List of tourist attractions in Monterey County, California

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The Monterey Aquarium is one of Monterey County's most visited attractions.

Monterey County is a county on the Pacific coast of the U.S. state of California, its northwestern section forming the southern half of Monterey Bay. The population of the county in 2021 was 437,325.[1] The coastline of Monterey County includes Big Sur, Highway 1, and the scenic 17 Mile Drive in Pacific Grove and Carmel that traces the perimeter of the Monterey Peninsula. Tourism is an important part of the economy in the coastal regions of Monterey county, although agriculture is more dominant in the inland Salinas Valley.

The first people to live in the Monterey Bay Area were the Ohlone.[2] Ancient shell mounds in the Bay Area suggest human settlements were established about 4000 BCE.[3] Spanish explorers first landed in Monterey in 1602, and the city of Monterey was the capital of California while it was under Spanish and Mexican rule. There are also a variety of historic Catholic mission churches, some dating as far back as the 18th century. Monterey has a rich history and is one of California's most historically important cities. The Monterey Bay is also an important marine environment due to its unusual geography and high biological diversity, and the entire coast of Monterey County (as well as the coast north to the San Francisco Bay) is designated the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The Monterey Bay has a high concentration of species, many of which are found nowhere else in the world. Monterey Bay also features an underwater canyon, Monterey Canyon, that is as deep as the Grand Canyon, and which makes the waters of the Bay nutrient-rich, helping support an ecosystem that includes large mammals such as whales and dolphins, as well as sharks (including Great white sharks). The close proximity of the canyon to the shore has greatly facilitated scientific research of deep sea environments, and Monterey County is home to a variety of world-class marine research institutions, as well as the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. The Monterey Bay provides many recreational opportunities for tourists, including scuba diving, surfing, swimming, fishing, and sailing.

Monterey County has also held strategic importance, both historically and currently. It is home to several former and current U.S. military installations and facilities, including Fort Ord, a decommissioned Army base that housed soldiers going through basic training during World War II; the Defense Language Institute, which provides foreign language training in over a dozen languages for U.S. and foreign military, U.S. government, and law enforcement personnel; and the Naval Postgraduate School, which is operated by the Navy and which offers graduate degrees to U.S. military and Department of Defense personnel. Monterey County's significant military population and presence, as well as its abundance of research institutions focused on marine environments, and the proximity to the Bay Area, mean the county attracts a significant number of visitors associated with the military.

Several artists have called Monterey County home, including writer and Nobel prize laureate John Steinbeck (Salinas and Pacific Grove), writer Robert Louis Stevenson (Pacific Grove), surrealist painter Salvador Dalí (Monterey), and California poet Robinson Jeffers (Carmel-by-the-Sea).

Historic sites[edit]

National Steinbeck Center in Steinbeck's hometown, Salinas
The reconstructed Mission San Antonio de Padua as it appeared in 2006. The baked brick Campanario is unique among the Missions.
Fisherman's Wharf and the Monterey Marina
Cannery Row Monterey

Historic buildings[edit]

Historic mission churches[edit]

Literary sites[edit]





Arboretums and gardens[edit]

  • Casa del Oro Sensory and Herb Garden – a small scenic plant garden. Features herb plants, designed to teach people what herbs look like before they are dried and packaged, as well as a variety of colors, tastes, scents, and textures.
  • Casa Soberanes Garden – a garden with terraced walkways lined with abalone shells and wine bottles. Located at Casa Soberanes, the "House of the Blue Gate."
  • Custom House Cactus Garden – a small collection of cacti gathered from parts of the Southwest in the 1920s. This garden is located on the grounds of the Custom House at the Monterey State Historic Park, the oldest government building in California.
  • First Theater in California Garden – a garden located next to the First Theater in California, consisting of various succulents and large Monterey Cypress trees.
  • Lester Rowntree Native Plant Garden – garden located in Carmel.
  • Memory Garden – a scenic flower garden popular with photographers and for weddings. This garden is located on the grounds of the Monterey State Historic Park.
  • Pacific Grove Marine Gardens State Marine Conservation Area – underwater marine garden, located on the tip of the Monterey Peninsula in Pacific Grove.

Golf courses[edit]


A view of Laguna Seca Raceway's Turn 8, the "Corkscrew," a challenging curve with a downward gradient of up to 16%
A sunset over the Forest Theater in Carmel-by-the-Sea

Performing arts centers and venues[edit]

Annual events and festivals[edit]

Sports venues[edit]


Big Sur coastline along the Pacific Ocean in southern Monterey County
The Salinas Valley, an agricultural region in Monterey County that is home to Salinas, California, the birthplace of John Steinbeck and home of the National Steinbeck Center. Several of Steinbeck's novels were set in locations across Monterey County.



Regional parks and lakes[edit]

Reserves, preserves, and refuges[edit]

State parks[edit]

National parks[edit]

National forests[edit]

Scenic drives[edit]

  • 17 Mile Drive – scenic toll road that takes drivers through the Pebble Beach Resort. The road has well-manicured multi-million dollar homes on one side and dramatic views of the Pacific Ocean on the other, and the resort has restaurants and shops.
  • Carmel Valley Scenic Drive – a drive following Carmel Valley Road (also known as County Road G16) from Highway 1 to Highway 101. The drive passes through Carmel Valley, Klondike Canyon, and the foothills of the Santa Lucia Mountains, and offers a wide variety of scenery, and sweeping views of the Salinas Valley.
  • Highway 1 – Highway 1 is one the best-known scenic drives in Monterey County and throughout the world. It is both a State Scenic Highway and a National Scenic Byway Road. The highway exhibits a range of geography characteristic of the county, including wetlands, artichoke fields, beach sand dunes, rocky sea cliffs, eucalyptus groves, and coastal redwood forests.
  • Point Pinos Lighthouse Drive – scenic drive around the perimeter of Monterey Peninsula
  • River Road Wine Trail – scenic drive on Highway 68 stretching from Highway 1 to Highway 101 by the Salinas River that also passes numerous wineries.


  1. ^ "US Census Bureau QuickFacts: Monterey County". United States Census Bureau Website. Archived from the original on 26 June 2022.
  2. ^ Margolin, Malcolm (1978). The Ohlone Way: Indian Life in the San Francisco-Monterey Bay Area. Berkeley, California: Heyday Books. ISBN 978-0930588014.
  3. ^ For origin, arrival and displacement based on "linguistic evidence" in 500 CE per Levy, 1978:486, also Bean, 1994:xxi (cites Levy 1978). For Shell Mound dating, F.M. Stanger 1968:4.

External links[edit]