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Madeline (played by Reese Witherspoon), Celeste (Nicole Kidman), Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz), Jane (Shailene Woodley) and Renata (Laura Dern) are back on the silver screen for the highly anticipated season two of HBO’s hit show “Big Little Lies” — and back on their stomping grounds of California’s Central Coast, as well.
This time around, there’s another familiar face in the idyllic town of Monterey: Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep. She plays Mary Louise, Perry’s mother, whose unnerving personality and vocal misgivings of the so-called Monterey Five add another layer of drama to an already riveting plotline. (Fun fact: Mary Louise is Streep’s real name; the show’s creators had their minds set on casting Meryl for the role.)
If clients are all caught up on the Emmy Award-winning show’s latest episode — caution, there may be spoilers ahead — then, at this point, they probably feel fine with not being in any of the Monterey Five’s stylish shoes. But they can still walk to the show’s recognizable harbor and watch the fog roll in, or jog through the same sandy shores. (Let’s just hope that the drama will be limited to the coastal region’s stunning view, while conspiring will only involve important matters such as where to go for dinner.)
Here are seven must-see spots on California’s Central Coast that’ll make fans feel like they’re on the star-studded cast of “Big Little Lies.”
Lovers Point Park and Beach in Pacific GroveOn the Show (Seasons One and Two): A coastal city within Monterey County, Pacific Grove is home to Lovers Point Park and Beach, which has reappeared several times throughout the series. Jane and Ziggy, her son, picnic here in season one, and it’s also where Ed (Madeline’s husband, played by Adam Scott) and Nathan (Bonnie’s husband and Madeline’s ex, played by James Tupper) have one of soon-to-be-many terse confrontations.
In season two of the show, Lovers Point Park plays a bigger role: It’s the location of Blissful Drip coffee shop. Madeline and Celeste first swing by the quirky gazebo-style cafe in the season premiere, and it’s also where the disapproving Mary Louise curtly informs Madeline that she finds “little people to be untrustworthy.” Several more conversations and meetups between the ladies occur at the spot, with each one more tense than the next.
In Real Life: If fans head to Lovers Point Park and Beach in the mood for a latte from Blissful Drip, they’ll be disappointed — the “coffee shop” was installed on location for filming and then dismantled once production was complete.
View this post on Instagram A post shared by @finlandia on May 5, 2019 at 2:13pm PDT
A post shared by @finlandia on May 5, 2019 at 2:13pm PDT
Luckily, there is an actual cafe at the park, as well as a snack bar and a burger joint. The park also has a beautiful 4.4 acres for enjoying nature, including beach and ocean activities such as volleyball, boating, fishing, surfing and swimming.
Bixby Creek Bridge in Big Sur On the Show (Seasons One and Two): Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the scenic Bixby Bridge makes a cameo in the show’s opening sequence as well as nearly every episode. For example, Celeste regularly crosses the sweeping bridge by car to get from point A (her kids’ elementary school, her favorite coffee shop) to point B (her spectacular oceanfront home).
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A post shared by kēy • on (@keeyan_) on Apr 22, 2019 at 8:32pm PDT
In Real Life: Hugging the coastline in Big Sur, the iconic bridge is actually about 18 miles south of Monterey. But, at 713 feet in length and 280 feet in height, the reinforced concrete bridge has long been one of the most photographed bridges in the world — so it fits right into the television series’ picture-perfect scenery. The waves crashing below the edifice are a nice touch, too.
(Editor’s note: When driving on Highway 1 by or on the bridge, please avoid contributing to the now-frequent traffic gridlocks. Additionally, be respectful of the region’s local community and fragile natural environment.)
Esalen Institute in Big SurOn the Show (Season Two, Episode Five): Eager to clear the air (or bad energy) with Ed, Madeline takes him to a “healing institute” in Big Sur that, she assures him, is not a swingers’ convention. Once there, the two exchange dubious looks as attendees are instructed to go around the room and share hugs. Shortly after, they make a beeline for the exit.
In Real Life: Though the brief scene at the so-called healing institute is not confirmed to be filmed here, Big Sur’s Esalen Institute could certainly serve as a suitable stand-in (and is known as the premier healing institute in the area). On its website, Esalen calls itself “more than a retreat center or an educational institute,” but also “a world-wide network of seekers who look beyond dogma to explore deeper spiritual possibilities, forge new understandings of self and society and pioneer new paths for change.”
View this post on Instagram A post shared by Esalen (@esalen) on Jul 5, 2019 at 9:15am PDT
A post shared by Esalen (@esalen) on Jul 5, 2019 at 9:15am PDT
The nonprofit organization sits on 27 acres of coastline and offers a multitude of workshops, including yoga retreats; mindfulness practices; and curated events encompassing idea sharing, interactive lecture forums and more. One way to experience Esalen is by reserving a public night bathing session, which takes place from 1 to 3 a.m., and must be booked on the same day as the intended visit.
