When Big Little Lies creator David E. Kelly was searching for a location to shoot his Emmy Award winning HBO show, he gravitated to the Monterey Peninsula.
“It just has a hypnotic beauty,” Kelly told Vogue. “Aesthetically, we were looking to draw the audience in and have them say, ‘I want to go there on vacation.'”
While the book takes place in a fictional seaside suburb just north of Sydney, Australia, the mini series adapts Monterey as its hometown. Scenes from Season 1 are shot across Big Sur, Carmel Highlands, Pacific Grove and Monterey, with filming for Season 2 currently in progress.
“When I’m overwhelmed or in a bad mood, I turn around and look at the Monterey Bay scenery and it sort of just melts away,” says show location manager Greg Alpert.
Additional locations have been kept private, but when the movie stars aren’t shooting, they’ve been known to spend their down time at Pebble Beach:
Season 2 will air in 2019, with Meryl Streep bolstering the star-power of the decorated cast.
Want to “go there on vacation” and then relive show? Here’s how:
BIXBY BRIDGE (BIG SUR)
It’s amusing to locals every time one of the show’s stars hops into a car. That cross-town trip always includes a drive over Big Sur’s beautiful Bixby Bridge, which is a good half hour south of Carmel. (The show also redraws the map with work commutes, sending its stars nearly 100 miles north through temper-testing traffic in Silicon Valley.) Aside from the creative licence exercised, cruising down the Pacific Coast Highway to Big Sur is an iconic experience you should save time for on any trip to the Monterey Peninsula.
GARRAPATA STATE BEACH (BIG SUR)
You know the wave that dramatically crashes into a giant rock just off the coast throughout every episode? That rock is along this coastline. Garrapata State Beach is a spectacular spot to stop for a hike, run or picnic. While you’re in Big Sur, you can also hunt for the purple sands of Pfeiffer Beach and take a where-is-that!?! selfie in front of the aqua McWay Falls shortly after emerging from a trail of towering redwoods.
Where exactly are those glamorous mansions towering over the Pacific Ocean that Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern enjoy? Only Kidman’s is here, in Carmel Highlands. The others are located in Malibu, while Shailene Woodley’s modest one-bedroom home is in Pasadena. But if you want to see mansions on the market for as much as $50 million, you can spot them along 17-Mile Drive in Pebble Beach.
POINT LOBOS STATE PARK (CARMEL)
Shailene Woodley’s character Jane blows off steam with runs near this popular state park, which features a captivating 7-mile loop through cypress trees and dramatic coastline. The rare and distinct Monterey Cypress grow natively in just two locations around the world: here and across Carmel Bay at Cypress Point in Pebble Beach, where you can also see the world-famous Lone Cypress.
FISHERMAN’S WHARF (MONTEREY)
#BREAKING ✨ It’s time to return to Monterey ✨ Big Little Lies is officially returning for a season two! It was exciting to see Monterey as a setting for @HBO’s Emmy-winning hit series. Scenes were shot at this Old Fisherman’s Wharf location (pictured), Colton Hall and City Hall, Del Monte Beach and more. Swipe to see stars @reesewitherspoon @nicolekidman and @shailenewoodley’s characters hanging out at the wharf and harbor. Check out the story at twitter.com/cityofmonterey 📸: @espxc & HBO
Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Shailene Woodley gossiped over daily coffee at the fictional Tom’s cafe, which is actually an Italian restaurant called Paluca Trattoria. Fun fact: legions of Big Little Lies fans descended on the restaurant to sip like the stars once they found out the true location of Tom’s cafe, forcing owner Sal Tedesco to invest in a proper espresso machine to please his new customers.
MONTEREY BAY AQUARIUM
Before little Ziggy was captivated by the mesmerizing Open Sea exhibit, the Monterey Bay Aquarium was the muse for the aquarium featured in Finding Dory. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is a world-class experience showcasing playful sea otters, ominous sharks, fluorescent jellies and rotating special exhibits that is a must-stop for any visiting family. In the mood for more wildlife watching? You can catch deer grazing on golf courses, soak in the vibrant scene at Bird Rock and spot whales in Pebble Beach.
DEL MONTE BEACH (MONTEREY)
Some of Shailene Woodley’s more anguished runs take place on Del Monte Beach, a crescent-shaped strand that immediately catches your attention when you first drive into the Monterey Peninsula. On the weekends, the sand dunes above this beach are usually patrolled by hang gliders. Del Monte Beach also offers a great look into Fisherman’s Wharf, and is a convenient launching point for kayak trips around the bay. You can also kayak through the aptly named Stillwater Cove in Pebble Beach.
LOVER’S POINT (PACIFIC GROVE)
In Season 1, Lover’s Point is the scene of a bit of a lover’s quarrel, as the first and second husbands of Reese Witherspoon’s character engage in some chest-puffing threats. But the vibes are usually much more romantic at Lover’s Point, an east-facing tip of the Monterey Bay where you can see the rare West Coast ocean sunrise. To find the best sunsets, head to 17-Mile Drive in Pebble Beach.