Discover the Hidden Charms of Exploring Moss Landing: A Coastal Gem Awaits

You won’t know quite what to expect when you visit Moss Landing. If someone had told me that Moss Landing in Monterey county was a cool place to visit, I would have probably just been surprised and curious at the same time to find out why. Typically overlooked by speeding cars heading out to visit popular attractions in Monterey, Moss Landing is a hidden gem and a wonderful place to visit with many unique, marine and nature inspired features. The town itself is quirky and a charming place to explore the town and surrounding areas for a day or an overnight trip.

Nestled along the picturesque coast of Central California, Moss Landing beckons travelers with its tranquil beauty and captivating wildlife. This small coastal village, located between Monterey and Santa Cruz, offers a peaceful escape from the bustling city life. Moss Landing is renowned for its breathtaking natural landscapes, charming harbor, and abundant marine life. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a birdwatcher, or simply seeking a serene retreat, Moss Landing’s unique blend of coastal charm and ecological wonders promises an unforgettable experience. Join us as we embark on a journey to discover the hidden treasures and timeless allure of Moss Landing.

Why visit Moss Landing?

Moss Landing is one of those off the beaten places that only locals know and appreciate. There’s so much character and local flare to enjoy in town on the strip and the surrounding areas of town and you can also enjoy the coastline areas, the harbor, estuary, slough and beaches around the area that are never busy and a real part of the beautiful nature to enjoy in this area. If you are looking for something unique and nature inspired, you’ll enjoy exploring around Moss Landing and maybe even stay overnight here.

A collection of colorful signage and cast-offs

A collection of colorful signage and cast-offs

How to get to Moss Landing in Monterey County

Getting to Moss Landing in Monterey County, California, is relatively straightforward, and there are a few transportation options available. Here’s how you can reach this charming coastal destination:

  1. By Car: Moss Landing is conveniently located off Highway 1, making it easily accessible by car. If you’re traveling from the north, take Highway 1 south from Santa Cruz or Highway 101 south from San Francisco, and then follow the signs to Moss Landing. If you’re coming from the south, take Highway 1 north from Monterey or Highway 101 north from San Luis Obispo. Moss Landing is approximately halfway between Santa Cruz and Monterey, making it a convenient stop along the scenic coastal drive.
  2. By Air: The closest major airport to Moss Landing is Monterey Regional Airport (MRY), located about 20 miles southeast of Moss Landing. Several airlines offer domestic flights to and from Monterey. Once you arrive at the airport, you can rent a car or arrange for a taxi or ride-share service to reach Moss Landing.
  3. By Bus: Monterey-Salinas Transit (MST) operates bus services throughout Monterey County, including stops in Moss Landing. Bus routes connect Moss Landing with nearby cities such as Monterey, Salinas, and Santa Cruz. Check the MST website for schedules and routes.
  4. By Boat: Moss Landing has a small harbor that accommodates recreational boaters. If you have access to a private boat, you can sail or cruise to Moss Landing and dock at the harbor. However, it’s essential to check the harbor regulations and availability in advance.

Once you reach Moss Landing, exploring the area is best done by car or on foot. The village is compact, and many attractions, including the Moss Landing State Beach and Elkhorn Slough Reserve, are easily accessible. Enjoy the scenic beauty, indulge in fresh seafood, and immerse yourself in the tranquil coastal ambiance that Moss Landing has to offer.

Here’s some of the quirky and cool attractions in Moss Landing to visit

Walking around the Moss Landing downtown area 

One of the popular things to do in Moss Landing is just to take a nice stroll in the small downtown area. The village of Moss Landing is small and easy to walk through with less than three blocks of shops, eateries and interesting artifacts found along the way. Walking through the town, you’ll come across some unusual and bizarre collections of art, antiques and large cast off signage parked in every nook and cranny of each storefront or eatery.  It really is a cool downtown to walk through – starting with these huge relics and found objects corralled together beside the main intersection of town (above photo).

