Monterey County California

Created in 1850, Monterey County stretches from Santa Cruz in the north to San Luis Obisbo in the south. It takes its name from Monterey Bay, which was named in 1602 in honor of the Count of Monterrey, Viceroy of New Spain.

With many places to visit and many activities to describe, giving an adequate description of Monterey County would take more space and time than we have. We’ve only scratched the surface but hope the information we’ve shared is sufficient to persuade you to visit this jewel of central California.

Historic Cannery Row
Historic Cannery Row

What Is Monterey County Known For?

Monterey County has a rich diversity of attractions that will make visiting here an experience to remember. This unique county has something to thrill even the hardened traveler, from dramatic coastal vistas to quaint historic streets, from wine farms to wildlife sanctuaries.

  • The longest unspoiled coastline in the United States.
  • Beaches suit every activity, from sunbathing to surfing, birdwatching, and whale-spotting.
  • Wildlife is in abundance in one of the richest ecological areas in California.
  • Monterey County is considered one of the top ten worldwide wine travel destinations.
  • With double the nation’s average sunshine, outdoor activities are enjoyed all year round.

Whether you’re comfortable exploring city streets and restaurants or enjoying the great outdoors and physical activity, Monterey County will satisfy your tastes and provides abundant possibilities to enjoy your stay.

The Big Sur And Ninety-Nine Miles of Coastal Beauty

The Monterey Coastline is bordered by the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Lucia Mountain range for two-thirds of its length. This gives this stretch of the Pacific Highway known as Big Sur a rugged, unspoiled beauty, attracting up to seven million visitors every year.

Monterey Beaches Have Much To Offer

From large sandy beaches to tiny, rocky coastal hideaways, every beach in Monterey County offers an opportunity for recreation of one sort or another, whether it’s surfing, scuba diving, kayaking, or just relaxing and enjoying the views of Monterey Bay.

Monterey County Wildlife On Land In The Air And In The Sea

Over seven thousand grey whales pass through Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary every year on their migration south. Sea otters, seals, and sea lions also form part of the rich marine life.

In the air, the condor is the most spectacular bird to be found here, but you will be able to spot owls, falcons, hawks, woodpeckers, and a host of other species.

Wild animals in Monterey County include mountain lions in Big Sur, coyotes, deer, and smaller species like raccoons and skunks.

Wines of Monterey County

Over fifty varietals of grape, more than forty-three thousand acres of vineyards, and at least sixty-five tasting venues all illustrate the importance of the wine industry in Monterey County.

Wine grapes were Introduced over 200 years ago by Franciscan monks. Today, Monterey has become one of the top ten wine travel destinations globally.

Outdoor Activity In Monterey County

With its Mediterranean climate, Monterey County offers year-round activities to the outdoor enthusiast. Whether it’s on the sea, in the ocean, or on dry land, there are so many things to do that you can forget about being bored.

Seventeen Mile Drive Beach And Sea
Seventeen Mile Drive Beach And Sea

What’s In Monterey County?

A visit to Monterey County will provide even the most jaded traveler with a host of different experiences. If you’re on a tight timeline, here are a few venues that you might want to highlight as you plan your schedule.

Historic Cannery Row

Immortalized in the writings of John Steinbeck, Cannery Row is visited by thousands of tourists from around the world.

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

One of the nation’s most spectacular marine protected areas, it includes pristine beaches, amazing rock pools, and kelp forests with abundant marine wildlife.

Seventeen-Mile Drive

A privately-run road between Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove, with spectacular views, cedar forests, magnificent homes, and picnic spots along the way.

Doc Rickett’s Laboratory And Other Museums

Doc Rickett’s Laboratory was a focal point for California’s intellectuals to meet and was partly owned by John Steinbeck. Historical museums include Colton Hall, the Monterey Museum of Art, Pacific House Museum, and many others.  

Monterey Bay
Monterey Bay

Things To Do In Monterey County

Blessed with a temperate Mediterranean climate, it’s small wonder that much of what’s in the county to attract visitors revolves around outdoor activities.  

  • Hiking, biking, and walking trails cover the whole county from the seaside to the mountains.
  • Wine tours, either on your own or in groups with a guide.
  • Whale watching, with more than seven thousand passing through Monterey Bay every year.
  • Visits to historic Cannery Row, museums, and galleries to learn about Monterey’s past.
  • See and learn about the abundant marine wine life in Monterey’s magnificent Aquarium

Hiking And Biking Trails For The Adventurous

Hire a bike and cycle along the Seventeen-Mile Drive, considered one of the top one hundred rides in the country. Take the popular Recreation Trail to Pacific Grove or any one of the designated trails and hikes covering Monterey County.

