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Dramatic coastal cliffs; pristine beaches; mystical forests—you can find it all while cruising along the scenic 17-Mile Drive.
8 min read
February 20, 2021
The 17-Mile Drive reminds us that the greatest part of a road trip isn’t arriving at your destination; it’s the journey. Besides featuring some truly iconic stops along the way, this idyllic stretch of coastline also takes us through many different worlds within a short span of time. Dramatic coastal cliffs, white-sand beaches, mystical forests, luxurious neighborhoods, and world-class golf courses—it’s hard not to fall in love with California when you’re cruising along the 17-Mile Drive.
Hugged by the Pacific on three sides, the Monterey Peninsula offers you the chance to experience wild beaches and quiet coves, fine-dining and casual eateries, and early history and postmodern art—all within a stone’s throw of each other. If you’re looking for the most incredible things to do in Monterey County, the 17-Mile Drive allows you to enjoy all that and more in one day.
The 17-Mile Drive has been open to the public for over a century. But before it became one of California’s most celebrated drives, it was merely a description of the length of the road. When it was first constructed, the 17-Mile Drive was intended to take guests of the magnificent Hotel Del Monte on a tour of the picturesque peninsula—along the coastline of Pacific Grove, Pebble Beach, and Carmel—before returning to the starting point. The scenic road has changed a lot since the first carriage departed from the hotel in 1881, but the route still stretches exactly 17 miles today.
The 17-Mile Drive is open to the public from sunrise to sunset. Riding a motorcycle on the road is prohibited.
Admission to the 17-Mile Drive is $10.50 per vehicle. When traveling by bus, the 17-Mile Drive fee is $5.25 per passenger.
The 17-Mile Drive fee is reimbursed when you spend $35 or more at any Pebble Beach Resort restaurant (excluding the Pebble Beach Market). Admission is free for overnight guests at certain 17-Mile Drive hotels such as The Inn at Spanish Bay, Casa Palmero, and The Lodge at Pebble Beach.
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While most people enter the 17-Mile Drive through the north gate and head south, you can also start from the south and head north. The route is neither a one-way street nor a loop, but rather a two-lane road that allows you to drive either northbound or southbound. You’ll find 17 marked stops along the way, and we recommend briefly stopping at all 17 of them.
17 miles. 17 stops. Can’t get easier than this, right? Indeed, the 17-Mile scenic drive is easily accessible no matter where you’re coming from.
From Monterey: Driving about four miles from Pine Avenue in Pacific Grove will get you to the 17-Mile Drive entrance. From here, you’ll reach the gate where you pay and enter the Pebble Beach section of the route.
From San Francisco: Take Highway 1 and get off at the Pacific Grove exit. When driving during non-rush-hour times, you’ll get to the 17-Mile Drive entrance in less than three hours.
From San Jose: The Highway 1 Gate is the best entry point when coming from San Jose. Hop on Highway 101 South, take exit 336, and you’ll find yourself on Highway 156 (which turns into Highway 1). This trip takes about an hour and a half.
There are five 17-Mile Drive entrance gates.
Pacific Grove Gate: This is the best option if you’re coming in from Monterey or Pacific Grove. To arrive at this gate, follow the road through Pacific Grove, just south of Sunset Drive.
Country Club Gate: Another popular gate for the 17-Mile Drive, this entrance is located on Forest Lodge Road, just off Congress Avenue.
S.F.B. Morse Gate: This gate can be accessed from Morse Drive. It's right off Highway 68, also known as Holman Highway.
Highway 1 Gate: This 17-Mile Drive entrance is off of exit 399A. Take the second exit out of the roundabout, and follow the signs to Pebble Beach.
Carmel Gate: The south gate into Pebble Beach, this entrance can be accessed by following San Antonio Avenue through Carmel-by-the-Sea.
The 17-Mile Drive tour starts with Shepherd’s Knoll. Named after Abraham D. Shepard, a railroad man who built the scenic route’s upper section in the forest, this 17-Mile Drive stop exposes you to sweeping views of Monterey Bay that you’ll want to get on camera.
Interested in seeing Santa Cruz from a truly unique vantage point? The huckleberry-filled hills at this Del Monte Forest attraction give you just that and more. This 17-Mile Drive stop is rumored to have been a favorite of John Steinbeck’s. So if you’ve been looking for views good enough to beat writer’s block, this might be it.
