Good storytelling relies on strong visuals – so, it’s no wonder that stunning Monterey County was the go-to location for HBO’s Emmy award-winning Big Little Lies. You don’t have to be TV or celebrity obsessed to fully appreciate Monterey County’s charms. But no one will judge you if you want to partake in a little film location stalking.
Explore these local spots turned film locations.
Iconic, impressive and breathtaking – Highway 1 more than lives up to the hype. And if the sun is shining, it will probably surpass your expectations. Cruise the stretch from Big Sur into Monterey for scenery worthy of being filmed – coastal bluffs, seaside hamlets, rocky outcrops, and if you’re lucky, sea lions rollicking in the Pacific waves.
Bixby Bridge, which is technically thirty minutes away in Big Sur, features prominently in the show’s intro sequence. Of course, Reese Witherspoon’s commute across this behemoth of an arched bridge makes for legendary b-roll. It’s dramatic, awe-inspiring and, ahem, just a little terrifying, should you have a fear of heights. Counter to this, is the feeling that you’ve just driven across a 260-foot high bridge spanning a steep canyon, making you feel like one of the Monterey Five.
Del Monte Beach
Well-known and beloved by locals, this coastal hotspot was featured in many of the show’s beach running scenes. Park on breezy Tide Avenue, then take the boardwalk trail that cuts through the dunes, leading to an expansive beach lined with swoon worthy coastal homes. Plan ahead and pick up snacks in town, then park yourself at a picnic table for lunch with the best of views.
Insider tip: It’s a good spot to launch a kayak too.
Monterey Bay Aquarium
Who could forget the cinematic kissing silhouette of Jane, played by Shailene Woodley, and her love interest against the bubbling backdrop of the Open Sea exhibit? Explore the mysteries and wonders of the sea at a true Monterey gem. What’s to discover? A towering underwater kelp forest, mischievous otters, leopard sharks and a myriad of marine life swimming through a deep reef.
Old Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey
This waterfront hub is famous for a few things: clam chowder, whale watching cruises and kitschy but cute souvenir shops. Beeline it to the end of the wharf for a memorable Italian meal at Paluca Trattoria, the restaurant that was transformed into the coffee shop where Reese Witherspoon’s character, Madeline, held court.
Insider tip: Craving a coffee shop stop? Head downtown to Parker-Lusseau where the decadent pastries and lattes have a Parisian flare.
Neatly tucked between Monterey and Carmel, Pacific Grove is home to pristine Lover’s Point Park –the location of the fictional Blissful Drip Café. Patronized by Otter Bay Elementary moms, the open-air coffee bar offered characters a place to congregate while viewers gawked at sensational coastal views. The gazebo and pergola were originally built for the show but were eventually donated to the city, so enjoy!
Comb the streets of Carmel Highlands, just south of Carmel-by-the-Sea, for a peek at Nicole Kidman’s character’s modern waterfront abode. It’s actually the only home from the series that was located in Monterey County. From there head to Carmel, a small seaside town that packs a lot of punch – stylish shops, outdoor cafes, fine dining, bars and art galleries – all within a lush, tree-lined setting peppered with European-style architecture.
Salinas Valley Wine Country
It’s not a film location yet –but give it time. There’s still talk of a Season 3. Monterey Bay’s coastal fog plays a starring role in producing the region’s prized grapes, making the thirty-minute drive to Salinas Valley wine country more than worthy. Laidback and intimate winery tours offer up opportunities for authentic chats with the actual winemaker as you sip their “pride and joy” pinot noir.