The city of Monterey sitson the central Californian coastline, a scenic five-hour drive north from Los Angeles, and an easy two-hour drive south from San Francisco.
Perched on the edge of a marine sanctuarylarger in size than Yellowstone and twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, Monterey’s wild majesty has long humbledthose who’ve walked her rugged shores.
This is a place where the upwelling of cold, dark Pacific currents lifts a bountyof sea life and mystery onto the shore.
This is a place where the breathof the sea shapes both stone and wood, and has stirred the imaginationsof artists and writers like Salvador Dali and John Steinbeck.
Monterey’s modern story beganwhen the Spanish established a presidio, hauling skywards chapel bells that have been calling the faithfulfor over two centuries.
In 1846, the US flag was raised over The Custom House, marking the end of California’sSpanish and Mexican chapters.
Three years later, delegates from all over Californiaconverged at Monterey’s Colton Hall, to thrash out the state’s first constitution.
Continue your journey through the city’s early pages at the Monterey State Historic Park.
Follow the self-guided walking tour that breathes life into the brick and adobe buildings where the port’s whalers once lived, and relaxed.
But while the city’s earlyprosperity was fuelled by whale oil, it was a much smaller sea creaturethat brought Monterey its greatest riches.
Wander down Cannery Row, past processing plants that once steamed and tinnedbillions of sardines each year, earning Monterey the title, the sardine capital of the world.
The characters, noise and gut-wrenching stench celebrated in Steinbeck’s classic, Cannery Row, faded with the collapseof the silver tide in the 1950s.
But it was soon replacedby a new wave of prosperity, hospitality.
Today, gift shopsand restaurants fill the former canneries, with the largest of all now hometo the acclaimed Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Gaze up as clouds of sardines, unmolested by the purse nets of old, glide through towering kelp forests.
And don’t miss the rescued sea otters chowing their way back to good health on fresh clams.
While in the Jellies Gallery, incredible invertebrates put on a psychadelic light show worthy of a Rock concert.
When you’re ready for your own seafood dinner, head down Cannery Row to Old Fisherman’s Wharf.
Sign up for a fishing charter and you’ll soon be filleting your own catch.
Or just make a selection from restaurants that have been serving upthe fruits of these waters for generations.
Monterey has a knackfor making old things useful again.
From Fisherman’s Wharf, walk the Monterey Peninsula Recreational Trail, which follows the former tracksof the Southern Pacific Railway.
Head east, past the marina, to the graceful arc of Del Monte Beach.
Then continue a little further into the ever-shifting sands and floral displays of the Fort Ord Dunes State Park.
From Fisherman’s Wharf, the trail also heads north, to Pacific Grove.
Enjoy the warm, sheltered sands of Lovers Point Beach.
Then stop by Point Pinos Light, where a piano-playing lighthouse keeper entertained Robert Louis Stevensonwhen the wandering writer called by in 1879.
From Point Pinos, follow the coastal trail down the peninsula’s west coast to Asilomar State Beach, where icy waters from deep in the Monterey Canyon roll into rock pools rich in marine life.
After being serenaded by the wild, wild surf at Asilomar, rent a convertible or hop on a bike, and follow one of the USA’smost scenic roads, 17 Mile Drive.
From Pacific Grove, this privately managed toll roadwinds its way along the coast past the acclaimed fairwaysof Pebble Beach towards Carmel Bay.
Stop by the 250-year-old Lone Cypress, then spend some time amidthe ghost trees at Pescadero Point.
17 Mile Drive emerges onto Highway One, which hugs one of the longest and most spectacular stretchesof undeveloped coastline in the USA.
Explore the wind-swept bluffsand secluded coves of the Point Lobos State Park, where the Ohlone people onceharvested shellfish from the nutrient-rich waters, and shore whalers scouredthe horizon for tell-tale spouts.
At Garrapata State Park, buckle up for the two-hour adventure through Big Sur, where California’s Santa Lucia mountains tumble down into the swaying kelp forests of the Pacific.
Catch your breath at Bixby Canyon Bridge, one of the highestsingle span concrete bridges in the world.
In the 1960’s, writer Jack Kerouacalmost lost his mind on the beach below trying to capture the grandeur of Big Sur in words.
As you follow each and every twist and turn down Highway One, you too will be lost for words, for this is a place thatoften defies the limits of language.
Indeed a visit to Montereyand its nearby shores is a lesson in the futility of searching for the perfect adjective… the ideal hashtag.
Monterey is a destination that invites you to silence… it’s a place to let the crackleof a beachside fire do the talking… a place to allow the winds and waves to sing their wild, timeless songs.