Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History

Step into a field guide to the Californian Central Coast, packed with local birdlife, marine life and Native American culture. 

The Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History offers insight into the local animal and plant life, geology and human history of Pacific Grove and the surrounding areas. The museum’s roots date back to a group of ecologically- and historically-minded locals in 1879. Today, it’s grown into a dynamic center that inspires wonder, discovery and stewardship. 

Start with a visit to the life-size whale in front of the building. Sandy the gray whale is one of the museum’s most popular attractions, particularly for children. Inside, explore the Cetacean Room, which features spectacular bones from marine mammals. Don’t miss the skeleton of an orca suspended the from the ceiling. 

Monterey County has one of the most diverse bird populations in the U.S, most of which you’ll find represented in the museum’s bird collection. The collection contains 409 wall-mounted birds representing nearly 300 species from the finch family to the majestic California Condor. 

The museum also focuses on the geological history of the area and has rock specimens dating back tens of millions of years. Wander through the Native Plant Garden, which recreates the main ecosystems of Monterey County: coastal scrub, chaparral and oak woodland. There’s also a butterfly garden teeming with monarch butterflies, which can be observed up-close through telescopes. 

Monterey County has a rich Native American history. Local tribes thrived even after Spanish colonization. The museum displays artifacts found in Pacific Grove that date back over 5,000 years, including tools essential for daily life. The Native Plant Garden also has a section devoted to plants grown by Native Americans. 

The museum also features more contemporary displays. Step inside the Spirit Nest, an interactive tube made of interwoven oak, willow and plum boughs created by artist Jayson Fann.

The Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History is located in central Pacific Grove, a 9-minute drive from Monterey. Buses also go to Pacific Grove from downtown Monterey. Allow one to two hours to see the museum, which is free to enter and open Tuesday through Sunday.  

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