The next stop is the first of many 17-Mile Drive beaches. It allegedly took Spanish explorers a full year to find Monterey Bay, and this beautiful destination is named after their early visit.
This aptly named 17-Mile Drive beach is one of the wildest and windiest places on the Central Coast. If you like the sounds of crashing waves, we recommend you drive past this stop with your windows rolled all the way down.
In the early 1900s, a man named Joe lived in a colorful hut here, tending goats and selling trinkets to tourists. This is a great spot to check out the surf and catch a golfer or two in action at one of California’s best golf courses.
China Rock is a rugged stretch of coastline along the Pacific. What used to be a small Chinese fishing village back in the 1800s is now the sixth stop on the 17-Mile Drive tour—a great spot to stretch your legs and get some fresh air.
If you’re a fan of watching wildlife, you're going to love Bird Rock Vista Point. Soaring birds, harbor seals, and sea lions are commonly spotted at this scenic 17-Mile Drive stop. If you visit from November through March, you might even catch a glimpse of the gray whales migrating south.
Upon reaching the eighth stop on your 17-Mile Drive tour, treat yourself to a picnic by the beach and some exciting tide pool exploration. A short hike along the boardwalk at Seal Rock will also get you to a colorful little dwelling known as the Gingerbread House.
Another top 17-Mile Drive stop to take in the views of uninterrupted coastline is Fanshell Overlook—it is an impressive sight to see. Note that a few sections of the shoreline here are closed from April to June to protect the young families of harbor seals.
Undoubtedly the most famous 17-Mile Drive attraction, Cypress Point Lookout offers majestic views of the coast, cypress trees, and seals on the beach. If you’re interested in seeing spectacular mansions from the 1920s, Sunset Point (located just southeast of the Cypress Point Lookout) boasts plenty of dramatic architectural masterpieces.
The largest and oldest Monterey cypress trees are found at this 17-Mile Drive stop. The sunrays flickering through the towering trees at this forest make for a sight you can’t miss.
Another well-known landmark, the Lone Cypress along the 17-Mile Drive has been standing bravely atop a rocky cliff for more than 250 years. This mysterious natural wonder in California used to be known as the midway point of the original 17-Mile Drive route.
The section of Pescadero Point known as “Ghost Tree” gets its name from the dying, spooky-looking cypress trees in the area. There are many reports of ghost sightings near this 17-Mile Drive stop, too. So if you’re a fan of the paranormal, you’ll particularly enjoy this strange roadside attraction.
This is the perfect place to learn more about the history of Pebble Beach. From the city’s early days as a regular stopping point during a scenic carriage ride to its transformation into the “Golf Capital of the World,” everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the area is found at the Pebble Beach Visitor Center.
Whether you’re looking to play or just watch pro golfers in action, there’s no doubt that this 17-Mile Drive destination is worth checking out. Many major golf championships have been held right here at Pebble Beach Golf Links, making this 17-Mile Drive stop iconic in every way.
Is there anything more relaxing than riding down a beautiful trail on a stallion? Following one of the many marked trails or going for a guided trail tour with Pebble Beach Equestrian Center gives you a unique perspective of the 17-Mile Drive coastline.
The final stop on the 17-Mile Drive is a small meadow named in honor of Robert F. Ford—a generous donor to the Del Monte Conservancy.
It’s not uncommon to want to spend a day (or three) in Carmel-by-the-Sea or other gorgeous Central Coast destinations while completing the 17-Mile Drive. Thankfully, some of the best hotels and resorts in the state are located right along the route.
Located at Pebble Beach Golf Links, below the first and second holes, Casa Palmero is an exquisite and luxurious Mediterranean-style estate with 24 private rooms. Whisk your partner away to Casa Palmero for a romantic winter getaway like no other.
This acclaimed 17-Mile Drive hotel has been welcoming guests since 1919. Providing a true taste of luxury to its guests, the Lodge at Pebble Beach gives you the opportunity to play golf at nationally rated courses, wake up to ocean views, and visit an award-winning spa. Whatever you do, don’t leave without having mouthwatering meals—you can savor everything from Italian to Hawaiian fusion—and making use of the private beach access and tennis club.
The Inn at Spanish Bay is an idyllic 17-Mile Drive hotel nestled among Monterey pines. Other than cozy fireplaces, most rooms also feature a private patio with magnificent views of the landscaped grounds, pine forests, or the Pacific Ocean. Need we say more?
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