Monterey (Spanish: Monterrey; Ohlone: Aacistak is a city located in Monterey County on the southern edge of Monterey Bay on California’s Central Coast. Founded on June 3, 1770, it was the capital of Alta California under both Spain and Mexico. During this period, Monterey hosted California’s first theater, public building, public library, publicly funded school, printing press, and newspaper. It was originally the only port of entry for all taxable goods in California. In 1846 during the Mexican–American War, the United States flag was raised over the Customs House. After California was ceded to the U.S. after the war, Monterey hosted California’s first constitutional convention in 1849.
The city occupies a land area of 8.466 sq mi (21.93 km2) and the city hall is at 26 feet (8 m) above sea level. The 2010 census recorded a population of 27,810.
Monterey and surrounding area have attracted artists since the late 19th century and many celebrated painters and writers have lived there. Until the 1950s, there was an abundant fishery. Among Monterey’s present-day attractions are the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Cannery Row, Fisherman’s Wharf, California Roots Music and Arts Festival, and the annual Monterey Jazz Festival.
Monterey is well known for the abundance and diversity of its marine life, which includes sea lions, sea otters, harbor seals, bat rays, kelp forests, pelicans and dolphins and several species of whales. Only a few miles offshore is the Monterey Canyon, the largest and deepest (3.2 km) underwater canyon off the Pacific coast of North America, which grants scientists access to the deep sea within hours. The cornucopia of marine life makes Monterey a popular destination for scuba divers of all abilities ranging from novice to expert. Scuba classes are held at San Carlos State Beach, which has been a favorite with divers since the 1960s. The Monterey Bay Aquarium on Cannery Row is one of the largest aquariums in North America, and several marine science laboratories, including Hopkins Marine Station are located in the area.
Monterey’s historic Fisherman’s Wharf was constructed in 1845, reconstructed in 1870 and is now a commercial shopping and restaurant district with several whale watching entities operating at the end of its pier.
Monterey is home to several museums and more than thirty carefully preserved historic buildings. Most of these buildings are adobes built in the mid-1800s. Some are museums and open to the public, including the Cooper Molera Adobe, Robert Louis Stevenson House, Casa Serrano, The Perry House, The Customs House, Colton Hall, Mayo Hayes O’Donnell Library and The First Brick House.
Many others are only open during Monterey’s annual adobe tour. The Monterey Museum of Art specializes in Early California Impressionist painting, photography, and contemporary art. Other youth-oriented art attractions include MY Museum, a children’s museum, and YAC, an arts organization for teens.
What may be the only whalebone sidewalk still in existence in the United States lies in front of the Old Whaling Station.
Cannery Row is an historic industrial district west of downtown Monterey. Several companies operated large sardine canneries and packing houses from the 1920s until the 1950s when the sardines were overfished and the industry collapsed. The neighborhood was largely empty from the 1950s until the late 1980s when the Monterey Bay Aquarium bought the former Hovden Cannery and built their cannery around it. The Aquarium revitalized the neighborhood and it is now the number one tourist destination on the Monterey Peninsula. Several of the canneries burnt down in the 1970s and some of their empty foundations are still visible along the oceanfront. A free shuttle transports visitors between downtown Monterey and the Aquarium.
Once called Ocean View Boulevard, Cannery Row street was renamed in 1953 in honor of writer John Steinbeck, who had written a well-known novel of the same name. It has now become a tourist attraction with numerous establishments located in former cannery buildings, including Cannery Row Antique Mall which is located in the most historically intact cannery building open to the public. Other historical buildings in this district include Wing Chong Market, The American Tin Cannery which is a shopping mall, Doc Rickett’s lab, next door to the aquarium and only open to the public a few times a year, and some of the water tanks written about by Steinbeck. A few privately owned and operated fishing companies still exist on Cannery Row, housed on piers located a short distance from the historic district frequented by tourists. Cannery Row is now considered the historic cannery district from Foam St. to the ocean.
Lake El Estero is a popular Monterey park. Recreation opportunities include paddle boats, the Dennis the Menace Park (named after the comics character Dennis the Menace), and a skate park designed by local skaters. Birders are especially fond of this park due to its easy accessibility and the diversity of bird life it attracts.
Other attractions within easy reach of Monterey include:
- 17 Mile Drive
- Big Sur Coastline
- Carmel Valley Village, California
- National Steinbeck Center
- Sea Otter Classic
Mike Aldrete, major league baseball player (1986–96); coach, St. Louis Cardinals
Gina Aliotti, IFBB professional figure champion
John Whitby Allen, model railroader
Paul Anka, singer, songwriter
Bruce Ariss, artist
Jean Arthur, actress
Art Bell, resident in the 1970s
Tory Belleci, MythBusters presenter
Josh Billings (pen name of Henry Wheeler Shaw), second most famous humorist (after Mark Twain) of the mid-to-late 19th century; died at Monterey
Lisa Bruce, film producer
Beverly Cleary, author
Claude Crabb pro football player 1962 – 1968
Nick Cunningham, Team USA bobsledder; 2010-2014 Winter Olympian (2-Man & 4-Man)
Peter J. Cutino, educator and head coach of University of California, Berkeley, water polo program
Salvador Dali, artist; had a studio in the 1920s on the present-day Santa Catalina School grounds
Doris Day, actress, singer.
Olin Dutra, 1934 U.S. Open golf champion
Clint Eastwood, film actor, Oscar-winning director, and producer
Darcie Edgemon, children’s author
Herman Edwards, NFL player for Philadelphia Eagles (1977–1986); head coach with New York Jets (2001–2005) and Kansas City Chiefs (2006–2009); TV commentator
Abe Espinosa, professional golfer, winner of Western Open
Joan Fontaine, Oscar-winning actress, Rebecca, Suspicion
Byington Ford, prominent Monterey Peninsula real estate developer
John W. Frost, professional tennis player
Percy Gray, artist, early California impressionist
Harry Ashland Greene, businessman and philanthropist
Richard Hamming, mathematician whose work influenced computer science and telecommunications
Lou Henry Hoover (1874–1944), wife of U.S. President Herbert Hoover; First Lady of the United States, 1929-33
Pete Incaviglia, major league baseball player (1986–98); manager, Grand Prairie AirHogs (minor league baseball)
Ron Johnson, American football player
Christopher Kasparek, author, translator, physician
Edward Kennedy, journalist
Gary Kildall, founder of Digital Research, designer of the CP/M operating system, and teacher at the Naval Postgraduate School; lived in Pacific Grove and later Pebble Beach
James Lofton, football player for Green Bay Packers, Los Angeles Raiders, Buffalo Bills, Los Angeles Rams, and Philadelphia Eagles; member of Pro Football Hall of Fame
Jack London, author
Katerina Moutsatsou, Greek actress
Michael Nesmith, member of the band The Monkees, songwriter
Kim Novak, actress
Leon Panetta, Congressman (1977–93); White House Chief of Staff (1994–97); Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (2009–2011); Secretary of Defense (2011–2013)
Wayne Rainey, three-time 500 cc Grand Prix champion (1990, 1991, 1992)
Ed Ricketts (1897–1948), marine biologist, pioneer ecologist, influence on John Steinbeck and Joseph Campbell
Moqut Ruffins, American football player
Allison Scagliotti, actress
Charles R. Schwab, businessman
Jean Bruce Scott, actress
Vera Steadman, actress
John Steinbeck, Nobel Prize-winning author of The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men
Robert Louis Stevenson, Scottish author of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Treasure Island; stayed in Monterey, 1879
Jeremy Sumpter, actor
Edward Weston, photographer
Frank Zappa, musician