A peaceful town with lots to do
If you're looking to get away from Orange County's hustle and bustle but stay near the ocean, Monterey is the perfect place! With approximately 28,000 people living in the town of Monterey, it's a very peaceful town that has all the comforts with great restaurants, grocery stores, and hotels. Monterey is also one of the best places in the world to whale watch and the best in California. Monterey Bay is one of the best places to see killer whales along the West Coast, with year-round sightings but the most sightings occur April-May. The best odds of seeing these animals is with Monterey Bay Whale Watch. While around town, you'll want to take a walk along Fisherman's Wharf and Cannery Row. Also, check out Lovers Point Park which offers great views of the bay, from there, take a peaceful walk down the coastal trail towards Hopkins Marine Station where you are likely to see a colony of harbor seals.
Not only is Monterey a great weekend destination but there are many other stops along the way which are great to stop at depending on which route you take. There are three main routes to Monterey from Orange County:
Interstate 5: the fastest/most straight but most boring = 6ish hours
U.S Route 101: beautiful drive with hills and history = 6.5 hours
Highway 1: the most beautiful/scenic but longest = 8 hours