“The Monterey Peninsula is the greatest meeting of land and sea that nature has produced.”
Robert Louis Stevenson
The 17-Mile Drive in Monterey has long been praised as the most beautiful stretch of road in California, and quite possibly all the world. From its origin in Pacific Grove, the clearly marked 17-Mile Drive winds through coastline, golf courses, mansions, cypress forests, and truly awe-inspiring sections of California’s geography to its conclusion in Carmel by the Sea. Here is a summary of what you will see if you decide to tour the 17-Mile Drive. If you are intrigued, we’ve included a more detailed description of each 17-Mile Drive stop from Monterey to Carmel below.
There are so many highlights that this famous road could be called the “ultimate 17-Mile Drive of California”. Allow plenty of time to immerse yourself in its wonders. And don’t resist the temptation to jump out and explore (with camera in hand) the amazing sights along the way.
Homes of the rich and famous. The route travels through elegant Pebble Beach, CA, renowned for its celebrity residents. Often hidden behind signature cypress trees and private fences, their grandiose mansions sell for many millions of dollars and often blend perfectly into the stunning landscape.
Unforgettable ocean views. The most beautiful feature of the route is the access it provides to incredible beach views at stops like Stillwater Cove, Seal Rock and Spanish Bay. Turbulent waters, craggy rocks, and misty white waters create mile after mile of tantalizing shoreline.
Native wildlife. The variety of wildlife to be spotted on the 17-Mile Drive is amazing. Many species of shorebirds make their roost at Bird Rock. Harbor seals and otters swim searching for food in thick kelp beds. Black-tail deer can be caught scampering across the more forested parts of 17-Mile Drive.
Instagram-worthy trees. The Lone Cypress Tree has sat on its cliff-tip perch for 250 years. It is a must-see attraction. There will be easy access to Crocker Grove, a 12-acre sanctuary protecting the oldest and rarest Monterey Cypress trees.
Hallowed grounds. There are six world-renowned courses along the 17-Mile Drive: Pebble Beach, Links at Spanish Bay, Spyglass Hill, Cypress Point, Poppy Hills, and Del Monte. The courses are popular with visitors and frequently hold celebrity golf tournaments.
Want to learn more about things to do in the Monterey Bay area? Check out our blog here.
In the next section we’ll describe each of the 17-Mile Drive stops from start to finish. Then, we answer these questions covering what you should know before you go:
To whet your appetite, here is a summary of the must-see vistas and points of interest along the 17-Mile Drive route when entering from the Pacific Grove gate. Note: you can also do the drive in reverse order by starting from the Samuel F. B. Morse gate off the California State Route 1.
Offers a breathtaking, panoramic view looking down on Monterey Bay. The spot is named for Abraham D. Shepard who built the upper, forested route of 17-Mile Drive.
On a clear day, you can see distant Santa Cruz from this tree-topper vista. Native huckleberry trees in these hills were frequented by writers Robert Louis Stevenson and John Steinbeck.
Beautifully located next to rolling sand dunes and in the middle of a Scottish-style links golf course, The Inn at Spanish Bay is a luxury hotel with elegant restaurant options.
Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portolà camped here with his ship's crew in 1769 while exploring the coastline in search of Monterey Bay. This is a great stop to dip your toes in the ocean water or stop for a picnic (there are tables on the beach!)
One of the most turbulent sections of coastline in Pebble Beach. The sound of continuous crashing waves is incredibly soothing. The ocean's churning brings food to the local marine life, making it a good place to spot sea mammals and shorebirds.
Early European explorers often mistook Spanish Bay for larger Monterey Bay and met disaster on these rocks trying to make their way to shore. Why Joe? In the early 1900s, a man named Joe tended goats and sold trinkets to tourists from his driftwood hut.
Just down the coast from Point Joe, China Rock was the site of a small Chinese fishing village in the late 1800s.
Uncountable birds leave “deposits” where they rest in the rocks of this ocean refuge. Look for Brandt's cormorants, pelicans, and sea otters floating in the thick kelp beds. Tip: The only restroom along the 17-Mile Drive is located here.
A great spot to stretch your legs while you picnic, explore tide pools, or hike on the boardwalk toward the colorful Gingerbread House. You won’t believe the number of seals you will see (and smell!) as they sunbathe on this rocky island.
A gorgeous panoramic beach and one of the most popular pupping habitats for California harbor seals on the Central Coast.
