Detours: Monterey Peninsula

Sharon Apfelbaum Attractions, Hotels & Resorts, Real Estate 0 Comments

The Monterey Peninsula — that mitten of land jutting into the Pacific Ocean — holds Monterey Bay’s perfect crescent on its north end and the compact Carmel Bay on its base. A landscape of ancient forest, picturesque boat harbors, early architecture, and plenty of walk-through California history weaves between those scenic waters.

In his 1835 classic Two Years Before the Mast, Richard Henry Dana called Monterey the “pleasantest and most civilized place in California.” As the state’s first capital, the town is certainly a historical centerpiece with well-preserved Old Spanish and Mexican adobes.


The Path of History walking tour through downtown Monterey presents a modern tourist experience shrouded in history. Start at Custom House Plaza, where buildings cluster around the waterfront near Fisherman’s Wharf and its jumble of gift shops, kiosks, and seafood restaurants.

Built in 1827, the adobe Custom House, California’s oldest building, once served as the state’s only port of entry. The two-story Thomas Larkin House melds elements of New England architecture with the adobe motif to represent a new architectural style: Monterey Colonial.

California’s First Theatre, constructed in the 1840s as a saloon, still stages performances in its adobe wing, adjacent to the original redwood tavern. Monterey’s first Anglo mayor, the Rev. Walter Colton (who also published the area’s first newspaper), built Colton Hall, where California’s Constitutional Convention first met in 1849. After 1850, the Stevenson House adobe expanded to become a boarding house. Robert Louis Stevenson lived here in 1879 while courting his California

Cannery Row ( sardine factories first appeared in the early 20th century. John Steinbeck called it “a poem, a stink, a grating noise” in his 1945 literary classic of the same name. By World War I, Monterey sardines were in demand worldwide. In 1950, the fish abruptly disappeared and most canneries closed. Today, the area’s former bars and brothels live on as shops and restaurants.

The glassed-in, three-story living kelp forest astounds visitors to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Ditto a graphic exhibit re-creating the submerged 60-mile Monterey Canyon, whose upwelling waters support a wealth of marine life. And a walk-through aviary houses birds native to nearby shores and marshlands.


Stay at a classy lodging along 17-Mile Drive — that roadside symphony of primordial nature and palatial homes. Rare, gnarled Monterey cypress trees hug rocky crevices in this stunning coastal landscape.

Luxurious rooms with fireplaces and sea views set the tone at The Lodge at Pebble Beach, built in 1919. In addition to the legendary golf course, tennis club, and equestrian center, guests enjoy privileges at The Inn at Spanish Bay, a newer, beachfront luxury hotel under the same management
as The Lodge at Pebble Beach. Visit both properties online at

Highlands Inn, Park Hyatt Carmel ( is perched above the rocky coastline, offering spectacular ocean views that often include whales and sea otters, as well as amazing sunsets.


For French cuisine with a dash of California and outstanding views, try Fresh Cream (831-375-9798, We also recommend Club XIX at The Lodge at Pebble Beach (831-625-8519), Hog’s Breath Inn (831-625-1044), Isabella’s on the Wharf (831-375-3956), and Monterey’s Fish House (831-373-4647).

For more visitor information, visit GuestLife Monterey Bay

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