Wine Tours in Monterey County Attract World Travelers

Monterey wine estates are spread over a wide area, so you might want to take specific tours to savor the varietals of different regions, such as Salinas, Carmel-By-The-Sea, Carmel Valley, Napa Valley, and Santa Cruz.

Most wineries have their own tasting rooms, so you can visit them on your own or join a private wine tour with a knowledgeable guide to provide information on each tasting.

Whale Watching Tours From Monterey

With thousands of whales passing through Monterey Bay annually, a whale-watching tour is a unique experience for visitors. The best time is in winter, between December and May, but in fact, whales are present all year round in the bay.

Discover The History Of Monterey County

A day spent visiting the fabled Cannery Row will give you a glimpse into the past, as immortalized in the writings of John Steinbeck. Although the area today is very different from the industrial atmosphere it had in the last century, there are still historical buildings and mementos of the past.

Museums, some specializing in natural history, others concerned with art and architecture, provide visitors with a fascinating glimpse into Monterey County’s Spanish past.  

Visit The Monterey Bay Aquarium

One of the top tourist destinations in Monterey County, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is home to over thirty-five thousand sea creatures and more than five hundred and fifty species.

More than just an aquarium, this facility offers insights into climate change, sustaining endangered species, and the ocean’s role in our lives, thus combining education with entertainment.

We have touched on just some of the many things to do and places to visit in Monterey County. There are many more, including the world-famous Pebble Beach Golf course, the Laguna Seca Raceway, Monterey Historic State Park, and the Old Fisherman’s Wharf, to name a few.

Famous People From Monterey County

With its temperate climate, rugged scenery, and historical background, it’s not surprising that Monterey County has been home to and attracted many people who have become household names in various fields.

John Steinbeck Was Raised in Salinas

Author of such timeless classics as “Grapes Of Wrath” and “Cannery Row,” Steinbeck spent much of his life in Monterey County and used it as a background for his novels. Cannery Row, originally Ocean View Avenue, was so named in 1958 to commemorate Steinbeck’s novel of the same name.  

Jack Kerouac Stayed In And Wrote About Monterey County

Kerouac visited the area several times and wrote the inspirational novel “Big Sur” about the tranquility and calm found in the area.

Salvador Dali Lived in Monterey In The 1940’s

Dali lived in a hotel in Monterey during World War Two and was a founder member of the Carmel Arts Association. He was well-known for his themed parties held at Pebble Beach, which were used to raise money for the soldiers fighting in the war.

Joan Baez’s Spiritual Home in Monterey County

Much-loved folksinger and songwriter spent a lot of time in Big Sur at the Esalen Institute, which was a center for holistic adult education.

Jimi Hendrix Based In Fort Ord

Before he found fame as a guitarist, Jimi Hendrix was in the military, based in Fort Ord. He is remembered for his wild concerts in Monterey, including one at the Monterey Pop Festival, where he smashed his guitar on stage.

Steve Jobs Came From A Humble Monterey Home

Founder of Apple, one of the fastest-growing and most profitable companies ever. His prototype  Mac computer was first shown at Hotel La Playa at Carmel-by-the-Sea.

Doris Day Retired To Carmel Valley

After her successful Hollywood career, Doris Day settled in Carmel Valley, where she became part owner of the Cypress Inn and was a campaigner for animal rights, a cause very dear to her heart.

Monterey County FAQ

Interesting Facts About Monterey County?

  • Being in a Mediterranean climate zone, Monterey County gets approximately eighteen inches of rain annually, compared to a national average of thirty-eight inches.   
  • Monterey gets no snow. The nation averages twenty-eight inches of snow per year.
  • Monterey experiences 267 sunny days per year, compared to a national average of 205 sunny days.

Is Monterey County A Good Place To Live?

It’s not a good place to live – it’s a great place to live! If you love California, you’ll be interested to know that the annual BestPlaces Comfort Index for Monterey County is 9.2 in summer and 7.6 in winter, making it even better than the rest of California. Plus, you have terrific, varied scenery, the Pacific Ocean, and some of the best wines in the world.  

Is It Expensive In Monterey County?

With a cost of living index of 149.1, Monterey County is expensive based on a national average of 100, but not in terms of groceries and general expenses, where it’s below the California average. The cost of homes in Monterey County is more than double the national average because of its desirability.

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