The Undiscovered Monterey Peninsula 2.2
(Part 3) Fisherman’s Wharf and Cannery Row
Note: This is part 3 of a 3-part series on points of interest in Monterey, which is just down the road from SSCS.
You can find Part 1 here.
You can find Part 2 here.
Today we’re going to move closer to the water and tour of two of Monterey’s most prominent tourist destinations: Fisherman’s Wharf and Cannery Row. We’ll move from Fisherman’s Wharf in the direction of Cannery Row, where we’ll end up at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Our route is approximated by the dotted line in the following map:
Fisherman’s Wharf was used as an active wholesale fish market into the 1960s. As commercial fishing tapped out, it became the tourist attraction it is today, lined with one seafood restaurant after another, one of the few places on the image-conscious Peninsula (Cannery Row is another) where you can find a novelty store, revel in junk food, or buy a cheap T-shirt. To give you some perspective, this is how the Wharf looks when you first approach it from Custom House Plaza at the end of historic downtown Monterey:
As you get closer, you see how much commercial activity has been crammed into a relatively narrow space. The effect is slightly claustrophobic and wharf buildings always seem to be partially in shadow no matter what time of day it is. This is a view of the wharf from its “mouth”. It’s not that long, either; if you squint you can see in this photo where it ends (the red roof under the clock in the background):
As long time residents of the area, we appreciate the Wharf. For one thing, their restaurants tend to offer discounted menu items for locals, plus they have the kinds of storefronts we guarantee you won’t see in Carmel, Pebble Beach, or the rest of Monterey—like this one:
As you get to the end of the Wharf, things open up a bit and you can see the Bay again. If so inclined, you can take a whale watch tour:
Rappa’s restaurant, which you can see in the above photo, has a viewing platform running the full length and width of their roof, from which we took the following photo. It may be the end of Fisherman’s Wharf, but it’s the beginning of something much more vast:
Less than a half mile from Fisherman’s Wharf, a short walk down the recreation trail that runs the length of the Bay, you’ll find Cannery Row. Immortalized by local son John Steinbeck in his writings, it has been transformed into a commercial destination of significantly greater scope than Fisherman’s Wharf.
Although its days as an industrial fishing juggernaut is long behind it, you don’t have to look far to see remnants of its sardine canning roots:
Believe it or not, this somewhat ancient looking ruin is positioned on one of our favorite spots on the Coast, San Carlos Beach, which sits between Fisherman’s Wharf and Cannery Row (see above map). The park adjacent to the beach butts up against the start of Cannery Row, as seen below:
Unlike Fisherman’s Wharf, you can easily spend a better part of the day on Cannery Row, which in addition to restaurants and shops is home to a number of attractions, not the least of which is the Monterey Bay Aquarium (there’s an indoor miniature golf course, mirror maze, laser tag arena, and XD theater, too). These kinds of attractions make it the most popular destination on California’s Central Coast, a kind of cannery-themed amusement park. It is also home to several outstanding lodging choices, such as the Monterey Plaza Hotel and Spa:
This view from the back of the hotel gives you only the slightest inkling of what a unique location it is:
Pass the Monterey Plaza Hotel, turn the corner, walk a block or so, and you are presented a lengthwise view of the heart of Cannery Row:
Pass through this gateway, and any number of amusing sights await you. For example, there’s this old sardine oil tank that someone tired to transform into a yellow submarine:
You can also take in this monument to the working people of Cannery Row, with John Steinbeck perched atop it:
If you find yourself getting a little hungry, you can stop at internationally-renowned restaurateur Forrest Gump’s establishment, the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company:
Standing at the far end of the Row, moving toward the aquarium, are the original shacks of those who worked in the canneries, many of them Chinese, Filipino, and Latino. Getting up close and seeing how small they really are is somewhat of a revelation:
Now we’re almost at journey’s end, and we’ve reached the crown jewel of the Row, namely the Monterey Bay Aquarium:
The aquarium’s architecture indicates how the City of Monterey has made an effort to keep the look and feel of the buildings aligned with the historical period that Steinbeck wrote about in his books. That the aquarium looks like a cannery is to be expected. It is built out from one, as more clearly evidenced by the Portola Sardines placard visible in this photo:
Well, we’ve reached the end of our journey, so before we go let’s take one quick look over our back…
…and pause for one last reflection on the Cannery Row that used to be:
That’s it for this installment of the Undiscovered Monterey Peninsula. Next week we re-focus on the C-store industry, featuring an exclusive interview with a Detroit-based company that makes sure fresh food gets into C-stores doing business in some of the most underserved neighborhoods in that city. We’ll see you then!
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