Ever since it opened to horse-drawn carriages back in 1881, the 17-Mile Drive in Carmel, California, has been one of the world’s most scenic drive destinations. It’s basically a private two-lane road that follows the Monterey Peninsula, going through the Del Monte Forest, along the Pacific Coast, and past various popular golf courses, such as Pebble Beach Golf Links.
It doesn’t take much to enjoy this famous driving destination. Even if you are not that keen on shopping, dining, or playing golf, the sights that you on the drive are just priceless. The coastal drive will treat you to breathtaking views of the many beautiful homes and golf courses as well as the rocky beaches, trees, birds, and marine animals of Monterey Bay.
If you’re new, this guide can give you some basic information as well as some helpful tips for your first drive.
Location: The drive is located in Pebble Beach, reaching out to Carmel from Pacific Grove. There are five different gates that serve as entrances, namely the Pacific Grove Gate just off Sunset Drive, the Country Club Gate on Congress Avenue, the Highway 1 Gate between 1 and 68, the S.F.B Morse Gate also on Sunset Drive, and the Carmel Gate at San Antonio Avenue. These entrances are easy to spot, and there are plenty of signs.
Hours of Operation: The gates are open 24 hours a day.
Cost: Because the site is privately owned, there’s a charge for entry regardless of whether you take the 17-mile drive or not. Admission is pegged at $10.25 per vehicle and can be paid in cash only. The good news, however, is that the fee is reimbursed upon making any purchase of at least $30 in any of Pebble Beach’s amenities, like the resort or the market. Those who will be staying overnight as guests of the Pebble Beach Lodge, the Spanish Bay Inn, or the Casa Palmero get in for free.
Note: Motorcycles are prohibited from entering through the gates.
When is the Best Time to Go?
You will want to take the 17-Mile Drive during the fall and spring seasons because that’s when the skies are a bit clearer. The place can get foggy during the summer and can obstruct what would otherwise be pleasant views of the scenery. To further ensure that you get clear skies, try to go around mid to late afternoon. Make sure you stay long enough to enjoy the sunset!
If you happen to live nearby and want to make sure the sights are worthwhile, you can call The Inn at Spanish Bay via 831-647-7500 and ask them. You can also check the Pebble Beach webcam views on their website to see for yourself.
You’re going to want to avoid the golfing season. When there are big golf tournaments taking place, it’s almost impossible to get inside. These events happen annually around February (Pebble Beach Pro-Am) and June (US Open Golf Tournament), but it’s better to call up and ask to make sure.
And it’s not just golf; the Pebble Beach Food and Wine Festival takes place in April, and there’s also the Concours d'Elegance classic auto show in August. These and other major events really draw in big crowds, which not only makes entrance difficult but can stifle the driving experience as well. So, unless you’re going there for the event, you’ll want to take the drive when nothing major is going on.
Don’t Miss any the 17-Mile Drive’s 21 Stop Points
Why are you doing the drive? To see the sights of course! Make sure to grab a map from the gate (don’t forget your receipt!) so that you have something to refer to as you go along. The map provides you with a brief explanation of the 21 points of interest.
17 Things You Can’t Miss on the 17-Mile Drive:
1. Huckleberry Hill’s Breathtaking View. Standing 800 feet above sea level, you’ll be treated to an entire forest of Monterey pines over an ocean view.
2. Spanish Bay Boardwalk. This is the perfect place to take a stroll, thanks to the snow-white sand dunes that fill the coastline of Spanish Bay Beach.
3. Surf Watching. The boardwalk isn’t the only thing people go to on Spanish Bay Beach. Most cars stop here just to check out the people kayaking and surfing on the California waves.
4. Biking Along the Coast. There are bikes at Spanish Bay for visitors to rent, allowing them to cruise along the coast with the ocean breeze in their hair.
5. Be Serenaded by a Bagpiper. You’re probably not used to listening to bagpipe music, so getting to listen to it while you enjoy your favorite drink by the fire pit just after sunset will definitely be a unique experience.
6. Join a Putting Contest. Unless you’re a guest at one of the hotels, it’s pretty difficult to get into and play at the golf courses. For everyone else, there’s the putting contest on the Linksy Practice Green.
7. Watch the Sea. It’s strange how the sight of the turbulent sea of Spanish Bay can calm a person, but it does.
8. Bird Rock. As the name suggests, this is a large rock formation on the sea where the birds gather. Even more interesting are the sea lions that gather here throughout the day. You can hear their barking even from the Spyglass Hill Golf Course. There’s just so much life and activity there that it’s worth a look.
9. Fourth Green of Spyglass Hill. Even if you’re not a golfer, you’ll definitely love all the greenery that’s neatly embedded between the sand dunes.
10. Seal Rock. Yes, it’s another rock, but is just as filled with sea lions and marine life. A bit of exploration lets you see crabs hanging around the tidepools and seal lions playing around the surf. The area is also known for being the perfect picnic spot, which is a good alternative to the finer dining experiences on offer.
11. Fanshell Overlook. The Cypress Point Club boasts a picturesque view of the beach.
12. Cypress Point Lookout. If you’re here for the sunset, this is arguably the best spot to see it.
13. Crocker Grove. This place is special because it is home to the oldest Monterey cypress in existence. The grove is preserved thanks to its location just off the coast, protecting it from the winds.
14. The Lone Cypress. Perhaps one of the most popular spots on the 17-Mile Drive, Monterey’s Lone Cypress had been proudly standing atop its sturdy rock pedestal for over 250 years, acting as a symbol of great significance to the locals. This also happens to be one of the most photographed trees you’ll ever find.
15. Pescadero Point. If you’re into spooky stuff, head over to Pescadero Point to check out the famous Ghost Tree. Talk of this famous tree often revolves around a “lady in lace,” who’s rumored to appear on dark foggy nights.
16. The Bench. On top of the great food and drink by the fire pits, visitors also get to enjoy the amazing view of the 18th hole of the golf course at Pebble Beach.
17. The Tap Room. This place is home to one of golf’s best-known 19th holes. This golf pub offers award-winning drinks to be sipped amidst all the memorabilia displayed on the walls.
- If you don’t feel like driving a car, consider taking a bike. As mentioned before, they can be rented; alternatively, you can take a group tour that takes you through most of the famous stops, including Monterey, Carmel by the Sea, and Pebble Beach.
- Feel like playing golf? You’re going to want to make reservations with The Links at Spanish Bay, unless, that is, you’re a guest planning to stay at least two nights at one of the lodgings, as the golf course is mostly reserved for guests.
- Don’t forget that restrooms can be found along the route and are marked on the map.
- If you’re dining at one of the restaurants, make sure you give your gate receipt to the server so that you can take advantage of the refund.
- If you don’t want to eat at any of the restaurants, you can opt to dine al fresco at one of the many picnic spots along the route.
- Obey the signs that tell you to stay away from or not walk on certain areas. These are there to protect the local wildlife as well as the integrity of the environment.
- Want better photos of the wildlife and scenery? Make sure your camera has a great zoom function since most of the spots won’t let you get too close.
The entire trip should last an average of 3 hours. This includes the time spent to enjoy each stop. All in all, the 17-Mile Drive is a great stress-free way to spend an afternoon out with friends or family.