Located in the heart of Monterey, Custom House Plaza is rich in history. It is named after the Spanish Colonial–style adobe Custom House, California’s oldest government building. The plaza is part of the Monterey Old Town Historic District, which is itself a part of Monterey State Historic Park and includes several other adobe structures.The Basics
Custom House Plaza is a great place to spend a lazy afternoon taking in the views across the Monterey coastline. The Museum of Monterey (formerly the Maritime Museum) houses an antique yet still functioning lighthouse prism light. The Custom House Store sells games, books, and maritime-themed merchandise. There are even bocce ball courts.
Custom House Plaza tours, offered by the Parks Department (call ahead for schedules), typically include the interior of the First Brick House, Casa de Oro (Joseph Boston Store), and the exterior of California’s First Theater. The Monterey Walking Path of History begins in the plaza; the 2-mile (3.2-kilometer) route allows visitors to view other historical, state-owned adobe houses such as Casa Soberanes, the Cooper-Molera Adobe, and Larkin House. The Monterey State Historic Park gardens are open daily to the public at no charge. Things to Know Before You Go
- Custom House Plaza is a must for history buffs. They especially won’t want to miss the Old Whaling Station and Robert Louis Stevenson House.
- Docent-led walking tours of Old Monterey, including the plaza, are free on the last Sunday of each month.
- The inside of many historical adobes can be viewed only with a State Park Guide.
- Monterey State Historic Park offers a Qualified Sign Language Interpreter (QSLI) with advance notice.
- Bring walking shoes and layered clothing, as California coastal temperatures can vary.
- Pathways are level and accessible to wheelchair users, and an ADA-accessible restroom is located behind Joseph Boston Store.
How to Get There
Custom House Plaza is located between the Portola Plaza Hotel and Monterey’s Fisherman's Wharf. If driving, take exit 402B from Highway 1 South and merge onto Del Monte Avenue; keep right to continue onto Lighthouse Avenue. There’s a parking garage at Portola Plaza, and several parking lots are situated nearby.
When to Get There
The Custom House, Pacific House Museum (which includes the Monterey Museum of the American Indian), and First Brick House (located in Heritage Harbor next to the Old Whaling Station) are open from 10am to 4pm. Several big events are held in the plaza throughout the year, including the annual Monterey Greek Festival on Labor Day weekend.
Bear Flag Revolt
The former Mexican administration built the Custom House in 1827 for the purpose of collecting taxes on imported goods. It was here that the United States flag was first raised over California in July 1846. The Custom House became the first California Historical Landmark in 1932 and was deemed a National Historic Landmark 1960.