The first European to set foot in California was Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, a Portuguese explorer sailing for the Spanish crown. He arrived in what is now San Diego Bay in 1542 and explored the coast for several months.
Monterey County, located on the central coast of California, has a rich history dating back thousands of years. Native American tribes, including the Ohlone, Esselen, and Rumsen, were the earliest inhabitants of the region. They lived along the coast, relying on fishing, hunting, gathering, and cultivating crops for sustenance. Spanish exploration of the area began in the late 18th century when the Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portolá arrived in Monterey Bay in 1769.

In 1770, Monterey became the capital of Alta California, a Spanish colony that encompassed much of present-day California. Under Spanish rule, the Presidio of Monterey and the Royal Presidio Chapel, known as the San Carlos Borromeo de Monterey, were built. The mission system was established, and the Carmel Mission, one of the most iconic missions in California, was founded by Father Junipero Serra in 1771.

In 1821, Mexico gained independence from Spain and Monterey became part of Mexican territory. The Mexican period saw significant changes in the county, including the secularization of the missions, the distribution of land grants to Mexican citizens, and the rise of ranching as the dominant industry.

The American flag was raised above Monterey in 1846 during the Mexican-American War, and California officially became part of the United States in 1848 with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The following years saw a surge in population and economic growth as Monterey County became a major center for agriculture, particularly in the cultivation of wheat, cattle ranching, and later, the rise of the fishing industry. Monterey's natural beauty and scenic landscapes also attracted artists, writers, and tourists.

Today, Monterey County is known for its stunning coastal scenery, rich history, diverse agriculture, and vibrant tourism industry. It is home to the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium and plays host to numerous annual events, such as the Monterey Jazz Festival and the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. Its historical landmarks, natural beauty, and thriving cultural scene continue to make it a beloved destination for visitors from around the world.

This timeline provides a glimpse into the major events and milestones that have shaped the history of Monterey County, California.

  • 1770s - Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza visits the area that would become Monterey County.
  • 1777 - The Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, also known as the Carmel Mission, is established by Father Junipero Serra.
  • 1821 - Mexico gains independence from Spain and Monterey becomes part of Mexico's Alta California territory.
  • 1846 - The U.S. flag is raised over Monterey during the Mexican-American War.
  • 1849 - Monterey becomes the capital of California after statehood is achieved.
  • 1850s - Monterey becomes a thriving center for fishing, canning, and trade.
  • 1897 - The Del Monte Hotel, now known as the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa, opens and becomes a popular resort destination.
  • 1916 - The Monterey Bay Aquarium Society is founded.
  • 1931 - Historic Cannery Row is officially named and becomes a bustling sardine canning district.
  • 1940s - The sardine industry declines rapidly leading to the closure of many canneries in Monterey County.
  • 1960s - Monterey County becomes known for its scenic beauty and attracts artists and tourists.
  • 1998 - The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is designated, protecting the diverse marine ecosystem.
  • 2006 - The Fort Ord military base in Monterey County is officially closed.
  • Present - Monterey County remains a popular tourist destination with a thriving wine industry and stunning coastal scenery.