An assemblage of collections and eclectic art on display

An assemblage of collections and eclectic art on display

A fenced in area filled with cast-off memorabilia draws you into this weird space of assembled larger than life collectibles – it feels like some type of museum except it is just a storage space on the grounds of the local Mexican cantina called Haute Enchilada Cafe. The grounds of the restaurant are littered with cool visuals and eye candy – it’s easy and fun spending some time to photograph all the colorful details and recycled art here. The town has a variety of restaurants offering cuisine from locally caught seafood, Thai fushion, Mexican to bistro style fare.

The grounds of the Haute Enchilada Cafe

The grounds of the Haute Enchilada Cafe

Victorian details at Moss Landing

Victorian details at Moss Landing

Starting off early one morning, I was walking around with practically the town to myself. This is usually how I love to discover a place when the streets are deserted and there are few cars on the streets. It makes the town more interesting to photograph with no cars blocking the views and showing the vibrant storefronts.  I wondered if this sleepy town was typically quiet and slow, or maybe it was because I was the first person awake walking through town. In any case, seeing some of the antique stores and unique shops gave me a nice sense of what this town is all about – I love that creative people and gallery owners have developed a unique identity at Moss Landing.  I also love the off beat look and artsy feel of this town –  something totally refreshing. It’s fun to linger and enjoy all the details especially when you have the place mostly to yourself.

Quirky and cool shops at Moss Landing

Quirky and cool shops at Moss Landing

Every storefront exudes color and Victorian charm with a bit of quirky and bohemian flare – you really want to peak into each building to check out what is inside. The antique stores and art galleries in town are rich with character – I even peeked through the windows of the antique gallery with the white horse below – I would have loved to go in for a nice long visit and talk with the owner, but unfortunately it was still closed,  I had other plans already scheduled for the morning.

Victorian charm all over the town

Victorian charm all over the town

An antique store with a life size horse on the 2nd floor balconey

An antique store with a life-size horse on the 2nd floor balcony

Along the strip are abandoned ships from the harbor that have outlived their days and are either slowly deteriorating back to the earth or used as markers for a food venue. What a creative way to use an old ship, don’t you think? Even the old relic resting below in this pastureland felt so natural in some strange way.

A fishing boat gone to pasture in Moss Landing

A fishing boat gone to pasture in Moss Landing

Enjoy this fun tour of Moss Landing below

Fishing boats as restaurant markers

Fishing boats as restaurant markers

Anyone interested in nature and ocean environments will love visiting the beach at Salinas River State beach and the Elkhorn Slough, a national estuary and research reserve. You will find a variety of harbor seals, otters, sea lions and over 340 species of birds and protected habitat in this reserve.  The best way to visit is by kayaking, joining a guided tour or in my case crossing the bride to the beach area and walking through some of the trails along the main estuary. It’s wonderful seeing so much marine life and birds up close and practically having nature right at your feet.

Sea Lions hanging at the piers in Moss Landing

Sea Lions hanging at the piers in Moss Landing

Following a trail along the estuary at Moss Landing

Following a trail along the estuary at Moss Landing

I love visiting harbors and the harbor district at Moss Landing is very colorful. Filled with an assortment of sailboats, touring vessels and attractive  fishing boats, I captured some of the vessels with unusual names that caught my eye. It must be fun to watch many of these unloading their catch when they come back into port, but I only saw them at the start leaving for their fishing journey.

Fishing vessels at Moss Landing harbor

Fishing vessels at Moss Landing harbor

Cool fishing vessels at the harbor in Moss Landing

Cool fishing vessels at the harbor in Moss Landing

Delicious and fresh seafood from Moss Landing

Needless to say seafood is very local and fresh at Moss Landing and you’ll find everything from Dungeness crab to just caught sea bass sold fresh off the boats or at any of the local restaurants in town. I took the opportunity to visit the combination market and restaurant at Phil’s market and eatery – a popular and local seafood hangout in Moss Landing. The newly caught fish was just being laid out that morning when I walked in the door.

