Want to experience the wild beauty and stunning contrasts of the California coastline in an afternoon? The 17 Mile Drive is one of the best ways I know to do it! In the space of a few hours – or more if you have the time to spare – you can explore the rugged glory of the Monterey Coast and experience the wonderful architecture and luxury of the Pebble Beach Community.
The steep and twisting roads of this well-marked drive wind along a coastline rich in forests, wildlife and beaches. It’s also rich in history and legend. Every single time we drive it we see something new to us.
Finding The 17 Mile Drive
Located just outside Carmel on Sea, you can enter the 17 mile drive easily off Highway 1. There’s a $10.25 entry charge (at time of writing) but this is refundable against purchases of over $35.00 in most of the restaurants along the route. Parking at all the venues, even the golf courses, is free.
There are 21 points of interest on the route. You can stop at as many or as few of them as you like. Cypress Point Lookout (Stop 14) is closed from 1 April to 1 June as this is when the seal pups are born here.
From the moment you drive through the gates and begin to follow the very clearly signposted route, it’s clear that this is going to be a very special experience indeed.
Highlights of The 17 Mile Drive – UPDATED March 2018
The first vista point is Shepherd’s Knoll, which offers a beautiful view of Monterey Bay and the Santa Cruz Mountains. From there, you pass Huckleberry Hill and Poppy Hills Golf Course en route to The Inn and Links at Spanish Bay.
Spanish Bay, a breathtaking piece of coastline, is one of my favourite places on the planet.
I have wonderful memories of windswept walks here.
We also love the elegant yet unpretentious atmosphere of The Inn at Spanish Bay itself. Although we have yet to stay in the hotel, we always stop at Roy’s Restaurant for lunch. The views are incredible and the food is fresh, innovative and delicious. On our most recent visit in March 2018, my husband and I enjoyed the best lobster rolls we have ever had in our lives at Roy’s.
After lunch, it’s time for our walk along the coast. We stroll up past the beautiful Residences at The Inn at Spanish Bay and then back down to Spanish Bay itself. If there’s time after our walk, we sit outside at The Inn to enjoy a coffee before we head off on the rest of the drive.
From Spanish Bay it’s on to The Restless Sea and Point Joe and then Bird Rock and Seal Rock.
Cypress Point and Beyond
Drive past Spyglass Hill Golf Course and on to Cypress Point Lookout. You can often spot seals on the rocks here, although Cypress Point is closed during pupping season, 1 April to 1 June.
All along the route, you pass the most gorgeous homes. From huge mansions to elegant sprawling bungalows in every architectural style imaginable, this is a real glimpse into how the other half lives.
In the beautiful Del Monte Forest there’s Crocker Grove and the iconic Lone Cypress, perched on a rocky cliff for more than 250 years. Then there is The Ghost Tree, a very spooky looking Monterey cypress tree that has a trunk bleached white from years of winds.
After a stop at Pescadero Point for gorgeous views of Carmel Bay and Stillwater Cove, it’s on to my second favourite stop on this route, The Lodge at Pebble Beach.
Pebble Beach Golf Course is famous for its tournaments and for its vintage association with crooner Bing Crosby and friends. There’s a wonderful, glamorous air to this place, and even though we are not golfers there is a special thrill to being able to stand by the famous 18th hole.
The Lodge is friendly and welcoming, a great place for a cocktail or a coffee with beautiful views of the 18th hole and the coastline. A stay at The Lodge and dinner at The Stillwater Bar and Grill is very much on our list for future visits.
There are two more stops on the drive after The Lodge (another golf course, the 100th US Open Monument and an Equestrian Center) but we usually finish our adventure with a drink at Pebble Beach. It’s the perfect end to a wonderful afternoon’s drive.
Find out more by searching ’17 Mile Drive’ at Visit California.