Take a Journey Through the Central California Coast

Pristine beaches and dramatic Pacific coastlines. Eclectic villages and vibrant downtown historic districts. Cottages and landmarks that reflect a collective and irrepressible character of whimsy, elegance, and charm. For generations, artists and luminaries from all walks of life have found strength and inspiration in the scenery and serenity of the seaside towns along California’s Central Coast.

Now it’s your turn. Follow along with this guide through Monterey County, California.

  1. Cooper Molera_Cooper House

    Cooper Molera Adobe (Monterey, California)

    Cooper Molera Adobe, a National Trust Historic Site, is a model for a new vision of historic sites. This vision of shared use (part museum, part commercial entity) takes lessons from the site's own story which dates from 1827 when the region was a part of Mexican Alta California. The families that lived here, all with their own origin stories, carried out different occupations and businesses that contributed to a common vision. Learn more and visit this historic site, and don’t forget to grab a cup of coffee at Alta Bakery + Cafe or a meal at Cella Restaurant and Bar.

  2. Exterior of a two story adobe building in California.

    Photo By: McGhiever via Wikimedia CC BY-SA 3.0

    Robert Louis Stevenson House (Monterey, California)

    For a few months in 1879, acclaimed author Robert Louis Stevenson lived at this two-story adobe structure in Monterey. Built in 1840, the house eventually became a gathering place for the city’s arts community in the 1920s and 1930s. Visitors to the home (with tours on Fridays and Saturdays) can see some of Stevenson’s possessions and four Works Progress Administration paintings from the 1930s. It is here that Stevenson is rumored to have found inspiration for "Treasure Island."

  3. Exterior of a long white building with trees and a lawn on the right side of the image.

    Photo By: Allie Yielding

    Casa Serrano (Monterey, California)

    View the incredible collections at the Monterey History and Art Association’s Casa Serrano, including impressive Plein Air and Bohemian artwork, as well as objects, textiles, and decorative arts from Monterey’s early residents, tourists, and coastal workers. This site has had many lives as a home, schoolhouse, and an Italian restaurant. Open on weekends to the public, this is a must-see for anyone interested in handcrafted pieces belonging to Monterey’s first families.

  4. Exterior of a brown building with a sign that says Pacific Biological Laboratories.

    Photo By: Allie Yielding

    Pacific Biological Laboratories (Monterey, California)

    Owned and operated by ecologist Edward Flanders Robb Ricketts, the best friend and collaborator with author John Steinbeck. This is the place of inception of many of Ricketts’ and Steinbeck’s ideas, and Ricketts was featured in many of Steinbeck’s books, including the “Doc” character in "Cannery Row." After Ricketts' death in 1948, a group of thinkers that called themselves Pacific Biological Laboratories gathered here where they8—with jazz promoter Jimmy Lyons—developed a new international venue for Jazz (now known as the Monterey Jazz Festival). The site was transferred to the city in 1993.

  5. View of the Pacific Ocean with a bright blue sky and sunlight above a pebble beach

    Photo By: Allie Yielding

    17-Mile Drive and Pebble Beach (Pebble Beach, California)

    Take in the sights on a scenic tour along 17-Mile Drive which hugs the California coastline, providing access to natural attractions such as the Lone Cypress and the Del Monte Forest. While a toll is required, drivers will also be able to see some world-famous golf courses and residences sharing the magnificent views.

  6. Ariel view of the Tor House exterior.

    Photo By: Allie Yielding

    Robinson Jeffers Tor House (Carmel, California)

    In 1919, poet Robinson Jeffers began learning the art of making “stone love stone” while building Tor House, named for the craggy knoll where it was constructed with dramatic views overlooking the Central California coastline. Jeffers spent nearly three decades building and expanding the home for his wife and family with granite boulders from the shore below and artifacts from around the world. Today, this unique historic property is preserved by the Robinson Jeffers Tor House Foundation and protected under one of the first easements established as part of the National Trust Easements program.

  7. The interior of a Roman Catholic church with ornate ceiling leading up to a ornate altar.

    Photo By: Allie Yielding

    Carmel Mission Basilica (Carmel-by-the-Sea, California)

    First built in 1797, the Carmel Mission Basilica, one of the most authentically restored Roman Catholic mission churches in California. Marvel at the catenary ceiling, thirty-foot reredos, and 5-foot-thick walls before exploring the village of Carmel-by-the-Sea with its eclectic and whimsical mix of secret pathways, hidden courtyards, award-winning gardens, and enchanting storybook cottages.

  8. View of a cliffside leading into the Pacific Ocean.

    Photo By: Allie Yielding

    Point Lobos State Natural Reserve (Carmel-by-the-Sea, California)

    A sacred place known as Isxhenta by Indigenous people, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is the “crown jewel” of California’s state parks system with miles of trails for hiking, sightseeing, and observation points for sea lions and otters from the surrounding marine reserve. Photographers Edward Weston and Ansel Adams spent time in the reserve, and many visitors use the site as inspiration for their own paintings and photographs. If you visit, remember that a reserve is a higher level of statewide protection where it is maintained in an undisturbed condition.

Announcing the 2024 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

See the List