Robert Louis Stevenson, famed Scottish author of numerous books including Treasure Island and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, spent about six months in Monterey in 1879. He traveled from Europe to California following Fanny Vandegrift Osbourne, a San Francisco resident whom he met in Europe. When Stevenson got to Monterey he was extremely sick and needed to be carefully nursed back to health. He finally continued to on San Francisco and married Fanny in 1880.
Stevenson's time in Monterey was spent at the French Hotel, now called the Stevenson House. While here, he wrote articles for the local Monterey newspaper that illustrated the Monterey Peninsula, as he wandered the area of Monterey and Pacific Grove. While in Monterey he wrote "Old Pacific Capital" and it is thought that he based Treasure Island's setting off the local geography.
California also boasts the Robert Louis Stevenson State Park in Napa and Sonoma Counties where Robert Louis Stevenson and and his new wife Fanny Vandegrift Osbourne spent their honeymoon in the summer of 1880 living in a cabin on Mount Saint Helena. There is also a Robert Louis Stevenson School in Carmel/Pebble Beach.
Small parks can be found allover the Monterey area. If you travel through Fort Ord, towards Monterey, you'll exit the old base in Del Ray Oaks near the Frog Pond.
The area is a county Wetlands Preserve and covers a 17 acre wildlife sanctuary. There is a trail that surrounds the pond, offering a short walk through overhanging foliage and swampy terrain. Meadows and live oak woodlands can be wandered through as well. The trail is an easy walk and you'll usually pass folks walking their dogs along the way.
The Pond is well known as a great place for bird watching. The only access is pedestrian but there are areas to pull off a car on the surrounding roadways. The Frog Pond gets its name because it is home to the tiny Pacific tree frog (though I have yet to glimpse one).
Location: 650 Canyon Del Rey Blvd
My favorite little back alley in Monterey is the amazingly short one-way road called Houston Street. This tiny, rarely visited patch of asphalt houses two key historic buildings from Monterey's history, the stone Sherman Rose Inn and the huge Robert Louis Stevenson House, as well as a cool local dive bar called Alfredos. There is also a unique gun shop here called the Robert Ashmore Gunsmith and a few other tiny businesses. This area is one of Monterey's oldest streets, inside the old Spanish Presidio and just a few blocks from the San Carlos Cathedral.
Of the buildings on Houston, among the most interesting is an and boarding house where writer Robert Louis Stevenson lived and wrote during the fall of 1879. Originally known as the French Hotel, this large, white, two-story adobe was built in the 1830s. Stevenson stayed here while courting his future wife Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne, and he wrote The Old Pacific Capital here. In 1937, the old hotel, now known as the Stevenson House, was purchase by the state and became a museum decorated with several rooms of the Stevenson's memorabilia, including books, manuscripts, keepsakes, and personal belongings. The building is open only during free organized tours on Monday, Fridays, and Saturdays.
Sherman Rose Inn (537 Houston Street) was originally a wooden cabin built in 1914, but was completely reconstructed in 1934. The current structure of local Carmel Stone was constructed and the cabin was raised to become the second floor, then enclosed with more stone. It was restored in 2004 by Roger Post and the Four Sisters Inns, and it now serves as this small chain of Inns' headquarters. Carmel stone (or Monterey Shale) can be seen throughout Monterey in such places as the Royal Presidio Chapel, Colton Hall, the bleachers at Monterey High School, the High Street gates of the Presidio, as well as nearby Alfredo's Cantina.
Alfredo's Cantina (266 Pearl Street) marks the northern entrance to Houston Street at its intersection with Pearl Street. This little Carmel stone dive bar is well known among locals as a cheap dive bar with few tourists.
New Monterey has quite a bit of history, though it is newer than Old Monterey. A key component of New Monterey is Cannery Row, the historic canning district, but I have written about that overly touristy area in other tips. For this tip, I am focusing on the true off the beaten path areas of historic New Monterey.
New Monterey stretches from the Presidio of Monterey to Pacific Grove from the water about a mile up the hill. New Monterey began as the home of the Spanish, Portuguese and Italian immigrants cannery workers that lived and worked in the canneries and helped develop the prosperous fishing industry. New Monterey has its share of 100+ year old mansions and other structures.
Parmelee Victorian (570 Archer Street) -- Build in 1896, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.
