Today’s Cannery Row is very different from that of the “tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron…” described in Steinbeck’s novel. There has not been an active sardine industry here since 1973, and the street is now filled with boutiques, chain stores, hotels, and restaurants.
The Monterey waterfront is a popular place for visitors and locals to stroll, admire ocean views, snack on salt-water taffy, and access the coastal beaches. The area offshore is preserved as Monterey County’s Edward F. Ricketts State Marine Conservation Area, home to a large population of California sea lions. Signposts in the area display quotes from Steinbeck and insights into the history of the area, which visitors can delve into more deeply on a walking tour. If you're into sport fishing, you can launch expeditions from McAbee Beach and San Carlos Beach, which bookend the Cannery Row area. Scuba diving in the murky, frigid Pacific is made worth it by the rich biodiversity here, and San Carlos Beach is the most popular spot to launch.
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Things to Know Before You Go
Traffic and parking in the area can be very congested, especially in summer, so budget some extra time.
A popular and scenic way to reach Cannery Row is via 17-Mile Drive from Pacific Grove, which takes longer but skirts the scenic Pacific Coast.
How to Get There
If traveling by car on Highway 1, look for signs for Monterey Bay Aquarium, then park at one of the nearby parking garages or on the surrounding streets. During summer, visitors can park in downtown Monterey and hop on the free WAVE shuttle bus (which is clearly signposted) to reach the town’s attractions.
When to Get There
April and May bring mild temperatures without the heavy crowds of summer vacationers. The weather in central California is almost always mild, but rarely hot enough to lay out on a local beach in your bathing suit. The Central Coast is often host to various festivals, especially of the food-and-wine variety, so consider timing your trip with one of these.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium
Housed in the former Hovden Cannery, this blockbuster attraction draws visitors from all over the world. The organization is known for its focus on the habitats of Monterey Bay, and is one of the world’s only institutions to host a living kelp forest. Popular residents include the California moray eel, the giant Pacific octopus, the playful sea otters, and the beautiful jellyfish.