The amazing thing about the West Coast is that it is still mostly wild, open, and astoundingly beautiful country, where you can drive for miles and miles and have the scenery all to yourself.
Watsonville, Castroville, and Moss Landing
Between Santa Cruz and Monterey, Hwy-1 loops inland through the farmlands fronting Monterey Bay. Part freeway, part winding two-lane road, Hwy-1 races through, and to be honest there’s not a lot worth stopping for: The beaches can be dreary, and the two main towns, Watsonville and Castroville, are little more than service centers for the local fruit and vegetable packers, though Castroville does have one odd sight: the “World’s Largest Artichoke,” a concrete statue outside a very large fruit stand at the center of town.
Back on the coast, midway along Monterey Bay, the port community of Moss Landing is a busy commercial fishery, with lots of trawlers and packing plants—not to mention pelicans aplenty. Moss Landing sits alongside Elkhorn Slough, the largest and most wildlife-rich wetlands area in Monterey Bay (a busy nursery for baby seals, baby otters, and baby leopard sharks), which you can see in greatest comfort via pontoon boat tour (831/633-5555). Moss Landing is also home to the research arm of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a nice KOA campground, an obtrusively huge electricity generating plant, and The Whole Enchilada (7904 Hwy-1, 831/633-3038), which has spicy seafood right on Hwy-1, near the power plant. Alternatively, try the sustainable and organic Haute Enchilada (7902 Moss Landing Rd., 831/633-5843), west of the highway.
Much of the bayfront north of Monterey formerly belonged to the U.S. Marine Corps base at Fort Ord. Almost the entire parcel was turned over to the State of California to house the California State University at Monterey Bay, which opened its doors in 1994.