Carpenters Union Hall (Lighthouse) --
Green Mansion (361 Lighthouse Ave) -- now the Thomas Kinkade National Archive, Telephone 831.655.5520. The Harry A. Greene Mansion was completed in 1886 in a Moorish-Victorian style and built of clear-heart redwood.
Carriage House (Dickman and Hawthorne) -- This old place is being renovated (as of early 2008) and I can't wait to find out more about its history!
The Cooper-Molera Adobe was begun in 1823, and today it is a wonderful, yet hidden, green oasis in the middle of downtown Monterey. It is surrounded by tall adobe walls blocking the view to the casual passer-by, but you might notice the huge barn when driving on Polk Street. Enter through the unique gift shop--which is full of hand-made wooden toys and lots of books--at the end of Alvarado Street. The nice lady there will tell you all about the toys and tours, and will provide you some insight into the history of the place. Head outback through the hidden door behind the cashier, and you will be amazed to find a two-acre oasis with gardens, old wells and ovens, and even a few farm animals such as a sheep and three or four chickens. The gardens are full of flower and local vegetables while one of the barns has displays of farm equipment and some crafts.
John Rogers Cooper was born in Britain and lived in New England before arriving in Monterey in 1823 while the area was still under Mexican rule. He quickly adapted to his new country, becoming a Mexican citizen and marrying a local Mexican woman. He also established himself as a successful merchant, sailor, and land owner. After John Cooper's death the home stayed in the family as one of his daughters married a man named Molera. The Cooper & Molera names carry on today with Andrew Molera State Park in Big Sur, named after John Cooper's grandson, and the Captain Cooper School, also in Big Sur, named after Cooper Himself.
The adobe is located at the southern end of Alvarado Street, about 1/2 mile from Fisherman's Wharf. Free Admission, and a public restroom!
Built in 1926, this classic theater is still in use today. In 1929, it became the first theater to show talking pictures on the Monterey Peninsula. The décor in the lobby as well as the theater is worth a visit in itself. Check their schedule for performances.
Begun 1797, the Mission at San Juan Bautista was the 15th of the 21 Spanish missions in California. The current church building was built from 1803 to 1812, and today it hosts a small museum, gift shop, and an active church. You will also find a neat little garden with an amazing variety of plants and a cemetery out back, laid right beside the El Camino Real and almost on top of the San Andreas Fault.
SJB is just a tiny little town with a population of about 1,500 people. The entire downtown area is just about 1/4 mile wide by 1/2 mile long with most of the businesses centered on 3rd Street, just one block from the mission, the historic plaza, and the state park. The entire area along 3rd Street has a very old-fashioned wild west feel making for a very unique small town experience in a historic setting.
This little community has a wide variety of restaurants of all styles including Basque, German, Mexican, Italian, Steak, and even Chinese...very impressive for such a small town. There also numerous stores with arts and crafts, antiques, and other specialty stores.
In San Juan Bautista, sections of the original El Camino Real exist in their original location with a packed earth surface. Just below the mission is a small stretch of the road.
From Monterey, take Hwy 1 North to Hwy 156. Follow 156 east until you get to SJB (there is a 5-10 mile stretch where 156 follows Hwy 101).
My favorite Monterey Mural is on the Monterey Conference Center, at the corner of Del Monte and Pacific Streets. Called "The Monterey Mural," it is a giant tile mural created by artist Guillermo Wagner Granizo in 1984.
The big blue mural at the corner of Cannery Row and Reeside St shows the Monterey Bay's sea life including blue whales, sea lions, a manta ray, a shark and octopuses.
Monterey Fire Station #1 along Pacific and Madison Streets has a mural depicting Monterey during Spanish rule. This mural was painted in 1998 by Jessica Williford and eight other local teenagers. They spent some two months and 320 hours on the mural as part of a county-wide project that created new murals in 12 towns.
The Monterey Post Office on Hartnell St has murals depicting the John D. Sloat and Sebastian Viscaino landings in Monterey.
Fort Ord also has a number of murals painted by former soldiers, many of which are now on the CSUMB campus.
Pacific Grove also has a historic mural along the recreation trail near Lovers Point highlighting the town's Native Indians, Tent City, Chinese Village, and Abalone Fishermen.
