Monterey is a scenic city filled with early California history: adobe buildings from the 1700s, Colton Hall, where California's first constitution was drafted in 1849, and Cannery Row, made famous by author John Steinbeck. Thousands of visitors come each year to mingle with otters and other sea creatures at the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium and in the protected waters of the national marine sanctuary that hugs the shoreline.
A Breif History
Monterey is one of the more beautiful coastal cities of California. It was originally the state's capital and has more historic buildings in its downtown than any other city west of Santa Fe. Today, it is best known for its beautiful coastline, its world-class aquarium and from the many John Steinbeck novels set there, including Cannery Row and Tortilla Flat.
Rugged terrain and vicious Pacific currents made much of the California coast virtually unexplorable to European ships. After a disastrous attempt to explore this new territory by sea, Spanish missionaries in Mexico launched a series of overland expeditions from San Diego. Monterey was established in 1770 by Father Junipero Serra and soon became a Spanish military base with a small fort or "presidio" located near a calm harbor that could provide shelter to supply ships. The military presence eventually gave way to a thriving commercial trade that brought in many enterprising foreign merchants.
Once Mexico gained its independence from Spain, Monterey became the capital of Alta California under Mexican rule. From this era come many classic stories of flirtation, fashion, and politics in the Mexican colonial era. Lands once owned by the government began to come into private hands, and local families began to consolidate their property and power into business enterprises based on the ranches or "ranchos," where they raised cattle or invented the famous Monterey Jack cheese.
Monterey soon fell under American power in the Mexican-American War and remained the capital of the territory. A delegation of writers drafted the constitution, which marked the entrance of the State of California into the United States of America. This era saw the mass northward migration of ambitious people in search of gold, which led to a near desertion of the town. Monterey soon recovered, however, and today is known for its magnificent natural beauty, world famous Aquarium, and temperate year-round climate. The Monterey Peninsula has the largest population of sea otters on the California coast. The abundance of marine wildlife visible from the shoreline is one of the primary attractions of the region. Seals, sea lions, and sea otters are visible year-round, and migrating whales are commonly seen in the fall and spring months.
Alvarado Street serves as downtown Monterey's main thoroughfare with superb restaurants, a selection of bars, and unique shops.