History and Heritage Itinerary 

Throughout the county, Monterey has a rich and complex history, from the time of its original inhabitants, the Ohlone (formerly Costanoan), Esselen, and Salinan groups, to the time of the first California Constitutional Convention at Colton Hall in 1849.   

Monterey County is loaded with sites that are crucial to every era of California's history. Whether it's traces of Ohlone 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. Take a look at our top Monterey County spots to visit below and discover the history and heritage of this area, it’s a great starting point for an educational vacation. 

Big Sur

Head down to Point Sur, a drive with some gorgeous views. On your way down, stop for breakfast at Pacific’s Edge 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. One of them is Point Sur Lighthouse, located in Big Sur. Its 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. 

Point Sur

If you are looking for some sweet history, head to Big Sur River Inn to try the original homesteader's recipe, apple pie that has been made at the Big Sur River Inn since 1934. Ellen Pfeiffer opened her dining room to the public and named it the Apple Pie Inn. The apple pie became so well known that the ridge on the east side of the highways is named Apple Pie- as well as the local preschool. The Pfeiffer family’s tradition continues to this day. Most people eat their pie under the redwoods while others prefer to have their pie by the fireplace in front of the original hearth and dining room.


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-by-the-Sea. Now known as the Carmel Mission  (which recently celebrated its 250th anniversary!), it 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. 

After a visit to the mission, grab some breakfast at the Village Corner Restaurant, which has been dishing up pancakes, omelets, and other delicious treats to locals for over 60 years. 

Next, explore the charming town of  Carmel-by-the-Sea, which was once known as an artists' colony. One of the first artistic figures to settle in the area was California poet Robinson Jeffers. If you time it right you can take the opportunity to tour his home, Tor House and Hawk Tower. Jeffers built this home by hand for his wife, Una, from locally found granite boulders beginning in 1918. 

Docent-led tours of Tor House are open for full indoor and outdoor tours on Saturdays only. The hour-long tours begin at 10 am, 11 am, 12 pm, and 1 pm, in the docent office. Its the perfect way to learn about Carmel-by-the-Sea's artistic history and heritage.  

Carmel Valley

Enjoy 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. 

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 an Ohlone 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. For more information on indigenous life in the Carmel Valley area, including much about the native Ohlone and Esslelen groups, visit the Carmel Valley History Center and take a tour of their educational display.


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. Or download our See Monterey App and follow the Monterey Path of History Itinerary. You'll learn all about the history, mysteries, legends and scandals of Old Monterey. 

After a historical walk, what better place to have dinner than in a restaurant housed in Monterey's first firehouse? You won’t be disappointed with Montrio’s ever-changing internationally and seasonally-inspired small plates and main courses. Another great option is the historic and beautiful, Stokes Adobe, which dates back to as early as 1833. The menu offers chef-driven seasonally inspired California cuisine. Sit outside under the light-filled trees that surround the historic home and you'll feel as if you've been transported back in time. 

Of course, Cannery Row is a must-stop spot. Once the center of the sardine canning industry, Cannery Row 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 Restaurant and Bar 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. 

Cannery Row

Stay a night or two at Casa Munras Garden Hotel & Spa which was one of the first residences built outside the walls of the old Monterey Presidio. Casa Munras was built in 1824 by Spanish diplomat, Don Estéban Munras, the property was originally named La Granja (Spanish for ‘the farm'). It became the heart of his sprawling Rancho San Vicente, a principality of 20,000 acres stretching to Carmel.

Pacific Grove

Pacific Grove is home to the historic Point Pinos Lighthouse and is where some of the first Chinese immigrants from the Kwangtung Province settled in the early 1850s. After making an initial camp at Point Lobos, the group made a more permanent settlement at Point Alones in Pacific Grove. It was here they developed their fishing village, where they would stay for many years to come, however, the village was burned to the ground in 1906. The families dispersed throughout the region. Learn more about their story at the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History.  

Nearby, the Point Pinos Lighthouse was built in 1855 and is still in operation today. It's the oldest continually operating lighthouse on the West Coast. The building, lenses, and prisms are all original, and it is still an active aid to navigation. The Lighthouse is open Saturday 11 am - 3 pm and Sunday 1 pm - 3 pm. The entry fee for adults is $5 per person.

Point Pinos Lighthouse, Pacific Grove

And don't miss the historical Asilomar Conference Grounds, also in Pacific Grove. Julia Morgan designed the original buildings here between 1913 and 1928. Julia Morgan’s “California Arts & Crafts” architectural style was part of a movement that influenced architects, designers, and craftspeople. True to this style, the buildings were designed from the inside out, with the main character and expression found in the interiors. Open spaces and natural light dominated, with the craftsmanship of the structures becoming the art of the building.     

Pebble Beach

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. If you're staying or dining at one of their restaurants, take a stroll around the properties of the Pebble Beach Resorts which has been in operation since 1919!


Salinas is 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. 

Steinbeck House

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. 

And for more on the rich history of agriculture in this area, visit the California Welcome Center Salinas, which now features its first exhibit, Postcards, Passengers, and Produce, which tells the story of how the 5th largest economy in the world and the most populous state in the nation was developed in only 171 years. 

On your way back to Monterey, stop in at Tarpy's Roadhouse, located in a classic old stone building. Much like Robinson Jeffers, 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. 

Salinas Valley  

The Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail marks the route traveled by Anza’s expedition in 1775-76 from Nogales, Arizona, to the San Francisco Bay Area. The 1,200-mile trail connects history, culture and outdoor recreation and passes right through the beautiful and fertile Salinas Valley.  

From Toro Park, one can see the valley that the expedition passed through in Spring of 1776. The Monterey Presidio was the interim destination of Anza's settlers, where they rested in the northernmost frontier outpost of Alta California. Anza and a small party of soldiers soon after went north to select the sites for the San Francisco Mission and Presidio. For more information on sites of interest, visit NPS.gov.

This Monterey County History and Heritage Itinerary just scratches the surface of the history of the region, but hopefully can provide you with a unique, hands-on chance to experience California's heritage. And with its rich and rooted past going way back, Monterey County has no shortage of ghost stories that go along with these historical attractions. If you’re into that sort of thing, check out our list of Must-See Haunted Places in Monterey County.  

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