor district was established in 1945.
For me the most interesting part of Moss Landing is the north end of the harbor (because of the sea otters, harbor seals and sea lions) and the entrance to Elkhorn Slough (one of my favorite places for kayaking and birding on Monterey Bay). This morning about 30 sea otters (Enhydra lutris) rested and groomed just below us as Sandy talked about the flow of the Salinas River north and south of Moss Landing at various times. To get beyond Moss Landing we detoured from the beach to Highway 1, passed the harbor (over the water), and then walked with the Old Salinas River. This is an interesting section because you can choose to walk along the old river and its marshes or along the beach and its dunes. Both paths are pleasant and unique.
We stopped for lunch at the Molera end of the Salinas River State Beach where you can rent horses for a beach ride and get a professional photo taken. (I know this is sounding like a travelogue, but our California State Beaches are really wonderful ways to connect to the outdoors and they desperately need our support. Plus the horses were a surprise and Sandy arranged for a group photo.) At this time we were joined by a familiar local — fog. The temperature dropped and the wind added a chill. (Most days I would have been bummed to lose the sunshine, but I must say I wasn’t sorry to see a cooling fog bank roll in. We still had 4 to 5 miles [7 km] to go!)
About a mile (1.6 km) south of the horses there’s the mouth of the Salinas River, Mulligan’s Hill and the barge. The Salinas River is our largest local river and runs about 150 miles (240 km) from southeast to northwest creating the Salinas Valley, certainly one of California’s most productive agricultural regions (I thrive on the fresh vegetables and fruits we have here year-round). This year a sand bank barred the river from reaching the ocean, and so our crossing was easy. (Last year I had to wade across through knee-high waves washing over the sand bank and into the river mouth.) At the river mouth there’s a huge sand dune (about 58 feet/17 m high) called Mulligan’s Hill (after an Irishman). But long before Mulligan, Gaspar de Portolà and his expedition in 1769, on a trek from San Diego in search of the fabled Monterey harbor, climbed this hill and decided to continue north. (Looking at Monterey Bay, they probably couldn’t see it well, which is understandable given what we were able to see from the beach at this point.) Even though they didn’t find Monterey, on their travels north, they did find what would later become Santa Cruz and San Francisco. (Some would consider that pretty good success for a failure. The next year he did find Monterey.)
Our next beach sighting was an old barge that no one seems to know much about except that it’s on the beach. This is a rough section of coast and supposedly someone was towing this barge and somehow it got loose and ended up here. This year most of it was exposed; last year most of it was covered by sand and I almost missed it when I walked past. I’m amazed how much the sand along these beaches can move. This stretch of beach is more for wildlife than people and is designated the Salinas River National Wildlife Refuge. We saw large flocks of gulls (mostly Western gulls of various ages) and sanderlings. This is also home to the Western snowy plover (Charadrius alexandrinus), designated a threatened species due to loss of nesting habitat (they nest on the sand) and human disturbances (people, pets and their activities on the sand). This remote spot is hopefully a good place for them.
The big surprise to me the last time I walked this stretch of beach was our next stop. It’s an active sand-mining operation on the beach. Although our beaches have a long history of being commercially mined (since 1906), I didn’t realize any were still operational. This is the Cemex Lapis Plant (Cemex is the current owner, but there have been many others). The high-quality sand is used by golf courses, in filtration systems, on construction projects and in gardens and nurseries. There’s controversy associated with the plant’s operation. Some claim it’s responsible for the erosion that’s been occurring along south bay shores for decades, while others aren’t so sure if that’s the only or primary cause. Some people just don’t like the operation on the beach even if it does bring much-needed revenue to the city of Marina. It’s an interesting site and operation to watch. It certainly provides a view of what was once a major industry along our beaches from Marina to Point Lobos.
The walk from the Cemex plant to Marina State Beach (our final destination) was a quick mile (we were exhausted and in need of bathrooms). Marina is nearly always windy and well known for hang gliders and kite fliers. Today didn’t disappoint. A paraglider was circling overhead when we arrived. We scurried up the dune to use the facilities, said our goodbyes and ended the day agreeing to meet in the same spot in two weeks for the final leg of our bay walk.
My thanks to Sandy Lydon for all of the great information (errors are mine),
his logistics team (especially Annie) for keeping us organized, and the beach walkers who shared the day with me.