The 17-Mile Drive is widely recognized as one of the most scenic drives in the world. The famous coastal landmark runs through Pacific Grove to Pebble Beach, from the dramatic Pacific coastline to the majestic Del Monte Forest. The drive passes famous golf courses, mansions and scenic attractions.
The drive serves as the main road through the gated community of Pebble Beach. Inside this community, nonresidents have to pay a toll to use the road.
Here is a description of the drive in photos.
Spanish Bay Beach is famous because of its surf. It is a right beach break, and while waves are reportedly best from September to March, they can be found year-round.
Joe was Chinese man who lived alone in a driftwood house near this point in the early 1900s. He made a living selling trinkets to tourists and tending goats. No one knows for sure if the point was named for Joe or if he was named after the point.
Bird Rock Area
This area is characterized by white sands and reddish rocks. A huge rock juts out of the ocean in front of this sandy patch. Even though it is known as Bird Rock, the promontory is shared by sea lions, harbor seals, seagulls, pelicans and cormorants (couldn’t get a good photo since the sun was behind the rock). The noisy sea lions are heard from the distance.
Cypress Point Lookout
This point was called Cabo de Nieve (Cape Snow) by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo. Nobody is sure why he saw a white landscape in 1542. Many years after the first Europeans roamed the area, a missionary called the small peninsula La Punta de los Cipreses (Cypress Point) and the name stuck.
When Cabrillo arrived to the area the Monterrey cypress was nearly extinct. It only occurs naturally from this point to Point Pescadero and in Point Lobos (south of Carmel and seen across the bay). Nowadays, this type of cypress has been planted all around the world.
The Lone Cypress
Standing on a granite hillside, the Lone Cypress is a western icon, and has been called one of the most photographed trees in North America. Possibly as old as 250 years, the cypress has been scarred by fire and held in place with cables for 65 years.
The famous “Witch Tree” landmark, often used as scenic background in movies and television, was formally at Pescadero Point. The tree was blown down by a storm on January 14, 1964. Pescadero Point is also the site of the Ghost Tree, a landmark Monterey Cypress tree. The tree gives its name to a dangerous extreme surfing location known to have storm waves.
The 17-Mile Drive is full of gorgeous scenery but, in my opinion, Point Lobos has way better vistas and panoramas. In addition, you can visit for free if you park outside the reserve. Find more information in this post: Point Lobos – A Must Visit along the California Coast
- There are four primary entrances – the main highway entrance at California State Route 1, and entrances in Carmel and Pacific Grove.
- The entrance fee is $10.00. The money can be reimbursed if you dine or shop within the community.
- A map describing the major attractions is provided upon paying the entrance. It is very easy to navigate the road using the map and the signals.
- The only services open to the public are at the Inn at Spanish Bay and at the Lodge at Pebble Beach (Expensive! Expensive!). It is better to go prepared with what you need.
- The drive can get really busy (especially around sunset). Be prepared to encounter packed parking lots (be patient, the wait for a spot is not long), people walking on the streets and several aggressive or lost drivers.
- Be ready to spot wildlife.
Have you experienced the 17-Mile Drive?
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