Monterey County is loaded with sites that are crucial to every era of California's history. Whether it's traces of Rumsien settlements at Garland Ranch Regional Park, the early colonial heritage at San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission, California's transformation from a Spanish possession to part of Mexico to a member of the United States as seen through Monterey's Path of History, or the agricultural and literary history shown through the National Steinbeck Center Museum, Monterey County has a spot in every corner for the dedicated history buff. This three-day history and heritage itinerary is a great starting point for an educational vacation.

Day One


Stash your bags at your hotel and hit the road - the next three days are jam-packed with historic sights! Your first stop is the historic Point Pinos Lighthouse in Pacific Grove, built in 1855 and still in operation today. It's the oldest continually operating lighthouse on the West Coast.

Once you've toured the lighthouse, take a good look at the golf course it's perched next to. It's nicknamed "the poor man's Pebble Beach." The front nine of the Pacific Grove Municipal Golf Links were designed by early golf legend Chandler Egan, while the back nine were designed by Jack Neville, who also designed the famous Pebble Beach Golf Links.


Stretch your legs with a walk on Monterey's Path of History, starting with California's oldest architect-designed building, the Royal Presidio Chapel. Click here to download a free walking map as you follow the round yellow tiles embedded in the sidewalk. You'll learn all about the history, mysteries, legends and scandals of Old Monterey.


What better place to have dinner than in a restaurant housed in Monterey's first firehouse? Montrio Bistro's chef Tony Baker focuses on local produce and sustainable seafood to create his award-winning Mediterranean-influenced cuisine.

Day Two

Father Junipero Serra helped found the first chapel at the Royal Presidio in Monterey, and initially founded the Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo adjacent to the Presidio. However, in 1771 he decided to relocate the mission to Carmel, where you'll spend your morning.


Start your morning with breakfast at the Village Corner Restaurant, which has been dishing up pancakes, omelets and other delicious treats to locals for over 60 years.


The Carmel Mission, also known as the Mission San Carlos Borromeo, is considered the best-preserved of all the California missions. In addition to the actual house of worship (still active today), the property has four small museums dedicated to various facets of mission and regional history.


Carmel-by-the-Sea was once known as an artists' colony. One of the first artistic figures to settle in the area was California poet Robinson Jeffers. If it's Friday or Saturday, take the opportunity to tour his home, Tor House and Hawk Tower. He built this home by hand for his wife, Una, from locally found granite boulders beginning in 1918. The tour, which must be reserved in advance, is the perfect way to learn about Carmel-by-the-Sea's artistic history and heritage.


Lunch today is in the boyhood home of another of Monterey County's literary lights, John Steinbeck. Steinbeck famously wrote about the local agriculture and sardine industries. The Steinbeck House, a National Historic Monument, honors his literary focus by serving food centered on fresh local produce.


The National Steinbeck Center Museum is dedicated both to John Steinbeck and to the agricultural history and heritage of Monterey County. Artifacts from Steinbeck's life are incorporated into three-dimensional, multi-sensory interactive exhibits that add a new dimension to his words. Galleries at the museum hold special art exhibits that connect to the themes of the museum.


On your way back to Monterey, stop in at Tarpy's Roadhouse, located in a classic old stone building. Much like Robinson Jeffers, whose home you saw this morning, Charles Ryan built the stone home of his dreams almost singlehandedly beginning in 1917. The restaurant it houses is named after Matt Tarpy, a figure from early Monterey history who was either a hero or a bandit, depending on who you talk to.


Cannery Row was once the center of the sardine canning industry and provided the inspiration for John Steinbeck's novel of the same name. Now the various cannery buildings have been converted into shops, restaurants and nightclubs. The C Lounge at the InterContinental The Clement Monterey is known for combining jazz music with great bay views and the Sardine Factory is beloved as a quiet place to sip a well-mixed cocktail.

Day Three


Today you'll be heading down to Point Sur, a drive with some gorgeous views. On your way down, stop for breakfast at California Market at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands and drink in the coastal Carmel seascape. The food is excellent, but the scenery is even better.


Monterey County has two historic lighthouses, both still active aids to navigation. Point Sur Lighthouse, located in Big Sur, is perched atop a volcanic rock just off the coast. The staff of this remote lighthouse had almost no contact with the outside world until Highway One was built in 1937. Learn about life at this lightstation, as well as the many shipwrecks off its shores. Keep an eye out for whales, which are often spotted from Point Sur. Tours are first-come, first-served, so make sure to get there early.


One of the features you saw yesterday on Carmel-by-the-Sea's buildings were pieces of hand-wrought iron. The majority of them were crafted at The Forge in the Forest, once a blacksmith shop and now one of the town's most popular restaurants.


Now that you've had a great lunch, it's time to work it off with a little light hiking through Carmel Valley's history. Garland Ranch Regional Park is one of Monterey County's most popular hiking spots, both for its picturesque views and the remnants of historic buildings scattered throughout the area.

Get a trail map at the Visitors Center. Then take the Cooper Trail. This will take you past a historic barn and to the park museum. From there, you can connect to the Buckeye Trail, which will bring you past several spectacular vistas on your way to a Rumsien grinding stone. If you're feeling especially ambitious, take the Buckeye trail back to the steep Maple Canyon Trail, which will lead you to an old homestead site.


Once a simple roadhouse, Will's Fargo Dining House and Saloon became a legendary steakhouse. Now run by chef Cal Stamenov of Bernardus, the restaurant focuses on locally grown ingredients as well as out-of-this-world steaks. It's a perfectly relaxing stop at which to discuss all the sights you've seen before your journey home.

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