Monterey California – The perfect blending of Old and New California on the Bay

Monterey California Fisherman's Wharf

Monterey California

Monterey California is a bit of a challenge to write about, simply because there are so many wonderful things to tell. Where do you start?

History? The sights? The attractions – like the Monterey Bay Aquarium? The outstanding food and wine? The great lodging and accommodations? The cultural events and museums? Opportunities for wildlife viewing? Recreation like golf, sailing, kayaking, biking or hiking?

Let’s just start with a “welcome” and we’ll go from there…

Monterey California welcome sign

Monterey California Quick Facts:

  • County: Monterey
  • Population: 27,810 (2010)
  • Elevation: 26 ft.
  • Coordinates: 36.6047N, 121.8949W (Artillery St. and Lighthouse Ave.)
  • Zip Code: 93940-93944
  • Area Code: 831
  • Founded: June 3, 1770 by Father Junipero Serra and Don Gaspar de Portola
  • City Government: Incorporated
  • Piers: 3:

Monterey may well be one of the perfect destinations in California. For a small town (population 27,810), it has just about everything someone might want for any of the following types of visits:

  • Family vacation
  • Weekend Getaway
  • Romantic Getaway
  • Day Trip or,
  • Low cost trip

We’ve listed Monterey here as a beach city and it is indeed that. It is located on the water, but in a way unique among the other Central California beach cities, the focus of Monterey California is on the bay rather than the beaches themselves.

That focus is reflected in the commercial fishing that has always been important here.

And nowhere is the importance of the bay better shown than at Monterey’s premier attraction…

The Monterey Bay Aquarium

Monterey Bay Aquarium sardine display

The most famous attraction in Monterey is without a doubt the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

The displays are fabulous and are able to captivate anyone of any age. The aquarium staff has done an amazing job of exhibiting the world of sea life in such a way that everyone is fascinated and enriched.

If there is one thing in Monterey that is a don’t miss, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is it.

I have some information about Monterey Bay Aquarium tickets and Monterey Bay Aquarium discounts and packages on this page.

Monterey California History

San Carlos Cathedral aka the Royal Presidio Chapel

The Monterey California area has a long history and pre-history of habitation. Native tribes lived here and along the coast harvesting the riches of the sea and land.

The Spanish first came by the coast here in the sixteenth century, but it wasn’t until 1770 that they colonized the area.

The picture to the right isn’t of the mission, since that is just over the hill in Carmel-by-the-sea. Father Junipero Serra did first establish a mission in Monterey proper, but moved it the next year to Carmel to put some distance between the natives and the soldiers in Monterey.

The San Carlos Cathedral is the church of the bishop of Monterey and is the oldest stone building in California.

Cannery Row and Steinbeck Sites

“Amen I say to you that no prophet is accepted in his own country.” Luke 4:24

Not that John Steinbeck was a prophet but the above quote can be applicable to living writers especially when they write about their hometowns. Things change however after their death, when the tourists start to arrive.

Monterey Cannery Row

John Steinbeck was born and raised in nearby Salinas where there is now the National Steinbeck Center. That is a great place to visit and will be the subject of another page. Steinbeck spent much of his early writing years in Monterey and Pacific Grove and masterfully caught the feel of the Monterey Peninsula and all its quirky characters.

Tortilla Flat, Sweet Thursday and especially Cannery Row have engaged the imaginations of generations of readers and brought them to Monterey to seek out the places of which Steinbeck wrote.

You might not see Mack or Whitey or Doc on Cannery Row today, but there are still lots of characters there.

You’ll also find a wide variety of shopping opportunities here from tacky souvenirs to fine art collectibles.

Tortilla Flat

There are three or four areas in the hilly section of Monterey that have been identified as the “Tortilla Flat” of which Steinbeck wrote.

Since there is ambiguity, there is no street or area named for the novel, nor is there any tourist attraction.

Restaurants in Monterey

There are many great restaurants in Monterey and while we haven’t tried them all, do have some favorites.

One of our all-time, anywhere, best, all-around favorite restaurants is the John Pisto’s Whaling Station Inn, just a block up from Cannery Row at 763 Wave Street. Phone: (831) 373-3778.

The best, freshest ingredients; masterful combinations of flavor and there is nothing on the menu that isn’t memorable.

One of the amazing dishes that we have had here was the salad. Yes, a simple iceberg lettuce, tomato and roquefort cheese salad. Incredibly fresh, and tasting like the first day of creation.

Now, if you can make magic with simple ingredients like that, just imagine what Pisto can do with other things.

You won’t be disappointed.

Hotels in Monterey California

There are lots of hotels and B&B’s in Monterey and an easy way to search for a great deal on hotels is at this link where you search 100+ sites at once: Hotels in Monterey, CA, United States

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