Inspiration For Poets and Painters
Author Henry Miller once described it as "a place of grandeur and eloquent silence." Indeed, the Monterey Peninsula has some of the most spectacular scenery—and homes—on the West Coast of America.
One hundred twenty-five miles south of San Francisco, 345 miles north of L.A., the Peninsula's jaw-droppingly beautiful geography attracted explorers centuries ago just as it attracts residents and visitors today.
If you're driving from the south, your gateway to the Monterey Peninsula is the awesome Big Sur area, parts of which are so remote they still don't have electricity. The Peninsula itself is formed by the cold and deep Monterey Bay to the north, the Pacific Ocean to the west, and Carmel Bay to the south, and is home to several communities. Most high-end homes are located in the cities of Carmel-By-The-Sea (population 4,500) and Monterey (population 33,000), located on opposite sides of the Peninsula, and in Pebble Beach, a private community of about 5,200 residents.
The one-square-mile village of Carmel is snuggled in a pine forest over a pristinely white beach. Architecture in the business district is a quaint mix of storybook, English, and Spanish styles. Residents are very protective of this little piece of paradise. There is no commercial development at the beach. Stop lights, neon signs, and live music in the bars are all prohibited.
Father Junipero Serra built the Basilica of Mission San Carlos here in 1771—one of two basilicas on the West Coast. Considered to be the jewel of the California missions, it was Father Serra's favorite, and he is buried there.
It is said that the city of Monterey is as historically significant to the West Coast as Plymouth and Jamestown are to the East Coast. Over the centuries, Monterey's rich sea life attracted commercial fishermen from Italy, China, and Portugal. The descendants of these early settlers have carefully maintained the town's many historical landmarks, including Fisherman's Wharf and Cannery Row, made famous by John Steinbeck. Visitors from around the world also make a pilgrimage to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
A trip to Pebble Beach is not complete without a cruise on the serpentine 17-Mile Drive—one of the most picturesque places on earth with its lush forests, stunning ocean views, and some of the most magnificent estates in California. Pebble Beach is also home to spectacular resorts and five championship golf courses. Among other major golf events, Pebble Beach hosts the AT&T National Pro-Am and the Concours d'Elegance. Actually, the entire Monterey Peninsula is a golfer's dream, with 23 challenging courses.
Other Special Places
Other communities on the Monterey Peninsula include Carmel Valley, Del Rey Oaks, Marina, Pacific Grove, and Seaside. Carmel Valley, which extends 26 miles inland from the bay, is largely agricultural thanks to its relatively sunny weather. Its 1,600 residents appreciate its splendid geography, since it is wedged between the rugged mountains on the south and the tall ridge of the Peninsula on the north. Del Rey Oaks is another of the warmer Peninsula communities. Almost entirely residential, Del Rey Oaks is set among rolling hills and agricultural fields. Marina, the Peninsula's newest city (incorporated in 1975), is cherished for its 626 acres of undulating sand. The Marina Dunes and Marina State Beach attract hang gliders by the score. Pacific Grove, sometimes called "the last hometown in the U.S.A.," provides its 17,000-plus residents with a friendly "Leave It To Beaver" flavor. Sited on the southern tip of the Peninsula, it's home to California's first outlet center—The American Tin Cannery—a renovation of the tinnery that once provided all of the cans for fish-processing plants along Cannery Row. The family-friendly city of Seaside, with a population of about 28,000, has many of the most affordable homes on the Peninsula.
The Monterey Peninsula is rich in culture, home to more than 100 studios and art galleries. Numerous stage and music groups are also active in the area, and there are a variety of local, state, and regional parks.
The Monterey Peninsula is home to the newest in California's state university system—California State University at Monterey Bay. Sited on the old Fort Ord federal property, CSUMB opened its doors to students in August 1995. It's expected to enroll 15,000 full-time students by 2030.
Do bring a jacket to the Monterey Peninsula. It's cool - especially on the coast. Even in September, the warmest month, the average maximum temperature is 72 degrees. On the coast, expect fog in the summer months, though it usually burns off by early afternoon. The rainy season, between November and April, produces about 17 inches per year...which explains the Peninsula's verdant beauty.
Story by Jacqueline Shannon
Photography by Michael Blassis