Pacific Grove is best strolled, so park the car, don walking shoes, and spend the day meandering around George Washington Park and the waterfront around the point. The Point Pinos Lighthouse, at the tip of the peninsula on Ocean View Boulevard (tel. 831/648-5716; www.pgmuseum.org), is the oldest working lighthouse on the West Coast. Its 50,000-candlepower beacon has illuminated the rocky shores since 1855, when Pacific Grove was little more than a pine forest. The museum and grounds are open and free to visitors Thursday through Monday from 1 to 4pm.
Marine Gardens Park, a stretch of shoreline along Ocean View Boulevard on Monterey Bay and the Pacific, is renowned for ocean views, flowers, and tide-pool seaweed beds. Walk out to Lover's Point (named after lovers of Jesus, not groping teenagers) and watch sea otters play and crack open an occasional abalone.
An excellent shorter alternative, or complement, to 17-Mile Drive is the scenic drive or bike ride along Pacific Grove's Ocean View Boulevard. This coastal stretch starts near Monterey's Cannery Row and follows the Pacific around to the lighthouse point. Here it turns into Sunset Drive, which runs along secluded Asilomar State Beach (tel. 831/646-6442). Park on Sunset and explore the trails, dunes, and tide pools of this sandy shoreline. You might find purple shore crabs, green anemone, sea bats, starfish, limpets, and all kinds of kelp and algae. The 11 buildings of the conference center established here by the YWCA in 1913 are landmarks, designed by noted architect Julia Morgan. If you follow this route during winter, a furious sea rages and crashes against the rocks.
To learn more about the region, stop in at the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, 165 Forest Ave. (tel. 831/648-5716; www.pgmuseum.org). It has displays on monarch butterflies and their migration, stuffed examples of the local birds and mammals, and temporary exhibits and special events. Admission is free; hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10am to 5pm.
Pacific Grove is widely known as "Butterfly Town, USA," a reference to the thousands of monarchs that migrate here from November to February, traveling from as far away as Alaska. Many settle in the Monarch Grove sanctuary, a eucalyptus stand on Grove Acre Avenue off Lighthouse Avenue. George Washington Park, at Pine Avenue and Alder Street, is famous for its "butterfly trees." To get here, the butterflies may travel as far as 2,000 miles, covering 100 miles a day at an altitude of 10,000 feet. Collectors beware: The town imposes strict fines for disturbing the butterflies.
Just as Ocean View Boulevard serves as an alternative to 17-Mile Drive, the Pacific Grove Municipal Golf Course, 77 Asilomar Ave. (tel. 831/648-5775; www.ci.pg.ca.us/golf), serves as a reasonable alternative to the high-priced courses at Pebble Beach. The back 9 of this 5,500-yard, par-70 course overlook the sea and offer the added challenge of coping with the winds. Views are panoramic, and the fairways and greens are better maintained than most semiprivate courses. There's a restaurant, pro shop, and driving range. Eighteen holes start at $40 Monday through Thursday and $45 Friday through Sunday and holidays; twilight rates are available. Optional carts cost $34.
The American Tin Cannery Factory Premium Outlets, 125 Ocean View Blvd., around the corner from the Monterey Bay Aquarium (tel. 831/372-1442; www.americantincannery.com), is a converted warehouse with 40 factory-outlet shops, including Bass Shoes, OshKosh B'gosh, Samsonite, and Izod. It's open daily from 10am to 6pm.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.