The first season of Big Little Lies had us all hooked: we were obsessed with the lives of the uber-wealthy women of Monterey, not to mention the sweeping beaches, dramatic drives and cutesy coastal coffee shops. The second season has already got off to a quick start, with Meryl Streep added to to the cast.
The Monterey of the show is quite different from the one in real life – which is full of tourists and old people – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go. Located on California’s glorious Central Coast, it sits between Los Angeles and San Francisco at one end of the Big Sur. Monterey Bay is an ideal stop if travelling between the two major cities on a road trip or, if you’re not a fan of travelling by car, Amtrak also offers a bus service.
It’s a city but, with a population of just under 29,000, it still has that small-town feel. The main street, Cannery Row, is quite different from what you picture on the show – it’s chocca full of visitors. Like with any other seaside town that thrives on those coming from afar, it’s lined with shops selling beachwear, T-shirts from the local area and other miscellaneous items with “Monterey” scrawled across them.
But get away from the main drag and you’ll catch a glimpse of the Monterey from the show. There are stores selling ethnically made products, organic fruit shops and all the places you see Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman et al frequenting.
Here are the places on the Big Little Lies itinerary.
Monterey Bay Aquarium
Shown in both seasons, the aquarium in Monterey regularly tops the list of the best worldwide. Aesthetically, it suits television – glass display cases span several floors making it idyllic for shots of conversations.
The aquarium is full of kids running around on school trips, furiously going through tasks in their workbooks. Throughout the day you can be there for feeding times while simultaneously learning how rescued animals came to live there.
For those interested in sustainability, the aquarium also has Seafood Watch – a globally recognised programme that encourages sustainable eating. Many local restaurants have signed up, but its reach is worldwide.
Hyatt Carmel Highlands
Celeste has got one of the best views from her home hands down, but the indoor shots are actually filmed in a studio space.
The views, however, are real and can be enjoyed from the comfort of the Hyatt hotel located just outside of Carmel. The hotel is on the pricier side (those views are prime real estate) with bed and breakfast starting at $430. You can take it all in for a fraction of the price if you book brunch – dishes start at under $10.
The restaurant is also a partner in the Seafood Watch programme, so you’ll also be eating sustainably.
Bixby Creek Bridge
You’ll recognise this from the opening credits – the bridge and the surrounding areas feature heavily on any car journey filmed.
These scenes are from one of the most famous stretches of road in the world: the Pacific Coast Highway, which runs along the Californian coast. If you’re there at the right time of year, you’ll stumble across an elephant seal colony (just be prepared for the smell).
Lovers Point Park
A couple of miles away from the centre of Monterey lies Lovers Point Park, which is the setting for the Blissful Drip coffee shop in the new season. It’s also been used for various other shots in both seasons and it’s an idyllic place to watch the sun go down.
Beach House Restaurant & Bar sits looking along the beach with incredible views of the sunset (it’s got many window and patio tables). Those feeling more active can go snorkelling and scuba diving.
Del Monte Beach
In the show, Jane is often seeing running on the dunes of Del Monte Beach.
Some of the most iconic scenes from the show incorporate this Monterey stretch of sand, but if running isn’t your jam, you can walk along some of the hiking trails.
Old Fisherman’s Wharf
In central Monterey, the Old Fisherman’s Wharf is exactly what you’d picture Monterey to be. Paluca Trattoria is a family-owned Italian restaurant on the wharf that was an inspiration for the Blue Blues café that the characters frequent (while making you oh so jealous of their lifestyle).
The show didn’t film in Paluca Trattoria itself, but instead recreated the outdoor set (based on the real thing) in a Hollywood studio. They used a green screen of the backdrop of the wharf because if there’s a view like that, it needs to be used.
British Airways flies from London to San José for around £300 return. From there it’s 75 miles to Monterey.
For getting around, Uber and Lyft are good options, but if you really want to see it all, hire a car.
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