When most divers think about diving the Monterey area, they think about the protected sites within the Monterey and Carmel Bays. There are very good reasons for this, since both novice and advanced divers can find plenty to love at these easy, to very easy, dive sites. However, when the wind dies and the seas turn to glass, it is time to look beyond the commonplace to sites outside of the bays.

One of my favorite “out of the bay” sites is Local’s Ledge. This site sits between Monterey and Carmel Bays and is off the Cypress Point Golf Course. A thick layer of bull and giant kelp covers the shallow, inshore area, which is often too surgy for a comfortable dive. However, just seaward of the kelp bed is one of the best sites in all of Monterey.

Running parallel to shore are a series of steep-sided ridges. The tops of these ridges vary between 10 to 40 feet, and the bottoms vary between 70 to 90 feet deep. Between the ridges and on the seaward of the site is a sand bottom. The ridges form a series of vertical walls and box canyons. In some places the rock walls are so close together that they are difficult to swim between, and in at least one place they form an arch large enough to swim through. Clear, Pacific currents bathe the site and allow for better-than-average visibility, and the canyons offer protection from moderate surge.

The rock walls are dotted with huge Tealia and Medridium anemones, along with pink and purple hydrocoral. In between the larger invertebrates are a thick layer of encrusting sponges and Corynactis anemones. The vibrant colors completely cover the walls and are overwhelming.

There is also plenty of fish life here. Schools of blue rockfish may be found just outside of the thick kelp, and there are lingcod, cabezon, sculpins and gobies hiding among all the invertebrates. This is a great place to photograph fish and to fish watch. I am always fascinated to sit back and watch how each fish hunts. Cabezon and lingcod sit patently for a fish or squid or octopus to wander by. Gobies dart nervously from spot to spot picking off tiny invertebrates. Some rockfish slowly wander the reef stalking their prey.

Shearwater TERN

I have never seen so many and so many different kinds of nudibranchs is one place. Horned nudibranchs by the score, two species of dendronotids, Spanish shawls, Phidianas, and numerous species of white, yellow and orange dorids.

Harbor seals haul out in large numbers at nearby Fan Shell Beach and occasionally take the time to visit divers. Seals have an intelligence and sense of play that makes any in-water encounter with them enjoyable. Sea otters forage in the shallow water and are often seen napping in the thick, inshore kelp but rarely come out to the deeper reefs.

Like most of the “out of the bay” sites you cannot dive Local’s Ledge every day of the year. When Mother Nature cooperates, you will find more plentiful and more colorful marine life here with better-than-average visibility.

Dive Spot At A Glance
: Just south of Cypress Point and Offshore of the Cypress Point Golf Course.
Access and Entry: This site is accessible by boat only. Boats may be launched from The Monterey Harbor, Stillwater Cove or Point Lobos. Anchor offshore and south of the large wash rock with the small wash rock on its south side. There is a large stone house and a little brick house along the little cove inshore of the anchorage.
Visibility: Very Good, 30-50 feet
Depths: 20-90 feet
Photography: Great macro for nudibranchs, tunicates and small fish. Great wide-angle for kelp and reef scenes.
Hunting: Permitted, but there are not many game fish left in the Monterey Area
Hazards: Watch for big waves and swell, boat traffic, and long-shore currents

Shearwater TERN