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The only place in America where three great towns of America adjoin is on the Monterey Peninsula. No surprise, given the combination of a spectacular coastline; a climate as ideal for human habitation as it is for lush landscapes; and natural constraints that slowed urban land development long enough for political sentiments to take over the role of protecting this unique natural setting from rampant growth.
Three distinct towns grew side-by-side from very different sources. Monterey was the first to boom. In fact, it was the first permanent settlement in California, and the first of Spain’s four presidios. Its calm ocean on the leeward side of Monterey Bay made it an ideal seaport for a thriving fishing industry. Carmel followed closely behind with the establishment of a mission in a captivating setting where artistic souls later found their muse. Pacific Grove was the last to be founded—as a summer retreat for Methodists, where serenity and orderliness reigned for nearly a century. Each town’s roots are still delightfully reflected in their evolving personalities, even though now all of them share the challenges of their enormous appeal to travelers from all over the world.
With incomparable beauty, there is plenty for visitors to enjoy year-round. A hike/bike path connects Monterey and Pacific Grove with flowery seascapes to within a block of famed historic Cannery Row; and the Seventeen Mile Drive is one of America’s most picturesque scenic roads. Everyone should take time to stroll among storybook cottages in downtown Carmel, and marvel at how roads always yield rights of way to noble trees. Kayaking, hiking, fishing, boating and other sports are delightful in world-class land-and-sea settings from the Peninsula through Big Sur bounding the region on the south. The Monterey Aquarium is one of the finest in the nation. Lush landscapes and romantic settings have spawned sybaritic spas and romantic retreats in all three towns. Wineries and affiliated tasting rooms abound, as does gourmet food in all styles and price levels. Weather is hospitable most of the year. The only problems facing travelers is that there are so many of them. Traffic jams are always possible, restaurant queues can be long, and lodging prices (particularly on weekends) can be daunting. Happily, the livability rewards are more than worth it. This guidebook will help you discover the marvels of this remarkable area.