In 1602, explorer Sebastian Viscaino was sent by the Viceroy of New Spain to explore California and its western coast. Viscaino was to map his findings and locate a port for Manila galleons to use for transporting goods from the Philippines to the shores of the Pacific Ocean. He landed in Monterey and christened the harbor after the Count of Monterey. The City of Monterey was founded in 1770, by the Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portola. When the Spanish-Mexican war broke out in 1822, California was seized and added to the Mexican Empire. In 1846, the Mexican-American War broke out and Commodore Sloat, landed in Monterey and declared California for the Union.
The Pacific Coast Steamship Company, built a wharf for regular passengers and freight purposes in 1870. In 1913, ownership of the wharf was assumed by the City Council, to provide maintenance for the wharf and oversee the thriving sardine industry. It was at some point during this time period that it became known as "Fisherman's Wharf'', by which it is still known today.
In 1916, the City bought the wharf and began an expansion project, which provided more services for fishing and fleet businesses. By the 1920's, the wharf was home to over 20 warehouses, retail fishing outlets, restaurants, marine service station and an abalone shell grinding company. In March 1923, a large load of sardines was waiting to be loaded onto the S.S. San Antonio for transport. Treacherous weather conditions caused 123 feet of pier to collapse and the entire sardine shipment sank into the harbor. When it came time to rebuild the wharf, an additional 750 feet was added and a finger pier was built eastward.
City Officials began to rally for more construction on the wharf to provide relief of congestion, due to commercial fishing demands. Bonds were voted in and the wharf was expanded and Municipal Wharf II was created in 1925. It was during the time of World War II, when sardines began to diminish that the wharf became a tourist attraction. By the time 1956 rolled around, there were candy stores, restaurants, a theater, aquarium, snack bars, boat rentals, and many other attractions.
In 1969, the state appropriated $325,000.00 in funding to build an additional bulkhead wall, more parking spaces and a promenade were added as well. Fisherman's Wharf has continued to grow and thrive even now, with thousands of travelers enjoying the various businesses located throughout the wharf. There are also whale watching and harbor cruises offered throughout the year. The City Of Monterey continues to make improvements to the wharf on a consistent basis, thus enhancing the area for both tourists and the general public.