When visiting Moss Landing in Monterey, California, seafood enthusiasts are in for a treat with a variety of excellent seafood restaurants to choose from. Here are a few notable options:

Phil’s Fish Market: A local favorite, Phil’s Fish Market is known for its fresh seafood and laid-back atmosphere. Feast on a wide selection of seafood dishes, including Dungeness crab, clam chowder, fish tacos, and grilled fish. The casual waterfront setting adds to the charm of the dining experience.

The Haute Enchilada: Combining Mexican and coastal flavors, The Haute Enchilada offers a unique seafood dining experience. Their menu features dishes like seafood enchiladas, ceviche, and shrimp tacos, showcasing the fusion of flavors in a vibrant and artistic atmosphere.

The Whole Enchilada Market & Restaurant: Located right on the harbor, The Whole Enchilada serves up fresh and delicious seafood dishes. From fish and chips to shrimp cocktails, they offer a range of options to satisfy your seafood cravings. Don’t miss their homemade sauces and salsas that add an extra kick of flavor.

Moss Landing Café: This charming café specializes in seafood and American comfort food. Enjoy classics like clam chowder, fish and chips, and shrimp scampi in a cozy and welcoming atmosphere. Their generous portions and friendly service make it a popular spot among locals and visitors alike.

Phil’s Snack Shack: For a more casual and quick bite, Phil’s Snack Shack is a great choice. Located near Phil’s Fish Market, this outdoor eatery serves up delicious seafood sandwiches, fish tacos, and clam chowder bread bowls. It’s a perfect spot for grabbing a tasty meal on the go.

Seafood delight at Phil's Market and Eatery

Seafood delight at Phil’s Market and Eatery

Fresh for sale at Phil's market and eatery

Fresh for sale at Phil’s market and eatery

A visit to the harbor area of Moss Landing

Even the area around the harbor area is quirky – I spotted this red bungalow with a giant lobster and a strange hanging head outside the entrance to that person’s home. I’m sure there’s a story to tell about that hanging head – hopefully a funny one.

Quirky details at a private home in Moss Landing

Quirky details at a private home in Moss Landing

I did get a chance to stay overnight in Moss Landing at the Captain’s Inn on the edge of town. A historic home-built in 1906 by the Pacific Coast Shippiing Company. It was later converted in 2003 into a wonderful inn. The room I stayed in had a nautical theme of a fishing vessel and the room had magnificent views of the estuary and beach areas. I think it was one of the honey moon suites because of the large bathtub jacuzzi and fireplace right next to the king size bed, too bad I was solo and exhausted from the days adventure.

The Captain's Inn at Moss Landing

The Captain’s Inn at Moss Landing

Boathouse guest room with honeymoon features

Boathouse guest room with honeymoon features

Check out this video on visiting Moss Landing State Beach

Things to do near Moss Landing

If you have more time to explore just outside of Moss Landing, there a lot of fun things to do outside of town including:

Check out Moss Landing State Beach

Go dolphin and whale watching from the Moss Landing harbor to areas just outside in the Pacific Ocean on the Blue Ocean or the Sea Goddess

Take a slow cruise around Elkhorn Slough to enjoy the marine life like harbor seals, pelicans, sea otters and sea lions in their natural habitats

Visit the Salinas River State Beach

Do an adventure kayak experience on the Elkhorn Slough

Do a Monterey Bay eco tour in the bay/harbor area

Check out the Elkhorn Sough in Moss landing video below

Weather and best time to visit Moss Landing

Moss Landing enjoys a mild coastal climate, typical of the Monterey Bay area. The weather is influenced by the cool waters of the Pacific Ocean, creating pleasant temperatures throughout the year. The best time to visit Moss Landing depends on your preferences and the activities you plan to engage in. Here’s an overview of the weather and the ideal times to visit:

Summer (June to August): Summer brings the warmest temperatures to Moss Landing, with average highs ranging from the mid-60s to low 70s Fahrenheit (18-24 degrees Celsius). It’s a great time to enjoy outdoor activities, such as kayaking, beachcombing, or exploring the nearby Elkhorn Slough Reserve. The summer months also attract more visitors, so be prepared for slightly larger crowds.

