A road trip on California’s Coast is on most travelers’ bucket lists, and if you want to do it right, you’ve got to be behind the wheel of a convertible, with the top down. Fortunately, when my wife and I find ourselves in Monterey, we’ve got the perfect sled: a Mercedes-AMG E 53 Cabriolet.
Our trip begins at the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel & Spa, which is nestled on 22 acres across California State Route 1 from downtown Monterey. We take an early-morning dip in the heated pool, watching the fog breeze through the pines, and then zip down to Carmel Beach. The air is chilly, but refreshingly so, and aside from a couple of dog walkers it’s just us and the waves landing on the fine-grained white sand.
There’s no shortage of scenery around here, but even by the elevated standards of the Pacific coast, the 17-Mile Drive, on a peninsula between Carmel and Monterey, is enchanting. The road, which charges a $10.75 entrance fee, meanders past the Lone Cypress, an inspiring tree that stands solitary atop a granite hillside; through the giant Monterey cypresses in the Crocker Grove; by the nearly untouched Fanshell Beach; and along one of the world’s most famous golf courses, Pebble Beach. Next to the iconic links, we stop for Full-Swing Smoothies at Gallery Café. Fore!
Having enjoyed the landscape, we make a U-turn back into downtown Monterey to get up close and personal with some marine life at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Our advance tickets allow access to the retrofitted cannery building, which opened on historic Cannery Row in 1984 and today is home to more than 77,000 animals across nearly 200 exhibits. Highlights include sea otters, schools of sardines, sea turtles, and the giant Pacific octopus. (My photo of the latter is going to get lots of likes on Instagram.) We’re already making plans to come back next spring, when a new exhibit on deep sea creatures opens.
Looking at all those marvelous fish made us hungry, so we’re off to lunch at La Bicyclette, a family-owned restaurant in Carmel-by-the-Sea that serves European country cuisine using local ingredients. In the rustic dining room we dig into wood-fired oysters, seared sea bass with couscous, and linguine with lobster and shrimp, finishing things off with a bit of Monterey-grown chardonnay from Wrath, which has a tasting room right down the street.
Now it’s on to our ultimate goal: Big Sur. We dial up Michael Kiwanuka on the Mercedes’s stereo to set the mood, and half an hour later we reach the Bixby Bridge, which got a boost in prominence from the opening credits of HBO’s Big Little Lies. After joining the many other tourists stopping for quick photos, we continue along the curving road, climbing the cliffs until we rise above the fog, feeling as if we’re flying.
We decide to get our feet back on the ground at Coast Big Sur, a café and art gallery built partially from repurposed redwood water tanks. We spend a few minutes perusing sculptures by local artists, then order swirls of soft-serve vanilla ice cream and blood orange sorbet, plus espressos to help keep us awake for the return to Monterey. Not that it would be possible to doze off while looking at the sun turn the sky and the ocean all manner of pastel colors before it slides below the horizon.
2022 Mercedes-AMG E 53 Cabriolet
The exterior of this super-sleek convertible coupe is exquisite, and under the hood is an equally precise AMG-enhanced 3.0-liter inline-six turbo engine. When I put the nine-speed automatic in sport mode, that 429-horsepower engine roars with each press of the gas pedal—although I don’t have much opportunity to test the zero-to-60 acceleration of 4.5 seconds on the curves of Highway 1. When we need a reprieve from the elements, all I have to do is raise the three-layer soft top, which in less than 20 seconds ensconces us in a strikingly quiet cabin.
From $84,350, mbusa.com