A Day In Monterey

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A Day In Monterey

Monterey California: San Carlos Beach, Cannery Row,
Ocean Boulevard and Old Fisherman’s Wharf

The City of Monterey is at the southern end of Monterey Bay along the northern end of California’s Central Coast. It is 120 miles south of San Francisco. It is a historic city.

Native Rumsien people lived on the shores of Monterey Bay thousands of years before the first Euro-American, Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo, sighted the bay in 1542 and Sebastián Vizcaino became the first Euro-American to set foot on shore in 1602. A Presido was established in 1770. Monterey was the capital of Alta California under Spanish and Mexican rule. After the Mexican-American War ended in 1848, when Alta California became American territory, Monterey hosted California’s first constitutional convention in 1849 in Colton Hall (now a museum). In 1850, California became the thirty-first U.S. state with its capital at San Jose. The capital was moved a couple of times until Sacramento, the current capital, was chosen in 1854.

Monterey was famous for its fishing until the industry collapsed in the 1950s due to overfishing. The city also has a history as a centre for California artists, and many well-known authors have lived in the area. Today, there is enough for a visitor to see and do to keep one occupied for days. We, however, only had one day to experience some of the highlights of this relaxed, maritime city.

San Carlos Beach Park

A Day In Monterey: San Carlos Beach

San Carlos Beach is located at the west end of Cannery Row next to Coast Guard Pier. It is known for scuba diving. The walk along the pier provided a great opportunity to take in views of the bay and see marine life. We passed a few fishermen along the pier. I asked one what he caught and he said mostly rock cod and perch.

A Day In Monterey: Sea Lions
Sea lions along the pier
A Day in Monterery: Coast Guard rescue vessel
This 47-foot Coast Guard Motor Lifeboat provides first response in high seas, surf and heavy weather conditions. It is self-bailing, self-righting (when overturned will upright itself in under 8 seconds), and almost unsinkable. It has a crew of 4.

Cannery Row

A Day in Monterey: Cannery Row

Cannery Row is a waterfront street in Monterey which was once home to sardine-canning factories. Today, it attracts tourists to its hotels, restaurants, bars, boutiques, wine tasting, and a few quirkier attractions. A boardwalk offers views of Monterey Bay, home to a large marine sanctuary. Giant kelp beyond the waves creates a lush environment for marine life. Sign boards posted along the walkway provided us with information about the sanctuary and the bay’s marine life.

There is a lot of history along Cannery Row. The first fish cannery was built in 1908. World War I brought a spike in demand for canned sardines and the canneries expanded rapidly. The sardines disappeared from Monterey Bay after World War II. The industry collapsed and the area went into decline. It experienced a rebirth starting in the late 1960s.

A Day In Monterey: John Steinbck Statue
Statue of John Steinbeck

Author John Steinbeck lived in Pacific Grove next to Cannery Row in the 1930s. The area became inspiration for his writing, including the novel Cannery Row, published in 1945. As we walked through the area, we came across self-guided audio tour signs identifying a phone number to call for a recorded information message about the spot or building. One such sign was on a fence post in front of Pacific Biological Laboratories.

A Day In onterey: Pacific Biological Laboratories

PBL was a biological supply house which sold preserved animals and prepared specimen microscope slides. Its founder was Ed Ricketts, a friend of John Steinbeck and the model for the character Doc in Cannery Row. PBL was fictionalized in the book as Western Biological Laboratory.

Monterey Aquarium, perhaps the most popular attraction in Monterey, is at the end of Cannery Row. We opted to bypass the world-class aquarium on this visit, knowing we’d want to spend several hours there and that would shorten the time left to get a sense of the rest of the city. It remains on the list for future visits.

A Day in Monterey: Cannery Row Monument
Cannery Row Monument pays homage to some of Monterey’s most historical and notable characters. (John Steinbeck sits at the top.)

Ocean Boulevard

A Day in Monterey: scenic drive

Another popular Monterey attraction which we bypassed this visit is 17 Mile Drive. 17 Mile Drive is a private roadway (fee required to drive it) which winds through rugged coastline, forest, posh estates and the Pebble Beach Golf Course. There are a number of spots along the way worth stopping at. I’d read we should allow at least two hours to properly see and experience the drive. Since we had limited time and were most interested in seeing the coastline, we opted instead to drive northeast from Cannery Row into Pacific Grove on Ocean Boulevard and Sunset Drive.

A Day in Monterey: Lovers Point Park

Lovers Point Park beach has been popular with swimmers and boaters since the 1800s. Todays, it also attracts surfers because of its reliable waves. The park is a great place to picnic and take in spectacular scenery.

A Day in Monterey: Asilomar Beach
Asilomar Beach

Asilomar State Beach is a popular spot for nature walks, surfing, kayaking and kite flying. The quarter-mile boardwalk was originally designed in 1913 by famed architect Julia Morgan, the architect who designed Hearst Castle.

