Called "Butterfly Town, USA", Pacific Grove is also the destination for the migration of tens of thousands of monarch butterflies each fall... The monarchs live here all winter ("overwinter"), never breeding, just saving their energy for survival. As spring approaches, they finally mate and fly north laying eggs along the way. Throughout the summer the butterflies continue to mate, produce offspring, then die, meaning the monarchs that return to Pacific Grove the following year are several generations removed from those who spent the previous winter here...how do they know where to go? They must use this map.
As you can see, most of the monarchs east of the Rockies go into the mountains of central Mexico. Interestingly, the overwintering sites in Mexico are typically at 3,000 feet above sea level or more and on south facing slopes, while the California sites are just a few feet above the ocean, and relatively flat. Some of they keys to wintering sites are a constant temperature with no snow or wind, but plenty of moisture in the form of clouds and fog.
I visited the Monarch Sanctuary twice in October 2006. The first time, early in the month there were perhaps 50 butterflies hanging from 2 or 3 branches of the tall eucalyptus trees. My second visit in late October, the number must have doubled to 100 or so...certainly not the numbers I expected. By early November, the Monarchs are here in mass numbers! Hundreds of butterflies perched on a single branch in places. Impressive. The local "butterfly docents" are happy to provide all the information you can stand about these colorful creatures.
Big Sur, and Natural Bridges State Beach in Santa Cruz are other popular wintering area for these amazing butterflies in the vicinity of Monterey. Other California overwintering areas are listed here.
I have heard people say Ocean View Blvd in Pacific Grove which becomes Sunset Drive in Asilomar Beach is as good as if not better than 17-Mile Drive in Pebble Beach. I think it is a spectacular drive, along golf courses, rocky cliffs, sea lions, kelp beds, fishing boats, bicyclists, joggers, various sea birds, a lighthouse, and some of the Monterey area's finest sunsets. One thing is for sure, Ocean View Drive is free, which means I am not putting more money in the pockets of the already obscenely rich who wallow on the sands at Pebble Beach.
Sure, this "17 mile drive" is just 4 miles. But, then again, the $9 17 Mile Drive is actually only about 9 miles from Pacific Grove to Carmel, with maybe 7 miles of that along the water. Who owns a road anyway?
If the drive along Pacific Grove and Asilomar beach isn't enough to quench your thirst for beautiful ocean views, move on to Carmel. Take Rt 1 South and turn right into town on Ocean Ave which dead ends at the beach. Just before the dead end, take a left on Scenic Drive...sounds scenic! This route runs along the cliff between the beautiful beach-side cottages and the wide sandy beach below, including (free) views of Pebble Beach (gasp!). At the southern edge of the drive you'll overlook Carmel River Beach and Point Lobos just 1.5 miles to the south. Where Scenic Drive ends, take Carmelo Street, then a right on 15th Ave and you'll come out next to the awesome Carmel Mission.
(As for the REAL 17 Mile Drive: thanks to VT member ppethoe for this suggestion: "buy a Herald paper, show the real estate open house section (or yard sale) to the guard when entering Pebble Beach 17 Mile Drive area so you save $8 entrance fee." I'll give it a shot one of these days...)
After a few months here, I finally discovered what I believe to be the best sunsets around: along Ocean View Drive in Pacific Grove and Asilomar State Beach. From Point Pinos Lighthouse around the end of the Peninsula to the edge of Pebble Beach. This area faces west over the ocean, has a great rocky shoreline, and has a good deal of parking all along the road. On two clear afternoons in November, I made it out to Asilomar at sunset and could not believe the number of cars and people flooding the area...this is NOT a well-kept secret. If it's this busy in the winter, I can't imagine what it's like during tourist season!
Lighthouse Avenue is Pacific Grove's downtown and has a ton of restaurants, shops, bakeries, and other little places to spend time. I have enjoyed meals in downtown PG at Passionfish, the Cellar Door, the Grove Bistro, Fandango's, and the 17th Street Grille. All of these except 17th Street Grille, are upscale places with great food and wine. I also like to go jogging through downtown from my home in New Monterey often and really enjoy the small town feel.
Downtown PG also has a handful of stores, museums, and historic markers, not to mention the dozens of historic homes and Victorian mansions.
