Marina

Pack a board, a kite, or a glider, add free spirit, and then head to this breezy, romantic destination just north of Monterey.

Marina is a little town where romantic sunset gazers count as a crowd and the lone celebrities are western snowy plovers, the little shorebirds that nest here under federal protection. If you want to beachcomb for miles, fly a kite, surf at dawn, or hitch your harness to a hang glider, Marina is your windswept wonderland.

Marina State Beach is wild with a hint of the civilised deep in its soul. Courteous surfers work the morning waves while aerialists reserve the afternoon slot, and everyone is welcome for the sunset show. Only renegade dolphins don’t follow the unwritten local rules. But hey, cute is cute any time of day.

Lace up your boots to tread lightly through Marina Dunes Preserve. Bring binoculars because this is prime birding territory – over 27 species call it home. A handy, signposted trail guides ornithologists-in-training.

When your heart’s set on a glimpse of the plover, turn south of Marina towards the bracing beauty of Fort Ord Dunes State Park. No sightings are guaranteed, but take keen eyes and a slow pace to improve your chances.

Don’t worry too much if you miss Fort Ord’s star attraction of the feathered kind. You can always console yourself with 980 acres of protected dunes, beaches, and gentle trails. Feel free to cycle the paths and wander the boardwalks. Or just stand by the ocean and stare, and stare. Monterey is so close you can almost taste the wine, and it looks even sweeter from Fort Ord’s angle.

Swing by Marina for seals and sea lions, hang on to watch the sun blaze under the horizon, or stay overnight. Beachy with a side order of laid-back luxe, bikes to borrow, and fresh oysters for the asking is how resorts work the local vibe. Dunes, ocean views, and big, big skies come as standard.

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