Old Fisherman’s Wharf

A Day in Monterey: Old Fisherman's Wharf

We ended our day with a stroll and dinner at Old Fisherman’s Wharf. Monterey Harbor has been used as a port for trade since the late 1700s. In 1845, Thomas Larkin constructed a wharf for regular passenger and freight service. In 1916, the City purchased the Wharf and began to expand it. Today, you’ll find restaurants, shops, galleries, tackle and bait shops, fishing and cruise boats, and a theatre. We admired the view as the sun set, browsed the shops, and smelled the sea air. Many restaurants had sample tables out front, offering small cups of clam chowder, each claiming to be the best. We could easily have filled up on the clam chowder samples, but passed on a few to save room for dinner in one of the Wharf’s restaurants.

A Day In Monterey; Old Fisherman's Wharf

A Day in Monterey: Custom House
Custom House

Across the street from the Wharf is Custom House, the oldest government building in California. From 1822 through 1846, when Monterey was the primary point of entry for goods into Alta California, cargo was brought ashore and assessed here. Beyond Custom House is Monterey State Historic Park, a collection of 55 historic houses and buildings interspersed through old Monterey.

A Day in Monterey: Monterey Coastal Recreational Trail
Monterey Coastal Recreational Trail

Monterey is compact and laid-back, inviting one to explore at a leisurely pace. There is much I did not see on my one day tour and would add to a future itinerary (including a number of museums), but I think I would also return to the spots I did visit.

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A day in Monterey, California: San Carlos Beach, Cannery Row, Ocean Boulevard, Old Fisherman's Wharf

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  1. We enjoyed Monterey too on our recent soutwest trip and were sorry we only had one day as it turned out to be not enough! We did do 17-mile drive and drove up to Bixby Bridge too, a very quick stop at Carmel too, had dinner at Fisherman’s Wharf and a little stroll. Hope to return one day, a lot more exploring to do in the region!

  2. Oh, man, Donna. I love coastal California and all the great places there are to visit. Somehow, I think we missed Monterey when we last drove down the coast. I’d love to visit and explore some of the sites you have shared with us. thx for the great post!

    1. Doreen, I hadn’t realized how much there was to do and see in coastal California until our trip this spring. Impossible to see and do it all in just one trip.

  3. Love Monterey and even better if you happen to be there on a rare sunny day. It’s fun to just walk around and be along the coastline or even in some of the busy tourist spots since everything there is so scenic.

  4. I’ve been to Monterey but have never experienced the lovely weather you had. That bit about over-fishing, at least the Sardines part, is only partially true. It’s been discovered that Sardines and Anchovies trade cycles – one rises as another declines. The sea lions love it but it’s hard for business. Just saying…

    1. Elaine, I didn’t know that about the sardines and anchovies cycles. Very interesting. I can see how it would make things hard for business.

    1. Carole, I would like to visit the adobes on a next visit. I’m sure I’d find them as fascinating as you did.

  5. Monterey was one of my favorite day trip destinations when I lived in Silicon Valley. I was fortunate to stay in a guest house on 17 Mile Drive a couple of times; such a gorgeous coastline! Happily, I’m planning a trip to the California coast in December and you’ve reminded me of stops I need to make.

    1. Julie, I can understand how Monterey would be a favourite day trip if one lived close enough for that to be the case.

  6. I was there several years ago, but my time was limited so I didn’t get to see all that you’ve been able to show here. So I am doubly appreciative of the tour!

  7. I haven’t been to Monterey for years but it will be at the top of my list when we re-visit coastal California. I love your photo of the sea lions and I know I wouldn’t have passed up a chance to sample one of my favorite soups, clam chowder. Mmmm! Sounds like your day was packed full, Donna, and that you’ll have to set aside more time for a future visit – something to look forward to! Anita

  8. Hi Donna, Monterrey is such a great place to visit. One of my favorites for sure. Between Monterrey and neighboring Carmel and Big Sur so close by, one could easily spend several days just in this area. Great place to relax and take in scenery and enjoy nature. The sea otters have to be one of the cutest things ever. 🙂

  9. This brings back memories! Trips down the coast from San Francisco to Monterey. The aquarium and the 17 mile drive are definitely worth doing. Really you should spend a week, and include nearby Carmel.

    1. Rachel, one could easily spend a week in the area. We did go through Carmel, but only had time to explore for a couple of hours.

  10. I am heading to California in 2017 and would love to see some of what you experienced. I particularly enjoyed reading about Cannery Row. Excellent piece!!

  11. Your post reminded me how beautiful the Central Coast of California is. I’d love to go back and revisit Monterey. I think I’ve been there at least 15-20 times so far, but every time a read about it or see some pictures, I want to go back. It seems you had a lovely time there too. Beautiful pics!