Tucked away on the Monterey Peninsula of Central California between the towns of Monterey and Carmel, Pacific Grove is one of the state's often-overlooked treasures that offers plenty of things to do and see. From taking a scenic drive down Ocean View Boulevard to playing a round of golf at the Pacific Grove Links, there's no shortage of great adventures to discover in this coastal city any time of year.
Pacific Grove's waterfront runs along the edge of the Monterey Bay between the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Pebble Beach. The town doesn't allow development on its waterfront, which leaves every one of its beaches and scenic points natural and unobstructed.
You can take a drive along the coastal road in Pacific Grove and see sights as beautiful as the famous 17-Mile Drive without paying an entrance fee. Ocean View Boulevard passes along the coastline of the Monterey Bay past Lover's Point, near a scenic lighthouse, and to some breathtaking vista points.
However, if you don't mind spending a little bit of money for even more scenery, the exclusive Pebble Beach community on the 17-Mile Drive does charge a small entrance fee. Along this 17-mile route, you'll discover famous sights like the Lone Cypress as well as Spanish Bay and Pebble Beach Golf Links, one of the top-rated public golf courses in the country.
Gorgeous orange and black monarch butterflies spend one winter of their life cycle in the trees in Pacific Grove, where they sleep in big clusters to keep warm. In the morning, they wake up and take flight, looking like bunches of orange leaves fluttering into the sunshine.
To help protect these beautiful creatures during their migratory stop in Pacific Grove, the Monarch Grove Sanctuary on Ridge Road between Lighthouse Avenue and Short Street provides a safe place for the butterflies to nest. From October through February each year, you'll see thousands of monarchs taking to the branches of the pine, cypress, and eucalyptus trees in this nature preserve.
The city takes its role as a home for the migrating monarchs so seriously that it enacted a law making it a misdemeanor to kill or threaten a butterfly. Violators could be fined as much as $1,000.
Located just a short distance from the coast adjacent to the Pacific Grove Links, the Point Pinos Lighthouse is the oldest continually operating lighthouse on the West Coast. Originally established in 1855 to guide boats safely into Monterey Bay, this historic lighthouse is still used today by the United States Coast Guard as an aid to navigation. Tours are available from 1 to 4 p.m. Thursdays through Mondays year-round. While there, explore three floors of history inside the on-site museum or check out the still-working light at the top of the tower.
Some of Pacific Grove's "painted ladies" Victorian-style houses are as lovely as their famous sisters in San Francisco. The Pacific Grove Heritage Society has approved more than 500 of them to wear green plaques showing the year they were built and their original owner.
Several of the Victorian beauties are now bed and breakfast inns, but there are plenty of beautiful examples all over town, and you can take a self-guided walking tour around Pacific Grove to see many of them. The tour starts with the Museum of Natural History at Forest and Central and continues down the 100-block of Fountain Avenue, an early residential street in what's known as the Retreat. After winding through various streets of the city, you'll wind up back at the 100-block of Forest Avenue, where you'll find another handful of Victorian-style homes build between 1885 and 1892.
Relax on Asilomar State Beach
The last stop in Pacific Grove before you reach Pebble Beach and 17-Mile Drive is Asilomar State Beach, which features a gently sloping hill, rolling waves, and plenty of sand to lay out a blanket and relax. It's a popular destination for both locals and tourists alike. Even if you don't want to get sand between your toes, there's a beautiful cliffside walk where you can look out over the sand to the ocean. The beach is close enough that you can walk to it from the Asilomar Conference Center, which is home to 13 buildings designed by architect Julia Morgan, who built the famous Hearst Castle in San Luis Obispo.
The historic, 18-hole golf course known as the Pacific Grove Golf Links is a public course featuring both parkland and links-style nines. Located on the tip of the Monterey Peninsula adjacent to the Point Pinos Lighthouse, the course is not only popular for its unique design but also for the breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, Lover's Point, and Asilomar Beach. Sign up to play a round of golf or simply tour the grounds and attached clubhouse to take in all the sights and sounds of this secluded, public course.
Located on the border of Monterey and Pacific Grove, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is known for its focus on the marine habitats of Monterey Bay and its extensive kelp forest exhibit, which was the first of its kind when it opened in 1984. Featuring festive events, daily feeding shows, and a variety of hands-on discovery tours throughout the year, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is a must-see in the area if you're a fan of aquatic life and conservation efforts for the ocean.
A famous haunt for Pulitzer Prize-winning author John Steinbeck, the historic Cannery Row is so named for the number of now-defunct sardine canning factories that dot this stretch of oceanfront road. Now a popular lodging, dining, and shopping destination, Cannery Row is full of unique locally-owned stores, cafes, and bed and breakfast inns as well as a few popular nightlife venues.
Stop by the American Tin Cannery, a spacious indoor retail and entertainment center that once served as a sardine cannery, for a variety of local and brand-name shops, restaurants, and family attractions like black light miniature golf. Other notable stores on Cannery Row include Candy World, Blue Fox Cellars, Ethan Walsh Paintings, and the International Bazaar Monterey.