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.
Another historic site is Colton Hall, which 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 is 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 Theatre, both state monuments, also have gardens around them.
Best loved is Memory Garden in the patio of the Pacific House 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.
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.
The city’s 23 parks have athletic facilities, sports fields, playgrounds and picnic facilities. Two city parks take advantage of the city’s lakes (Laguna Del Rey and Roberts Lake). The newest park is an eco-recreation station at Robert’s Lake. This station features an outdoor classroom, nature-based play equipment and a rain garden.
Other highlights include Seaside’s City Hall, which was designed by Edward Durrell Stone, a world-famous architect.
The city is probably best known for the thousands of monarch butterflies that migrate there 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.
The 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 Station of Stanford University is 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 State Beach offers a breathtaking view of the Monterey Bay and is known for having one of the best hang gliding schools in the United States. Radio-controlled gliders and kites are also popular at the beach, which winds through the Marina Dunes Natural Preserves.
Situated between Marina and Seaside on the former Fort Ord is the California State University at Monterey Bay, one of the newer universities 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 California Rodeo Salinas, one of the top professional rodeos in the United States and the largest in California.
With its winding, tree-lined streets, and scores of inns, restaurants, and 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. Outdoor music, films, dance and theatrical performances are held at Forest Theater, and the performing arts Sunset Center also hosts world-class performances.
Built in 1771, the Carmel Mission Basilica was the second of California’s historical missions. The basilica is an active parish, but hosts tours of the mission and tells its history through its five museums.
Pebble Beach is synonymous with golf, and many of the courses there are world-class, star-studded, just-this-side-of-heaven links.
The most famous of the courses, the Pebble Beach Golf Links, is considered the No. 1 public course in the country. It has hosted a PGA Tour event since 1947, rolling out its green-carpet fairways for the game’s best golfers, hall-of-fame athletes and Hollywood stars.
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 Co. 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.
Pebble Beach’s 17-Mile Drive is one of the best-known scenic roadways in the world. 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. There is a charge for entry to 17-Mile Drive.
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 Reserve, 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 has the last stand of primitive Monterey cypress, which some people say were brought centuries ago from Japan and planted in Point Lobos 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.
Thirty-seven miles south of Monterey is scenic Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, which has camping facilities and picnic grounds, food service and a lodge. At this park, hikers can walk along the Big Sur River among redwoods, conifers, oaks, sycamores, cottonwoods, maples, alders and willows. Hikers will enjoy a variety of scenic trails, including a self-guided nature trail. Parkgoers may also spot wildlife during their stay, including bobcats, black-tail deer, gray squirrels, raccoons, skunks and birds, such as dippers and belted kingfishers.