Princeton History

Pillar Point Harbor and Princeton-by-the-Sea, once frequented by rumrunners and prohibition agents, now serve commercial fishermen and recreational boaters.

The trail north from Johnson Pier takes you to the public fishing pier on the inner breakwater. From the pier, around dusk, watch kwawking night herons leave their roost in the Monterey Cypress trees.

The town of Princeton-by-the-Sea, noted for its streets named after famous colleges, was laid out in 1908 to serve the throngs of visitors who rode the Ocean Shore railroad trains from San Francisco to explore Coastside beaches.

Its Cape Code façade, with constant foot traffic exploring the seafood restaurants and quaint shops temporarily obscures the fact that one of the largest fishing fleets in Northern California operates from here. With an annual haul of ten million pounds of fish, one can buy fresh crab, salmon, squid, or whatever is in season right from the fishermen’s boats, or sign up for a charter boat day trip to catch one’s own. Whale watching is possible from both boat and plane.

Boat building and repair yards support both the 200-vessel fishing fleet and the 170 recreational boats that moor in the fine marina protected on three sides by a beautiful rock breakwater, built in the 1960s. Only memories remain of the Portuguese sailors from the Azores who ran a whaling station here from the 1860s until the 1890s.