Monterey is the “big city” on the well-populated southern tip of the wide-mouthed Monterey Bay. The outlying agricultural towns of Sand City and Marina lie to the northeast (closer to the Bay Area), while sleepy residential Pacific Grove lies to the northeast closer to the big golf courses of Pebble Beach.
Neighboring Carmel-by-the-Sea caters to the wealthy, the artsy, and golf afficianados, while Monterey has a long history as a working class town. Originally inhabited by Native Americans, who fished the bay, Monterey became a fishing hub for the European settlers in the 19th century as well. (Author John Steinbeck immortalized the unglamorous fish-canning industry here in his novel Cannery Row.)
It wasn’t until the 20th century that the city began to lean toward gentrification—the bay just off the shore became a wildlife preserve, the Monterey Bay Aquarium opened, and the tourist trade became a mainstay of the local economy. Today, Cannery Row resembles a giant shopping mall and the Aquarium is constantly packed with visitors.
In Monterey, the El Estero Visitors Center (401 Camino El Estero, www.montereyinfo.org) is the local outlet of the Montery Country Convention & Visitors Bureau. The Monterey Peninsula Chamber of Commerce (380 Alvarado St., 831/648-5360) can also provide helpful information.
Most visitors drive into Monterey via the scenic Highway 1. Inland, U.S. 101 allows access into Salinas from the north and south. From Salinas, Highway 68 travels west into Monterey.
For a more leisurely ride, Amtrak’s Coast Starlight train (Station Pl. and Railroad Ave., Salinas, daily 8 a.m.–10 p.m.) travels through Salinas daily. For Amtrak travelers, there is free bus service to downtown Monterey (30 min.); for everyone else, the Greyhound bus station (19 W. Gabilan, Salinas, 831/424-4418, www.greyhound.com, daily 5 a.m.–11:30 p.m.) offers service into Monterey.
Once in Monterey, take advantage of the free WAVE bus (9 a.m.–7:30 p.m.) which loops between downtown Monterey and the Aquarium.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition