A Place Called the Monterey Peninsula
(What to see, feel, hear and taste...) ". . . His walks carried him as far as the beach and across the mouth of the river to Point Lobos with its rocky coves and wind-swept trees." The Seacoast of Bohemia The Monterey Peninsula was inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Islandduring his visit in the late 1800's. What Stevenson experienced then, in terms of natural beauty, still exists today as a backdrop for a way of life that can be enjoyed on many levels. The Monterey Peninsula is the "common denominator" for a varied group of places, each with its own character and style: Monterey, Carmel, and Pebble Beach: Carmel Valley, Big Sur and, by the way, the Salinas Valley -referred to as the "salad bowl" of the world!
Monterey was the first capital of California, and as such, it features a "path of history" that includes that time. Today Monterey is also a destination for the world-renowned Monterey Bay aquarium, Cannery Row of author John Steinbeck fame and the beach wharf area, among other sights and sounds. For visitors, Monterey's accommodations are abundant (including hotels, motels, bed and breakfast inns, -etc.) and the contiguous communities of Pacific Grove, Seaside and Marina complement the availability of options. As a place to live, Monterey is a small city compared to other Monterey Peninsula environments; and its many "neighborhoods" reflect the history and cultures that are the foundation of a vibrant citizenry.
Camel has its own history and, in many ways, is worlds-apart from Monterey - even though separated by mere minutes. The mission founded by Franciscan Junipero Serra is the oldest structure in Carmel, but its history as an artist enclave began sometime around 1900 when a colony of bohemians discovered its inspiring beauty! Today, the village of Camel-by-the-Sea grudgingly retains the values of another time, while accommodating the "progress" that is always inevitable. As such, residential areas still have no street lights, even though million dollar homes have replaced many charming cottages; and the forestry budget represents a larger slice of the Carmel budget than that of any other American community! Art galleries and eating establishments inhabit a majority of the business district; and, at last count, there are more hotel/motel/inn rooms than citizens in the one-mile square limits of Carmel. But don't fret. For citizen or welcomed visitor Camel remains a truly unique and delightful daily experience! While many who live in the Carmel area (which geographically encompasses a larger area than the city limits) are "retired", there is still a diverse population that chooses to call Camel home. Walks on the pristine Carmel beach are popular for locals and tourists alike; and discovery of a wonderful work of art or special gift augments the enjoyment of wandering through the shops of Camel-by-the-Sea.
Pebble Beach, with its pine-forested setting, stunning estate properties and world-renown golf courses, has an unrivaled character and fame. But the residents of the Del Monte forest, some of whom actually live in "modest" homes, graciously share the Pebble Beach experience with the public: the Seventeen Mile Drive; the Lone Cypress outlook; Pebble Beach, Spanish Bay, Spyglass Hill and Poppy Hill golf courses; and The Lodge at Pebble Beach and Spanish Bay Resort. Arranging a playing time at famous Pebble Beach golf course is possible, if a bit expensive! The opportunity to live in Pebble Beach, however, may be more realistic than most people imagine. A home on the Pebble Beach golf links is a course limited to a few, but other options are available including condominiums. And enjoyment of the magnificent beauty of coast and forest along the "17-mile Drive" is available to all - for a small gate fee if you are a visitor. You see, Pebble Beach is a private community and thus another unique part of the Monterey Peninsula.
Carmel Valley is an unincorporated area stretching east from Carmel, with the Carmel Valley Village about a twelve mile drive. The pastoral beauty of the Valley, once almost exclusively farming and ranching, is a stunning alternative to the coastal scenery. While agriculture and some ranches still dot the landscape, the Valley has become a sought-after place to live. Recent developments like The Preserve and Clint Eastwood's Tehama have augmented a casual environment that denotes living in the Carmel Valley. While hiking, horseback riding, tennis and golf can be enjoyed by locals and visitor alike, wine tasting rooms and restaurants in the Village are a delight! Generally, you have more "room to roam" in the Carmel Valley, with many homes situated on one-acre parcels. As with other areas of the Monterey Peninsula, there is also a variety of styles and price-ranges. For a visitor, there are accommodations available, but they are somewhat limited as is all development in the Carmel Valley.
South from Carmel for almost 90 miles is the rugged and awesomely beautiful coastline known as Big Sur - once called "the greatest meeting of land and sea in the world." California Hwy. 1 winds along its length and is flanked on one side by the majesties Santa Lucia Mountains and on the other by the rocky Pacific Ocean Coast. The community of Big Sur resides some 26 miles from Carmel - a popular tourist destination as well as unique place to live. Artists and poets, among others, have chosen this Monterey Peninsula alternative as home over many decades. Big Sur's many points of interest include nine state parks, scenic beaches and rivers, waterfalls that plunge to the sea and charming visitor-serving accommodations. And a drive farther down the 90-mile Big Sur coast will bring you to the famous Hearst Castle at San Simeon.
Although not often mentioned as part of the place known as the Monterey Peninsula, the Salinas Valley (and the city of Salinas) is a complementary segment of the area's topography. A short drive from other Monterey Peninsula locations, Salinas and the Salinas Valley provide another dimension to the canvas painted by sights and sounds of Monterey, Carmel, Pebble Beach, Carmel Valley and Big Sur. A trip down the Salinas Valley will take you past miles of agricultural abundance - enough variety to make a good salad and a glass of wine. In fact, in the process you might discover one of the boutique wineries that continue to produce award-winning California wines.