Monterey is the gateway to the region and is a must see when visiting Pacific Grove. Not only because all the roads to PG run through Monterey, but also because there is so much to do there! One of the biggest tourist areas, Cannery Row and its famous aquarium, sit on the Monterey-Pacific Grove border just blocks from downtown, making it a part of the PG culture. PG's recreation trail along the water's edge continues into and beyond Monterey providing an excellent route for those traveling on foot or on bike. Besides Cannery Row, the most famous attraction in Monterey is Fishermans Wharf, but Monterey also has a busy and historic downtown filled with scores of restaurants and shops alongside various historic sites such as California's First Theater and the Customs House. Monterey is also home of two important military institutions: the Defense Language Institute at the historic Presidio of Monterey and the Naval Postgraduate School originally the equally historic Del Monte Hotel. Wildlife is abundant in Monterey from the seals, sea lions, and otters in the bay to wild deer, raccoons, and mountain lions on land.
Pacific Grove is home to some amazing Victorian mansions. According to Wikipedia, Pacific Grove has more Victorian Mansions per capita than any other city in America. In fact, the Monterey County Historical Society shows that PG has over 500 historic homes, most of these downtown and along the beach.
One of the Victorian mansions, the Seven Gables Inn, has been named by American Historic Inns Inc., as one of the top 10 most romantic inns in the United States.
Pacific Grove enjoys fantastic access to the Pacific Ocean along Sunset Drive and Ocean View Boulevard which wrap around the town's coast. There you can enjoy looking out to sea or into Monterey Bay. You can take a pleasant stroll along a seaside pedestrian path or just drive along the scenic roadway adjacent to the ocean. Parking is provided at several places where you can park your car, take in the scenery, and explore the rocky coast up close.
From October through March thousands of Monarch butterflies come to hibernate in Pacific Grove. Thats why it is called: 'Butterfly City USA'. They like to be in the Eucalyptus trees and the Monterey pines. When you look at the trees you see only many brownish leaves, hanging down. But in the sunshine the leaves start to move, to fly and wow ! the sky is full with red- yellow butterflies. They had just arrived, when we came, so that was well planned (of us and them).
The picture is from Internet.
Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History
I didn't go into the actual museum, but on the outside of the entrance there is a LIFE-SIZE sculpture of a humpback whale. Yeah...I said LIFE-SIZE! It's pretty big. However, I didn't see any life-size plankton around. :-D
In early October -- whether the migrating monarch butterflies have appeared already or not -- the town turns out for a parade of school children all costumed out.
In 2004 when I was there, it wasn't at all crowded. Lots of fun to watch the kids (and follow them back to their school where there is a small carnival of sorts). And fun to watch the spectators, too!
Afterwards, stop in at one of the restaurants or coffee shops along the main street for brunch!
Although we lived in the Monterey area for 2 years, I never got to see the migrating Monarchs which started to arrive in October and stayed until February.. I knew what they looked like of course because Monarch butterflies live all over the US. .
Normal butterflies live only 6 to 8 weeks and cannot withstand freezing temperatures. In late summer and early fall, Super Monarchs are born that live up to eight months. They fly south toward the overwintering grounds, up to 2,000 miles away. West of the Rockies the butterflies go to the California coast. When they are overwintering, they rest quietly on the trees, resembling dead leaves.
With increased population, habitat for overwintering has decreased. Pacific Grove is one of the over-wintering sites, and a sanctuary has been established. They have been planting Australian eucalyptus trees to replace trees lost to foot traffic drought and other damage..
So if you are in Pacific Grove in the fall and winter, come to see the butterflies.
The photo is of a monarch in Maryland. You see the pretty black and orange wings when they are flying.
Here was a whaling station from 1862 to 1879. You can still see the whalers cabin, built by Chinese fishermen in the 1850's.
Nowadays scuba divers enjoy the underwater world here.
I made a picture of the trees, while the butterflies were sitting on the leaves. Sort of picture puzzle: 'where are the butterflies?'.
Made a quick a stop over for picture opportunity along Ocean View Boulevard in the small city of Pacific Grove, adjacent to Monterey. Also known as the City of Butterflies.
Check into the annual whale migration: Monterey Whale Watching.com
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