Cannery Row

  • 01 of 08

    What You Need to Know About Visiting Cannery Row

    Cannery Row, Monterey
    ©Betsy Malloy Photography

    Monterey Cannery Row became famous when it inspired a book by John Steinbeck. It was once a scruffy, industrial area, full of sardine canneries. Today, tourists pack the streets like those tiny fish once crowded into cans.

    Don't be dull like so many of them are, strolling along, shopping, eating and leaving. Instead, take a little time to explore some of the area's more interesting sights and hidden corners.

    This walking tour takes you into some interesting corners of the fabled district. It takes an hour or two if you don't get sidetracked, longer if you stop to shop or have a meal. You can also continue to Fisherman's Wharf from the end of this walk.

    Why You Should Explore Cannery Row

    • There's more to see at Cannery Row than those tired t-shirt stores and souvenir shops. And you're just the kind of smart visitor who wants to see it all.
    • You're probably going to walk from Cannery Row to Fisherman's Wharf (or vice versa) and you'd might as well see something interesting along the way.
    • If you love history, Cannery Row is a don't-miss sight. You also must see it if you liked John Steinbeck's book.

    Why You Might Want to Skip Cannery Row

    • If all you want to do is shop, eat and take photos to prove you were there, you may not enjoy checking out the area's more historical sights. You can find information about shopping at Cannery Row here.
    • The walk is flat and about half a mile one way. Most people can do it without any issues, but you know your abilities best.

    Cannery Row is one of the top things to do in Monterey. If you'd rather see it with a tour guide, try Monterey Waterfront Tours.

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  • 02 of 08

    Start at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

    Monterey Bay Aquarium
    Chris Axe/Getty Images

    Cannery Row is the name of the street that runs parallel to the Monterey shoreline and nearest to the water. To begin this walking tour, start in front of the aquarium entrance.

    The Monterey fishing industry began in the mid-1800s when Chinese fishing families arrived by boat. Located too far from their markets to sell fresh fish, they dried it using techniques learned in their home country. Later, Japanese fishermen arrived to fish for salmon, and by the time of the famed "cannery row" John Steinbeck wrote about, Sicilian immigrants had taken over as the area's primary fishermen.

    In the early twentieth century, plentiful sardines in the Monterey Bay combined with a shutdown in East Coast fishing (due to worries about German submarines) to propel Monterey into a sardine-catching and -canning frenzy. By the middle of the century, the sardine population declined due to natural cycles and overfishing, and by the 1950s, most of the canneries were closed.

    Start at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

    Monterey Bay Aquarium: (886 Cannery Row) This aquarium was once the Hovden Cannery. Inside, just to the left of the main entrance, you'll find some of the cannery's old boilers and an informative exhibit about the sardine industry. It's not worth the price of admission for just this exhibit, but if you're going to the aquarium for other reasons, don't miss it.

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  • 03 of 08

    Ed Ricketts' Lab

    Pacific Biological Laboratories
    teemu008/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

    Marine biologist and scientist Ed Ricketts collected and preserved tide pool plants and animals and sold them to schools around the world. His laboratory was at 800 Cannery Row.

    Ricketts was a friend of John Steinbeck, who inspired the character "Doc" in Steinbeck's books Sweet Thursday and Cannery Row

    After Ricketts' death, his lab became the meeting place for a group called the Pacific Biological Laboratory. Today it belongs to the City of Monterey. They tours of the old lab a few times a year. You'll find the schedule here.

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  • 04 of 08

    Wing Chong Building

    Wing Chong Building
    Shihmei Barger/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    This store at 835 Cannery Row shows up in Steinbeck's Cannery Row as Lee Chong's Market, where you could buy "a pair of slippers, a silk kimono, a quarter pint of ​whiskey and a cigar." The building's first owner made much of his fortune by drying and selling squid. 

    The La Ida Cafe in the building next door to it was where Steinbeck's character, part-time bartender Eddie the poured leftover drinks into a jug for Mack and the boys.

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  • 05 of 08

    Cannery Worker Houses

    Cannery Worker Housing in Monterey
    Luke H. Gordon/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Look for these houses in the small park just past the Bear Flag Building.

    Wedged into a little park just past the Bear Flag Building, these houses are some of the few remaining structures built to house the cannery workers. Each is decorated as if a different nationality family lived in it: Spanish, Japanese and Filipino, just a few of the nationalities who found work in the canneries. The mural beside them shows an idealized scene of Cannery Row days, with a family living in a discarded boiler.

    Continue along Cannery Row past El Torito Restaurant through the scruffier, less touristed-up part of Cannery Row where some interesting old relics remain.

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  • 06 of 08

    Reduction Plant

    Abandoned Buildings on Cannery Row
    Cory Sitko/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    Between the shopping area and the Monterey Plaza, you'll find the last remnants of Cannery's Row's bygone days, crumbling buildings and castoff equipment from the old canning plants.

    As romantic as Cannery Row days seem, the plain truth is that Monterey sardines were never very popular as food, being too oily for most people's tastes. However, enterprising businessmen soon figured out that they could make money by boiling up the heads, tails, bones and other leftovers and selling them for chicken feed.

    The former Stohan Gallery was once a reduction plant that used this process. 

    The empty lot across from the Chart House was home to the San Xavier Cannery. The cannery scenes for the film Clash By Night starring Marilyn Monroe and Barbara Stanwyck were filmed there. The big tanks at the back of the lot once held fish oil and are part of the historic landscape. Next to them you'll see an old fuel tank.

    Cross the street to get on the ocean side of Cannery Row if you aren't already there. Walk out onto the little park area next to the Monterey Plaza Hotel. From there, you can watch sea otters, harbor seals and sea lions swimming in the kelp beds. 

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  • 07 of 08

    Monterey Plaza Hotel

    Schooners Coastal Kitchen at the Monterey Plaza
    Courtesy of the Monterey Plaza Hotel

    The Monterey Plaza is hands down the best place in town to have lunch. Go in through the front doors, down the stairs and follow the hallway to Schooner's Coastal Kitchen. Wait for a table on the outdoor patio, and you can watch kayakers, sea otters, and boats in the bay while you eat. 

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  • 08 of 08

    Factory Crossover

    Factory Crossover on Cannery Row
    ©Betsy Malloy Photography

    Also just past the hotel, a covered walkway passes overhead. There were once sixteen of these crossovers on Cannery Row, used to carry canned fish from the factory to the warehouse. This one is the only original left.

    Your Cannery Row tour ends here. You can continue along the waterside walkway to Fisherman's Wharf or turn around and walk back to where you started.

    During the summer months, you can catch the free MST Trolley back to the aquarium.