Discovering the culture, spirit of Monterey Peninsula

There are countless historical and cultural sites throughout the Peninsula, from Monterey to Big Sur, that house memories, art and fantastic views, encapsulating the spirit of the region and simply waiting to be discovered.

Tor House

One of the hidden gems of the region’s literary history, Tor House is tucked near the city limits of Carmel-by-the-Sea and contains the life of American poet Robinson Jeffers and his family.

The tour led by a volunteer docent is characterized not only by facts of the poet’s life but by readings of Jeffers’ poems inspired by the peninsula he treasured. The cottage, though cozy, is filled with surprises and memorable symbols like unicorns and hawks, favorites of Jeffers and his wife, Una.

Its unique decorations are eye-catching, but the property is well-known for other features like its proximity to the ocean—it borders Scenic Avenue—its English-inspired garden and its unusual stone tower.

An aerial view from Hawk Tower, built by Jeffers, looks down upon Tor House and its accompanying garden.

An aerial view from Hawk Tower, built by Jeffers, looks down upon Tor House and its accompanying garden.

Climbing up the Irish-inspired Hawk Tower may be the best part of the tour, and though a waiver is needed since Jeffers, the builder, was not exactly following today’s building code, it has a picture-perfect view of the Peninsula, the ocean and the garden below.

Tours are by reservation only, with tickets costing $10 for adults and $5 for students. For more information, visit TorHouse.org.

La Mirada

An extension of the Monterey Museum of Art, La Mirada, an Old World home, houses a contemporary gallery juxtaposed against the historic estate and its accompanying rose garden. Originally a simple adobe, the home was renovated in the 1990s, adding the gallery wing where the exhibit “Armin Hansen: The Artful Voyage” was recently displayed.

Though that versatile exhibit closed March 7, the annual spring event “Art in Bloom,” where Central Coast floral designers will display live interpretations of famous artwork, will be open from April 28 through May 1.

Besides displaying special exhibits, the gallery houses a small but beautiful collection of paintings and bronze statues.

Admission costs $10 for adults and is free for students with school ID. For more information, visit MontereyArt.org.

Point Sur

At the top of a colossal rock in Big Sur perches the Point Sur lighthouse, the only complete turn-of-the-20th-century lighthouse in California open to the public, which has provided ships with a glimmer of light for the past 127 years and counting.

After the half-mile walk up to the lightstation, visitors will be able to discover the buildings lighthouse keepers and their families called home from 1889 to 1974 and the isolated community that was formed there.

Depending on the time of year, visitors may also be lucky enough to catch sight of wildlife like gray whales, typically seen between January and May.

For a docent-guided tour of the Point Sur Lightstation, included on the National Register of Historic Places, visitors must arrive at the parking area early for the three-hour tour. Tickets cost $12 for adults, $5 for ages 6-17 and free for age 5 and under. For more information visit PointSur.org.

Atop Moro rock, the Point Sur lightstation shines its beam across the coast at twilight.

Atop Moro rock, the Point Sur lightstation shines its beam across the coast at twilight.

Path of History

Tucked in the Monterey Bay next to Fisherman’s Wharf, lies the path of history where locals and tourists alike can begin exploring a number of historical landmarks including the Custom House, the Pacific House Museum & Memory Garden and the Old Whaling Station.

The Monterey State Historic Park transports visitors to the founding of Monterey, California’s first capital, and its subsequent transitions from a Spanish settlement to a Mexican province and finally to an American city with numerous historical sites.

In addition, the Monterey History and Maritime Museum, also known as the Museum of Monterey, is located in Custom House Plaza as well, and though it is currently undergoing renovations, the museum is still open to the public, where the Fresnel lens from the Point Sur Lightstation can be viewed from the museum’s entrance.

Most of the sites are open daily, but the future of certain buildings like the Cooper-Molera Adobe and the First Theatre have not yet been determined so may prompt problems with visiting.

To learn more about the Monterey State Historic Park, visit parks.ca.gov/mshp.

-Delaney King