If you’re a Steinbeck nerd like me, you’ve probably wanted to visit Monterey, California ever since Cannery Row. But if you’re, you know, a normal person whose travel plans aren’t dictated by midcentury American literature, you probably added Monterey to your bucket list after watching HBO’s epic and Emmy-winning miniseries Big Little Lies.
Because what’s not to like? BLL makes Monterey out to look like a wonderland of cozy seaside coffeeshops, windswept mansion terraces, craggy cliffs and beaches upon which to contemplate your destiny, not to mention wine, wine and more wine. Well, I hate to break it to you: It’s not all true. For one thing, working-class Monterey is laughably absent from the series, and the town is not actually made up of rich, beautiful blondes plus rich, beautiful Zoë Kravitz. But that’s because real-life Monterey is even better. And there are race cars.
I headed to Monterey to see what all the fuss is about. The good news is that the surreal scenery, foggy/hygge atmosphere and a lot of the actual locations from Big Little Lies are indeed real, and they definitely measure up. (So does the wine.) And for what it’s worth, Alexander Skarsgård’s character, fuck-face Perry, is not real, so consider that the extra-good news. The bad news? There’s not much of that. Just the fact that you’re probably not going to stay in one of Monterey’s private mansions when you visit — and the fact that most of the BLL mansions are actually in Malibu.
For your travel-planning pleasure, ahead are the best Monterey spots where you can live out all your Big Little Lies fantasies with all the wine and none of the murder. And just for good measure, we threw in a couple that aren’t even on the show — yet, that is. There is going to be a second season, right?