Cannery Row is a historic street in Monterey named after the sardine canneries that were once located there. The canneries were a major part of Monterey’s economy in the early 20th century, but declined in the mid-1940s as the sardine population was depleted. After the canneries closed, the area became known for its poverty and crime. In the 1970s, however, the city of Monterey began to revitalize the area, and it is now a popular tourist destination with shops and restaurants.

Cannery Row is home to a variety of shops, restaurants, and other attractions, including the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is located on the site of a former sardine cannery. In addition, Cannery Row is a popular destination for visitors interested in the area’s history and the history of the sardine industry.

Former Hovden cannery now the site of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. After the cannery fell on hard times it was demolished and Monterey Bay Aquarium took its place. These two photos from the Library of Congress archive show both the front and the back where fish was offloaded into the factory. The waters are calm making it an ideal location for fishermen to pull alongside the various plants to offload sardines.

Cannery Row is not just a cute tourist trap name, it is the title of a well regarded novel that made the waterfront community famous.

Cannery Row, by John Steinbeck

The story is set in the early 20th century in the Cannery Row area of Monterey, California, which was home to a number of sardine canning factories. The novel follows the lives of the residents of Cannery Row, including Doc, a marine biologist who runs a lab, and Mack and the boys, a group of bums and drifters who are Doc’s friends. The novel is a portrait of a tight-knit community of outcasts and misfits who live in poverty but find joy and camaraderie in their shared experiences. Steinbeck explores themes of friendship, love, and the human condition as he depicts the lives of these characters, many of whom are struggling with poverty, unemployment, and alcoholism. Through his vivid descriptions of the Monterey Bay area and its diverse inhabitants, Steinbeck creates a touching and memorable picture of a place and a time in American history.

Cannery Row is the most visited of all Monterey area attractions and during busy seasons is best visited early in the day to avoid traffic jams and difficulty finding parking. Street parking in the heart of the district is difficult to obtain, but there are several city owned parking lots.

Things to in Cannery Row

Monterey Bay Aquarium
World class aquarium with emphasis on sustainability and environmental stewardship. More information visit the aquarium’s web site.
The only museum found on Cannery Row is the Pacific Biological Laboratories Museum owned by the City of Monterey that offers once monthly tours. This museum was famed local marine biologist Ed Ricketts laboratory who was a central character in John Steinbeck’s novel, Cannery Row. More information visit the PBL web site where you can book a tour or view a virtual tour of the laboratory.
Tourist area souvenir and gift shops make up the majority of shopping experience on Cannery Row. There are several former cannery buildings that retained their original facades and now encompass interior shopping malls can be found in the area. More information about shops can be obtained on the Cannery Row shopping web site.
Cannery Row has an assortment of restaurants that include full service and eat on the go establishments. Dining opportunities on the Cannery Row Dining web site.
Vehicle Rentals
There are an assortment of motorized and people powered rental vehicles available for rental. Kayaks, electric bicycles, electric scooters, and three wheeled motorcycles are available for rent.
Rental locations:
Adventures By The Sea – Bicycle, kayak, paddle board
Mad Dogs and Englishman – Electric and conventional bicycle rentals
Big Sur Adventures – Electric and conventional bicycle rentals