When you stay at our Carmel-by-the-Sea inns, you're a stone's throw from one of the country's most productive and vibrant marine environments: the near-shore waters of Monterey Bay and its estuaries, including Elkhorn Slough. The Bay's calm waters, overlying a grand underwater kelp forest and a massive submarine canyon, also offer fantastic, family-friendly kayaking opportunities--enlivened by the chance to see remarkable wildlife.
Marine and estuarine refuges are widespread here, designated to protect the dizzyingly complex ecosystems that compose the coastal mosaic. The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary--sometimes called the "Serengeti of the Sea"--is the biggest of the country's network of marine sanctuaries, its landward margin spanning from Marin to Cambria. Elkhorn Slough, an estuarine salt marsh feeding into the Bay, also hosts numerous protected zones, not least the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve.
Kayakers have plenty of placid waters here to explore. You can shove off into Elkhorn Slough from entries such as Kirby Park or Moss Landing. Keep your eyes peeled for loads of waterfowl and shorebirds as well as the marine life that utilizes the brackish slough--including one of the Central Coast's iconic species, the southern sea otter.
You can also spot sea otters--large, endearing marine members of the weasel family--on the sheltered waters of Monterey Bay itself, foraging and resting in the great kelp forest. Good access points to the national marine sanctuary in the area include Carmel River State Beach and San Simeon Pier. Along with the otters, you have a good chance of spotting other marine mammals here, particularly California sea lions and harbor seals. There's always the potential to observe bigger visitors, from northern elephant seals and dolphins to orcas and gray whales.
But a kayak also affords a great perch from which to appreciate smaller-scale wonders of the ecosystem--including kelp-scrambling crabs and diving grebes and loons. Hundreds of species of fish utilize these waters as nursery and feeding grounds; a sharp-eyed kayaker might spot anything from rockfish to little leopard sharks. Brown pelicans are typical companions as you paddle.
An added bonus: Kayaking on Monterey Bay can grant an unforgettable and stirring offshore view of Cannery Row, that celebrated waterfront stretch of Monterey.
Elkhorn Slough and Monterey Bay kayaking is an excellent way to spend time as a family--kids won't only have a blast, they'll also learn firsthand about the precious diversity of California's coastal waters. Grab your paddle and hit the Bay!