Spring (March to May) and Autumn (September to November): Spring and autumn offer mild temperatures and fewer tourists, making them excellent seasons to visit Moss Landing. Average temperatures range from the mid-50s to mid-60s Fahrenheit (12-19 degrees Celsius), providing pleasant weather for coastal walks, wildlife watching, and exploring the local shops and eateries. Springtime brings beautiful wildflowers, while autumn offers stunning sunsets.

Winter (December to February): Winters in Moss Landing are relatively mild, with average temperatures ranging from the mid-40s to low 60s Fahrenheit (7-15 degrees Celsius). It’s the off-peak season, so you’ll find fewer crowds and lower accommodation rates. Although rain is more common during this time, there are still plenty of indoor attractions to enjoy, such as visiting the marine research institutions or sampling fresh seafood at local restaurants.

It’s worth noting that coastal weather can be changeable, so it’s advisable to pack layers and be prepared for some foggy mornings or cooler breezes. Additionally, wildlife enthusiasts may want to time their visit to coincide with the migration of whales or the nesting season of seabirds, which can vary throughout the year.

No matter the season, Moss Landing’s unique coastal charm, abundant wildlife, and stunning natural landscapes make it a year-round destination for nature lovers and those seeking a peaceful retreat. Whether you’re exploring the estuary, embarking on a scenic boat tour, or simply enjoying the coastal scenery, Moss Landing offers a memorable experience in any season.

What to see more of Monterey and Carmel?

Visiting Point Lobos Reserve

Enjoying a day in Monterey and Pacific Grove

Cruising Monterey bay

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Weekend getaway to Carmel by the Sea

Road trip to Big Sur

More inside tips to visiting Moss Landing

Certainly, Noel Morata, travel content creator, here are some inside tips for visiting Moss Landing, California. This charming coastal town is known for its unique attractions and natural beauty. Here’s what you should know:

Kayaking in the Slough:

For a more hands-on experience, consider kayaking in the Elkhorn Slough. It allows you to get up close to the diverse ecosystem and wildlife. Remember to bring your camera for some fantastic shots of the natural beauty.

Moss Landing State Beach:

If you’re into outdoor adventures, take a stroll along Moss Landing State Beach. It’s a peaceful spot for beachcombing and enjoying the coastal scenery. You might even catch a beautiful sunset here.

Moss Landing Marine Labs Visitor Center:

If you’re interested in marine biology, make a stop at the Moss Landing Marine Labs Visitor Center. It’s a great place to learn about the local marine life and ongoing research in the area.

Antique Shopping:

Moss Landing has some charming antique shops where you can find unique treasures. It’s a great way to spend some leisurely time exploring the town’s quaint street

Incorporating these tips into your content will provide valuable insights for your readers and showcase Moss Landing from your unique viewpoint. Enjoy your travels and happy writing!

Have you explored quirky and fun Moss Landing?

Did you get to experience and explore the cool town of Moss Landing? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Conclusion to visiting Moss Landing

Moss Landing, California is fun, quirky and a cool place to visit and if you love being outdoors, there’s a lot of wonderful nature experiences to enjoy here. If you are exploring Monterey County attractions, make sure you find the time to visit Moss Landing and it’s unique village and colorful architecture and other quirky parts of the city, beautiful landscape and marine life in the area.

Moss landing is just 15 minutes north of the popular Central coast cities of Monterey and Carmel on Highway one. It’s a wonderful getaway if you are looking for a relaxing visit to Monterey County and connect with nature, the ocean and slough, and enjoy the atmospheric town.   To check out more details about Moss Landing, check out their website here. For more photographs of Moss landing, the harbor and nature reserve, check out my Flickr page here.

Thank you for the overnight stay courtesy at the Captain’s Inn, all thoughts and opinions are my own. If you enjoyed this post, please do share it with any of the social media buttons on the post, thank you.

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