Monterey lost some of its prominence as port city when the capital was moved to San Jose in 1850 however it soon became famous for its abundant fisheries. In the 1850s Chinese fishermen began pulling hundreds of pounds of fish from the ocean every day. They were joined in the 1880s by Italians and other emigrants from Europe. By the 1920s sardines were the prize haul. So many were caught – too many to eat even with canning - that two-thirds of a billion sardines a year were turned into fertilizer. A collapse was inevitable. Most of the canneries closed in the mid 1950s.
At it’s peak Cannery Row had 25 canneries strung along both sides of the street. This is where John Steinbeck met the cannery workers, town vagrants, and his good friend Ed Ricketts, a marine biologist, who all served as inspiration for his books. After the sardine industry collapsed the canneries sat empty and the area did not begin recovering until the Monterrey Bay Aquarium was built in 1984. Some of the old cannery buildings are now restaurants, hotels and gift shops.
We were disappointed when we realized that Monterey does not have a museum about the cannery history. Walking along Cannery Row and the Monterrey Peninsula Recreation Trail and reading the signs is a good way to learn some of the history. Park at Coast Guard Pier, walk along the Trail to the aquarium, and back along Cannery Row for a two miles round trip. If you want a longer walk continue on the Trail to Fisherman’s Wharf.
The Monterrey Peninsula Recreation Trail and Cannery Row sidewalks are accessible. The streets running perpendicular between them are steep and wheelchair users may need assistance.
Monterey has many parking options but the easiest for RV parking is the Coast Guard Pier lot. This lot is close to the Monterey Peninsula Recreational Trail which goes north to Cannery Row and south to the state park. The sidewalk from the parking lot to the trail is steep so wheelchair users may need assistance.