Our spring break vacation was our first multi-destination family trip, with the first half spent visiting Pinnacles National Park, Mission San Juan Bautista, and the San Juan Bautista State Historic Park, and the second half spent in Big Sur, hiking along the coast line.
We had planned three fulls days for Pinnacles National Park, but it really isn’t that big and we did the best hikes in the park and saw all of the highlights in just two days. With an extra day on our hands, we decided to head over to Monterey for the day to check out the sights, as it had been several years since we visited the area.
Our day started with a visit to Old Fisherman’s Wharf and the Monterey State Historic Park.
Old Fisherman’s Wharf
We arrived at Old Fisherman’s Wharf early in the morning, as the snack shacks and fish markets were just getting setup. I love the early mornings in tourist destinations like this because it’s not yet crowded, peaceful, and quiet. It’s the perfect time to walk the pier, scout for sea lions, and browse the shops before they get too overrun with people.
There’s a great coffee shop to the right of the entrance to Fisherman’s Wharf that serves coffee, cocoa, pastries, and crepes — a perfect place to grab some fuel for the day. We stopped in the shops, bought a Christmas ornament (I buy one on every trip and vacation), a sweatshirt for Natalie, and some really cool magnetic toys for Carter.
Old Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey is a historic wharf that before becoming a tourist destination, was used as a wholesale fish market. The Wharf is lined with gift shops, candy stores, jewelry shops, art galleries, and seafood restaurants ranging from casual eateries to formal indoor dining options. Whale watching tours, fishing trips, and family-friendly boating adventures can also be booked on the Warf.
If you’re a fan of riding bikes, Fisherman’s Wharf is located along the Coastal Recreation Trail that stretches 29 miles from Castroville to Pacific Grove along the waterfront. It’s a relatively flat, paved trail that is great for a family bike ride. In fact, the last time we were in Monterey, we brought our bikes and rode from Fisherman’s Wharf to Cannery Row to Lovers Point in Pacific Grove and back.
Monterey State Historic Park
Directly across from the entrance to Old Fisherman’s Wharf is Custom House Plaza, the historical center of Monterey. In Custom House Plaza, you can visit and see:
- Custom House: The first government building in California named State Historic Landmark #1 on June 1, 1932. On July 7, 1946, during the Mexican-American War, U.S. Military forces raised the Stars and Stripes at Custom House to signal the passing of California from Mexican Rule to American rule.
- The Monterey Maritime Museum: The museum holds almost 6000 artifacts, over 50,000 photographs, and 6000 books and papers. 580 glass prisms of the historic Fresnel lens from the Point Sur Lightstation illuminate the Museum and its exhibit areas.
- The Pacific House: Constructed in 1847, Pacific House was used as storage for the U.S. Army, a hotel, a court house, a tavern, and in later years, as offices. Upstairs is the Monterey Museum of the American Indian.
- The Memory Garden: Surrounded by stucco archways and the Pacific House walls, the Memory Garden is the most visited garden in Monterey State Historic Park, and features a fountain, beautiful flowers, and lush plants.
- Sensory Garden: The sensory garden was created to delight the senses. It is a gorgeous garden with a wide variety of flowers and beauty.
It was a gorgeous morning, and we spend time exploring Custom House Plaza, the Pacific House, the Memory Garden, and the Sensory Garden. After all our hiking in Pinnacles National Park, and all the hiking we were going to be doing in Big Sur, we knew this trip wasn’t for the Monterey History walk — but we’ll definitely be back to visit all of the historic buildings!
Monterey Walking Path of History
Unlike many state historic parks where the park attractions are all in one place, the Monterey State Historic Park is a collection of significant historic houses and buildings interspersed throughout Old Monterey. Tour information and tour tickets can be purchased at Pacific House Museum.
If you’re interested in discovering more historic sites in the Monterey State Historic Park, I recommend you check out the Monterey Walking Path of History, a historic two mile path that includes 55 historic buildings and sites. The sidewalks along this path are marked with yellow-tiles to help you stay on track.
Once we were done scoping out the historic sites in Custom House Plaza, we hopped in the car for the short drive over to Cannery Row and the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Pacific Grove’s Lovers Point Park, and the historic Point Pinos Lighthouse.