Today, Monterey is a city of old adobe houses, gardens that bloom year-round, white and blue boats in the harbor, a brightly colored fisherman’s wharf and modern lifestyles of the 21st century. Monterey has a lot to offer visitors and permanent residents.
In Monterey, the old houses are connected in a “Path of History.” Many of these houses are open to the public. Among them is the Custom House where the United States flag was first raised by Commodore John Drake Sloat in July 1846.
The historic Colton Hall played a great role in early California. In 1849, it housed the Constitutional Convention when California, as the first Pacific coast state, was admitted to the Union and where the California constitution was written. By Colton Hall is Friendly Plaza, and nearby is a memory garden. The Stevenson House and the California First Theater, both state monuments, also have gardens around them.
Best loved is Memory Garden in the patio of the Pacific Building, where every year in June Monterey residents celebrate the Merienda, a birthday party for the city. Anyone who has read John Steinbeck’s “Cannery Row” and “Sweet Thursday” can follow many of the stories in Monterey’s Cannery Row. The canneries are closed now, but the spirit of the past lingers. Today it’s a popular tourist area that includes the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, galleries, shops, wine tasting rooms, a factory outlet center, specialty stores, restaurants, hotels and inns.
Fisherman’s Wharf is a picturesque spot for tourists and artists. It is the colorful home of both fishing and pleasure boats. The wharf is lined with souvenir shops and excellent seafood restaurants. It’s quite an experience to enjoy a seafood plate while a live sea otter stares at you from the bay. Commercial boats provide deep-sea fishing and excursions along the coast. The list of interesting places in Monterey is long. Try to see them all while stationed here. A good starting point is the Custom House at the foot of Wharf No. 1, the place where California began.
Situated on rolling hills with an elevation from 4 to 400 feet, Seaside is known as the “sunny spot” on the peninsula. Due to its hilly and tree-free terrain, it offers striking views of Monterey Bay and the Peninsula skyline.
It is the most populous city in the bay area and has two lakes within its limits at Canyon del Rey Boulevard and Hilby Avenue. Laguna Grande Regional Park is a 60-acre restored wetlands area with a beautiful 12-acre lake. The park offers a 1-mile bicycle path that circles the lake, a multipurpose athletic field, volleyball courts, public restrooms, a playground and picnic area, a nature trail and a bird-watching area.
Seaside’s City Hall was designed by Edward Durrell Stone, a world-famous architect.
The city is probably best known for the thousands of monarch butterflies that migrate here each winter, giving the town its unofficial title, Butterfly Town, U.S.A. Each year the butterflies migrate from Canada and Washington state to their favorite trees in Pacific Grove. They arrive in late October and leave in March.
California Methodists, who established a conference center there, founded Pacific Grove in 1875. It is a residential, incorporated community with a population of about 16,000.
This city is also home to many beautiful Victorian homes, most dating to the town’s start as a Methodist retreat in the 1880s. A stroll through neighborhoods in the downtown area reveals early homes displaying plaques engraved with the names of original owners and construction dates.
Pacific Grove’s municipal flower beds along the water’s edge are world-famous and favorites for photographers.
The Museum of Natural History has unusual and interesting exhibits of butterflies, marine and bird life, plants, shells, Indian artifacts and historical displays. Scientists from around the world come to study the marine life on the Pacific Grove beaches. The Hopkins Marine Laboratories of Stanford University are there, as is the Hopkins Marine Life Refuge, a 2-mile stretch of beach extending outward to a depth of 60 feet.
Incorporated in 1975, Marina is the youngest of the Monterey Peninsula’s cities. Situated in a coastal area with gently rolling hills, it is home to a unique state beach and beautiful parks and recreational facilities.
Marina Dunes State Beach is known for having one of the best hang gliding schools in the United States. The Marina Hang Gliding Championships are held every year, and pilots from across California vie for top honors at the three-day event.
The beach also offers a breathtaking view of the Monterey Bay. It is ideal for picnicking, hiking, fishing and sunbathing. Situated between Marina and Seaside on the former Fort Ord is the California State University at Monterey Bay, the newest university in the California state system.
Early settlers built the Halfway House beside the stage road from San Juan Bautista and Monterey in 1856. It was a resting place for travelers in need of shelter and supplies. This later became the city of Salinas.
The community grew and prospered. In 1974, the city was incorporated as a charter city. The name Salinas, meaning salt marshes, was derived from the nearby river. Salinas’ crossroads location has assured its role as the commercial and agricultural center of the three-county area. Agriculture is the prime economic mover in Salinas.
The geography of the area has been the principal influence on the economic development of the city, sustained by the agricultural production of the rich valley farm lands and bolstered by excellent grazing land in the foothills of the mountain ranges on each side of the valley.