Monterey Bay Aquarium in MontereyOn the Show (Seasons One and Two): In season one, Jane visits Monterey Bay Aquarium with Ziggy in tow, and the little guy is spellbound by its Open Sea exhibit. Here, a 90-foot window allows onlookers to peek at green sea turtles, scalloped hammerhead sharks and ocean sunfish, among other marine life.
By season two, Jane is hired by Monterey Bay Aquarium, and the first episode features her at work at the on-site Discovery Labs, where she teaches young students about red octopuses — an animal that can camouflage itself by altering color and skin texture in order to hide (talk about powerful symbolism). This is also where she meets Corey.
View this post on Instagram A post shared by Monterey Bay Aquarium (@montereybayaquarium) on Sep 4, 2018 at 3:36pm PDT
A post shared by Monterey Bay Aquarium (@montereybayaquarium) on Sep 4, 2018 at 3:36pm PDT
In Real Life: Open daily, Monterey Bay Aquarium is a must for anyone visiting town. Families and animal lovers will especially love the nonprofit attraction’s wide array of educational programming and interactive exhibits. More than 35,000 creatures are a part of nearly 200 exhibits — all intended to encourage conservation of the world’s oceans — and one is, indeed, the Open Sea exhibit.
Elkhorn Slough in Monterey County On the Show (Season Two, Episode Five): After an incident at school results in a three-day suspension for Celeste’s sons, Max and Josh, as well as Ziggy, the two moms and their kids decide to make the best of the crummy situation and spend one of the days kayaking. Corey also tags along, and the happy scene is a bright spot in an otherwise dark season.
In Real Life: It isn’t explicitly said where the group goes kayaking, but the picturesque setting looks a lot like Elkhorn Slough, a protected tidal slough and estuary that stretches 7 miles in Monterey Bay. Visitors can responsibly kayak on a guided tour or rent kayaks from local companies; they may also spot wildlife while there, such as sea otters, harbor seals and seabirds.
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A post shared by Michael Blum (@michaelblummusic) on Feb 25, 2019 at 2:20pm PST
Elkhorn Slough is adjacent to the 1,700-acre Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, which is open Wednesday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and offers five miles of restricted trails. (Kayaking is not permitted within the reserve’s boundaries.)
However, according to Monterey Bay Aquarium’s website, the episode’s filming location was Whaler’s Cove in Point Lobos State Natural Reserve — an area rich with underwater habitats and wildlife ranging from seals and sea lions to migrating gray whales.
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A post shared by Jayme (@jaymebee) on Jun 14, 2019 at 8:26am PDT
In addition to kayaking, visitors can join free guided walks, visit the Whalers Cabin Museum and take hiking trails that lead to hidden coves.
Del Monte Beach in MontereyOn the Show (Seasons One and Two): Crashing waves are quintessential on the show, and they’re a recurring backdrop during Jane’s long, anguish-filled runs as she struggles to move on from her past.
In Real Life: Popular with friendly locals, Del Monte Beach tends to be less crowded than some of the region’s more tourist-frequented options (such as Asilomar State Beach in Pacific Grove; Monterey’s Lovers Point; and China Cove and Gibson Beach in Carmel).
View this post on Instagram A post shared by Pavel Tracenco (@pasha.or.paul) on Nov 17, 2017 at 10:40am PST
A post shared by Pavel Tracenco (@pasha.or.paul) on Nov 17, 2017 at 10:40am PST
But it’s worth a stop — visitors can take advantage of picnic tables set along the boardwalk as well as firepits on the sand. Sea lions, seals and dolphins occasionally stop by the area, too
Paluca Trattoria and Fisherman’s Wharf in MontereyOn the Show (Season One): Before Blissful Drip, there was another harborside coffee shop that gathered Madeline, Celeste and Jane for gossip and cup of joe — and that was the now-iconic Blue Blues Cafe. Madeline, Celeste and Jane often met at the establishment, with cameos by Tom, the cafe’s friendly owner.
In Real Life: The show's production team actually built the set of Blue Blues Cafe on a sound stage in Los Angeles, where episodes were filmed. But they did model it after a real Monterey restaurant that is located at the end of the popular Fisherman’s Wharf: Paluca Trattoria, a local institution that has served the community since the 1970s.
View this post on Instagram A post shared by Paluca Trattoria (@palucatrattoria) on Apr 29, 2018 at 8:24am PDT
A post shared by Paluca Trattoria (@palucatrattoria) on Apr 29, 2018 at 8:24am PDT
Fans of the series are welcome to pay the Italian restaurant a visit and try to snag the table that has graced their television screen many times over. (The bruschetta, short rib ravioli and linguine dishes are all popular here.)
Fisherman’s Wharf offers numerous other restaurants, including mostly seafood options, as well as shopping opportunities, a theater and whale watching tours.