Uncover the real star of Big Little Lies — Monterey

Metro newspaper

Singing the blues

Just under two hours from San Francisco Airport is Monterey, the colourful seaside home to award-winning US murder series Big Little Lies, which is back on our screens tonight. At its heart is Old Fisherman’s Wharf, a collection of brightly painted historic pier buildings, buzzing with seafood stands, quaint souvenir shops, ice cream stalls and cafés. Fans of the show flock to family-owned Italian Paluca Trattoria (palucatrattoria.com), which served as the inspiration for Blue Blues, the harbourside café where the show’s characters played by Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Shailene Woodley, gather to gossip about the locals. From here you can spot sea lions and otters, which live around the coastline.

Fishy tales

Down the road, picturesque waterfront Cannery Row takes its name from its past as a fish-processing district. It’s been converted into a series of smart galleries, antique markets and boutiques, as well as housing Monterey’s world-famous aquarium (montereybayaquarium.org) — which is set to feature heavily in season two of the show. Minutes from Monterey are the elite postcodes of Pacific Grove and Pebble Beach. They’re best experienced on the 17-Mile Drive, which loops around the coastal peninsula, passing stylish mansions and upmarket golf courses. On the way, stop off at Lovers Point Park, a pretty coastal backdrop for some of the show’s pivotal scenes — and the perfect location for whale and dolphin-watching.

Underwater love: Monterey’s world-famous aquarium in Cannery Row will feature in the new series

Picture perfect

The drive ends at the enchanting town of Carmel-by-the-Sea. Centred around Ocean Avenue, it has some of the best shopping, drinking and dining in the area. Originally a writers’ and artists’ town, it has retained its cultured DNA with Clint Eastwood both a previous mayor and the current owner of Mission Ranch (missionranchcarmel.com), a destination Italian restaurant. Arrive early to grab a table outside for sunset. A quick detour inland along the Carmel river leads to the Carmel Valley Ranch (rooms from £450pn, carmelvalleyranch.com), a 500-acre resort that’s an ideal stop-off for the night. Expect to get close to herds of grazing deer and to pass wild turkeys strutting down the road.

Sitting pretty: Take in the coastal view at Nepenthe

Bridge of sighs

The stretch of California coast from Carmel to Big Sur is one of the highlights of any Route 1 road trip, with the majestic Santa Lucia mountains streaked with swathes of vivid wild flowers on one side and the vast Pacific on the other. Each corner reveals a new epic vista and plenty of opportunities to pull over and take pictures. And keep an eye to the sky for the condor, North America’s largest bird. Along the way you’ll cross the iconic Bixby Creek Bridge, which Big Little Lies fans will recognise from the show’s opening credits. The bridge’s awe-inspiring architecture and setting makes it the most Instagrammed shot on Highway 1.

Meeting place: The Paluca Trattoria inspired the café where the ladies get together

Foodie heaven

The small town of Big Sur is hippy at heart. It’s home to the Esalen Institute (a spiritual healing retreat centre, esalen.org) and abundant in natural beauty, making it a hiker’s paradise. Big Sur has quite the foodie reputation too. Deetjens Inn (deetjens.com) is your go-to for a hearty organic brunch, and locals rave about Nepenthe (nepenthe.com), a clifftop restaurant with unforgettable coastal views.

■ Big Little Lies starts tonight on Sky Atlantic at 9pm, seemonterey.com

Three more to explore

Eat: Post Ranch Inn’s Sierra Mar restaurant (postranchinn.com) is an architectural marvel perched on stilts and jutting out over the Pacific. The fine-dining food is exceptional but the view is the real star.

Do: Hidden down a country road, Pfeiffer State Beach (californiabeaches.com) is worth the diversion to see its spectacular pink sand (primarily comprised of garnet).

Stay: Be at one with nature and sleep among the redwoods at Ventana Big Sur’s newly opened glamping tents (from £476pn, ventanabigsur.com).

Originally featured in the June 10 paper.