Salinas is the county seat for Monterey County and is known as the Salad Bowl of the Nation. The fertile Salinas Valley produces enormous quantities of fruits and vegetables annually.
The celebrated American novelist John Steinbeck, who won a 1940 Pulitzer Prize for the “Grapes of Wrath” and was the 1963 Nobel Prize recipient for literature, was born in Salinas. Much of his inspiration came from his youth spent in Salinas and on the Monterey Peninsula.
Salinas is also the home of the California Rodeo, the state championship, held each July.
With its winding, tree-lined streets, more than 50 inns, 60 restaurants and hundreds of unique boutiques and shops, Carmel is often likened to a quaint European village. Carmel lies on the oak- and pine-covered sand dunes of Carmel Bay. Its perfect white-sand beach is edged by the picturesque cypress trees for which it is world-famous.
Carmel’s beautiful beach is open to visitors and residents alike. Although treacherous tides make swimming dangerous, the beach is incomparable for sunbathing and picnicking. The city is known for its charming shops, most of which are small and specialize in one type of merchandise. You can find candles and brassware as well as imported foods and golfing apparel. Within the business district are many secluded, charming shopping courts. There is a large community of artists and craftspeople living and working in Carmel. Many of their works can be seen in the art galleries and studios of the city.
The community supports many excellent musical events, including concerts by a local symphony orchestra and the annual Carmel Bach Festival held in July at the Sunset Center. Outdoor music, dance and theatrical performances are held at Forest Theater, and there is an annual series of dance programs at the Sunset Center.
The Carmel Mission Basilica and Museum, on Rio Road off Highway 1, was the second of California’s historical missions. Built in 1771, it is one of two basilicas on the West Coast today.
Pebble Beach is synonymous with golf, and many of the courses here are world-class, star-studded, just-this-side-of-heaven links.
The most famous of the courses, the Pebble Beach Golf Links, is owned by the Pebble Beach Company and is host to the famous AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am (formerly the Bing Crosby Pro-Am). This tournament is held annually at the end of January or beginning of February. It pairs the best from the Professional Golf Association Tour with the brightest celebrities spread over three courses for four days of fun and spectacular vistas.
One of California’s most familiar and most photographed landmarks is to be found on a rock jutting into the Pacific Ocean — The Lone Cypress. It is the copyrighted symbol of the Pebble Beach Company. The remarkable old cypress is silhouetted against the Pacific as it clings to a seemingly bare rock. The Lone Cypress has inspired artists and sightseers alike for decades.
Entry to 17-Mile Drive, one of the best-known scenic roadways in the world, is usually made from Pacific Grove or from the gate at Highway 1. It leads through one of the most beautiful coastal areas of California.
The scenery changes from low, white sand dunes to forests of Monterey cypress trees, all gnarled and twisted and covered with moss.
Sights include the bird rocks and seal rocks from the road and, occasionally, spouting whales. The land along 17-Mile Drive, known locally as the Del Monte Forest, contains some of the most beautiful homes on the peninsula.
Park rangers at the entry gates can provide maps and information. Pebble Beach is privately owned, and there is a charge for entry.
Big Sur and Point Lobos
Two miles south of the mouth of Carmel Valley, you’ll see the Carmelite Monastery with its spires and red-topped roofs. On the other side of the road is Monastery Bay, once a Japanese abalone fishing spot.
After another mile or so is Point Lobos State Natural Preserve, one of California’s most beautiful and interesting spots. You’ll see wind-bent trees and brown pelicans. This dramatic headland rising above the sea is a favorite with artists and photographers.
Point Lobos is unique — it is an outdoor museum with no overnight camping facilities. It has the last stand of primitive Monterey cypress, which some people say were brought centuries ago from Japan and planted here by Buddhist monks.
Farther to the south, the road flanks Los Padres National Forest, a vast recreation area, followed by Notleys Landing. Once a thriving shipping port and village, it was famous for tanbark, smuggling and rum running.
On the Big Sur River, 34 miles from Monterey, is the Pfeiffer Redwoods State Park, a 740-acre redwood grove containing giant trees up to 1,000 years old and more than 240-feet high. The park abounds with wildlife, even Russian wild boar and the American condor. The park contains some of the most rugged and least-explored mountains in America. It also contains the only natural forest beach in California where sightings of rare southern sea otters are possible.
Thirty-seven miles south of Monterey is scenic Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, which has camping facilities and picnic grounds, a restaurant, cabins and a lodge. There are also accommodations adjacent to the park. During the tourist season (June through Labor Day) accommodations are often fully booked, so reservations are encouraged.