Sacred Golf, Nature’s Wonderama and All That Jazz
Mother Nature worked overtime on the rugged Monterey Peninsula. Pacific Grove (a.k.a. Butterfly Town, U.S.A., famous as the resting stop for tens of thousands of migrating monarch butterflies) and the too-charming-thousands of migrating monarch butterflies) and the too-charming-for-words artsy town of Carmel-by-the-Sea are big attractions, but the old fishing town of Monterey remains the peninsula’s biggest draw. The boyhood home of novelist John Steinbeck, it hosts the Monterey Jazz Festival, a huge three-night affair that attracts more than 500 greats from around the world and is the oldest ongoing jazz festival in the nation.
Once famous for whaling and sardine- canning, Monterey was also California’s first capital and retains more than forty buildings built before 1850. The incredible marine life of the region is best experienced today at the world-class Monterey Bay Aquarium on Steinbeck-immortalized Cannery Row. A magical “indoor ocean,” it’s home to 700 varieties of marine animals from the Monterey Bay, including fish, sea otters, sharks, penguins, and the mesmerizing and improbably beautiful jellyfish.
To complete your Monterey experience, check into the Old Monterey Inn, a beautifully renovated half-timbered Tudor built in 1929 with just ten perfectly appointed rooms.
One of the most stunning roads on either U.S. seaboard, the celebrated 17-Mile Drive connects Monterey to its peninsular neighbor Carmel, and is the only private toll road west of the Mississippi. A microcosm of the ragged coastline’s romantic beauty, it’s sheathed in rare wind-sculpted cypresses and dotted with ocean-sprayed outcroppings where hundreds of harbor seals and sea lions laze. Man-made highlights of the famous drive are the hard-to-believe multimillion-dollar homes, the legendary Pebble Beach Golf Links, and five neighboring championship courses. Sacred ground for golfers, Pebble Beach’s ocean-hugging links are reminiscent of the demanding and windy courses of Scotland and Ireland, and are regularly ranked as one of the most spectacular (and expensive) tournament-class public courses in the world.
The tree-lined streets of the pretty, prosperous, and pampered town of Carmel are filled with art galleries, jewelry and gift shops, and cafes, with a crescent of beautiful sandy beach just minutes away. The 1770 Carmel Mission served as the headquarters for the entire mission system in California (under Father Junipero Serra, who is buried here).
The town’s most high-profiled resident, Clint Eastwood, still makes his presence known.
The Hog’s Breath lnn (once owned by Eastwood) is fun for a Dirty Harry Burger or a night-cap near one of the outdoor patio’s fireplaces. For something more substantial, head out of town to the venerable 1850s Mission Ranch, a 22-acre seaside dairy farm that the actor rescued in 1986 (the same year he was elected mayor of Carmel) and turned into a rustic inn. Check into one of its thirty-one rooms, or at least stay for dinner at the ranch dining room, popular with locals.