Pacific Grove – or "Butterfly Town USA," as it likes to call itself – began as a nineteenth-century campground and Methodist retreat, and still holds ornate wooden cottages from those long-forgotten days, along 16th and 17th streets. One other reminder of that pious period is the deep-red wooden Gothic church St Mary's by the Sea, Central Avenue at 12th St (Mon– Fri 8.30am-4.30pm; Web: www.stmarysbythesea.org ), with a simple interior of polished redwood beams and an authentic signed Tiffany stained-glass window.
Ocean View Boulevard circles the coast around the town, passing the headland of Lovers Point (originally called Lovers of Jesus Point), where preachers used to hold sunrise services – indeed, it's one of the peninsula's best beaches. Every year, from October through early March, hundreds of thousands of golden Monarch butterflies come here to escape the winter chill, forming orange and black blankets on the Butterfly Trees, on Ridge Road, a quarter of a mile inland on Lighthouse Avenue. At the end of the avenue, near the tip of Monterey Peninsula, stands the 150-year-old Point Piños lighthouse (Thurs– Mon 1–4pm; $2), the oldest continuously operating lighthouse on the California coast, though basically a quaint farmhouse with a revolving light poking out of its roof. To find out more about the stunning topography and biology of the area, head to the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, downtown at Forest Street and Central Avenue (Tues– Sat 10am–5pm; free; Web: www.pgmuseum.org ), where you can learn all about the area's birds and butterflies, among other wildlife, and cultural artifacts of the peninsula's native tribes.
If you have time, consider taking the Seventeen Mile Drive (daily dawn– dusk; $9.25 per car), a privately owned, scenic toll road that loops along the coast south to Carmel and provides beautiful vistas of rugged headlands and the glistening shoreline. One particular highlight along the way is the Lone Cypress Tree, whose solitary silhouette has been the subject of many a postcard in these parts.