The Coast Guard Wharf in Monterey is next to San Carlos Beach just east of Cannery Row. This area has plenty of public parking, a public boat launch, easy access to the Monterey Bay Recreation Trail, a restaurant and a deli, and several other stores including a dive shop. Out the wharf itself you can get some great views of the bay, close ups of the massive sea lions, and as the name implies--the Coast Guard.
The wharf was originally completed as a federally-funded 1700-foot breakwater in 1934. Later, the wharf was constructed on top of the breakwater, and the coast guard station here opened in 1946. The Coast Guard Wharf has a public boat ramp, and just east of the wharf is Breakwater Cover Marina with 70 boat slips. In the water between the Coast Guard Wharf and Fishermans Wharf are 150 privately owned moorings for a variety of boats.
Coast Guard Wharf is only about 1/2 mile from my house and when the sea lions decide to camp out here for the night, I can hear them like they are outside my window. I'm thinking about trying some of the tips on this page to keep them quiet. Besides being loud, they are also fat, stinky, & mean. The areas where they congregate smell like a zoo, & I have often seen one sea lion accidentally bump another only to be barked at and bitten.
In the spring the blue-throated Brandt's cormorants come to the breakwater at the end of the wharf to nest. These cormorants live along the west coast from Alaska to southern California with the greatest concentrations around Vancouver, San Francisco, and Monterey. These birds feed by swimming under water to depths of 40 feet to catch small fish. They must be vicious birds because they somehow take over the spot where the sea lions usually rest, relegating the sea lions to the lower rocks just above the edge of the water. It is said the sea gulls are a major threat to rob the nests, so the birds nest in pairs with one always watching the next.
Built from 1846-47 the tiny theater originally just provided lodging and booze for the rowdy sailors of the day. In 1850 local soldiers decided to produce plays to make money (so they could afford the Cannery Row spas!) and they made an astounding $5 per person per show. the theater is being renovated and is open on a very limited basis. There are some very beautiful and quiet gardens behind the main building which are open during the day.
Take a walk around town. We kept stumbling on gorgeous little gardens, all open to the public. Behind old city offices, the original theater and next to the maritime museum are just a few of the places you'll find these tiny gems.
The flowers and trees offer fragrant scents and a gentle shade, a nice place to sit if you've been walking all day. One garden even contained a wide array of herbs in the center.
Don't go too far from downtown for a nice spot to see the Marina and the sea lions. Before you reach Fisherman's Wharf and Cannery Row, you'll find Commercial Wharf. The Wharf has a public fish market, but unfortunately we just missed it, showing up right after it closed.
The sea lions swim all around the wharf. I think they're used to people throwing fish scraps to them. This was a great place to walk around and get pictures of the sea lions up close. They didn't seem to mind us much and swam right up to the pier to look at us taking pictures of them.
At the entrance to the dock are 2 restaurants we really enjoyed, Sapporo (sushi) and London Bridge Pub. The area is much less touristy than the other piers, and the restuarants felt that way as well.
A visit to the Monterey Peninsula is not complete without a stop at this outstanding natural history museum. It is recognized as one of the finest of its size in the United States and is accredited by the American Association of Museums. Larry Foster's life-sized sculpture of Sandy the Gray Whale graces the front of the Museum. Sandy is perhaps the most climbed-on and photographed whale in America. The Museum maintains a popular sales shop with appropriate merchandise pertaining to natural history, such as shells minerals, posters, books, etc. The Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History is located on the corner of Forest and Central Avenues, Pacific Grove,
Open Tuesday through Sunday 10:00 am. to 5:00 pm.
The Museum is closed New Year's Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day.
Visit the National Steinbeck Center in downtown Salinas, which is just east of Monterey via California Highway 68. This museum presents the life and works of Nobel Prize winning author John Steinbeck. I've read several of his books while in high school, and they were very enjoyable. Salinas is the birthplace of John Steinbeck. Visit the web site below for more information.
The Hearst Castle.
This place is incredible. It was the estate of publisher William Randolph Hearst, now the Hearst-San Simeon State Historical Monument. You will have to park near the coast and busses will take you at the top of the hill to the 150 acres estate. The main residence and annexes contains millions of dollars worth of paintings, sculptures and antiques. My personal favorites are the outside pools of various shapes, but also the indoor pool that looks like a roman bath. This guy was extravagant but had it goooooood!!
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