A favored spot for expecting harbor seal mothers. During the spring pupping season, the lookout is closed to give the little ones some much-needed privacy. Thanks to the southwest view, the lookout is a great spot to catch a sunset.
This home to the oldest Monterey Cypress trees is named after Charles Crocker, the railroad baron who built the original 17-Mile Drive in 1881. Crocker Grove is one of only two native Monterey Cypress forests in the world.
For more than 250 years, the Lone Cypress has occupied this rocky pedestal overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It is so iconic that Pebble Beach adopted the tree as its logo. Tip: this stop on the 17-Mile Drive has just a few parking spaces. Be patient, it’s worth it. `
This stop at Pescadero Point is haunted by sun-bleached Monterey Cypress trees. It is also a legendary big wave spot where you can watch surfers deal with swells approaching 50 feet in the right winter conditions.
Find charming golf-themed shops to browse. Across from the Lodge is the Visitor Center containing the century-long history of the golf links. Enjoy refreshments at the Terrace Lounge overlooking the historic golf course!
No public course can match the championship pedigree of Pebble Beach Golf Links. If you’re looking to play, a round at Pebble Beach costs more than $500. The other 3 public courses (Spyglass, Spanish Bay and Del Monte) are a bit more affordable.
Opened in 1924, just five years after Pebble Beach Golf Links. A great place for private horseback riding lessons, guided trail rides along the Pacific Coastline and horse show events.
Robert F. Ford was a generous donor to the Del Monte Forest Conservancy. The meadow was dedicated to his memory on August 26, 1981.
Ready to visit? See our tour options here.
From San Francisco, the East Bay or San Jose, navigate your way to Highway 17 in Los Gatos heading toward Santa Cruz. Just north of Santa Cruz, take exit 1B. Continue on Highway 1 toward Monterey for 40 miles until you reach the exit for Highway 68 West which leads to the Pacific Grove entrance. Total travel time about 2 ½ hours.
From all points in Southern California navigate your way to Highway 101 in Paso Robles heading north. Stay on Highway 101 for 85 miles, exiting at Highway 68 West. Continue on 68W to the Pacific Grove gate, about 32 miles. Travel time is about 5-6 hours.
The CA Highway 1 entrance (called the Sam F.B. Morse gate) is the most frequently used, but the best way to go is to begin at Pacific Grove entrance and go out through the Carmel gate. You can also do this in the reverse order.
There are 15 stops along the well-marked 17-mile route, not counting the restaurants, lodges, or golf courses. Each point of interest has easy access with paved parking for cars and RVs.
Even though the drive is just 17 miles long, the pace is slowed by gawking at the wonders along its route. Most visitors spend about 90 minutes on the drive, but it can take longer with a lot of stops.
Access to the 17-Mile Drive is available at the five gates where a $10.50 fee is charged per vehicle. The receipt is a voucher that you can present at shops or restaurants along the route when you make a purchase of $35 or more.
Take the 17-Mile Drive is fall or spring when coastal fog is less of an issue. It’s best to avoid the drive during the Pebble Beach Pro-Am golf tournament each February, the Pebble Beach Food and Wine Festival in April and the Concours auto show in August.
Elite restaurants requiring a reservation include The Inn at Spanish Bay and The Lodge at Pebble Beach. More casual options are the Stillwater Bar & Grill (seafood), The Tap Room (classic steakhouse), The Bench (grill), and Gallery Cafe (casual contemporary).
If you want to picnic along the 17-Mile Drive, you can collect supplies at the 5th Avenue Deli in downtown Carmel. You can also try the Pebble Beach Market next to The Lodge at Pebble Beach. The best picnic spots are near Seal Rock.
The most important item to pack is your camera (or phone). A pair of binoculars can be helpful for spotting the birds, harbor seals, and sea otters. Bring a light jacket or long sleeve top - it can be cool and windy along the coast!
The weather on the California coast is generally quite mild but winter storms can make it feel wet and chilly. Be prepared for differences. On the same day, it can be 80°F (27*C) in Monterey and only 65°F (18*C) at Spanish Bay.
As you pass through the official entry gates of 17-Mile Drive you will be given a brochure with extensive information and an easy-to-follow map. Just follow the dashed red line on the roadway and posted signs along the route.
A 100 years ago, the 17-mile drive was a trail for covered wagons carrying guests from hotels to picnic grounds along Pebble Beach. Today, visitors continue to enjoy its crashing waves and pristine views.