Winding through the Pacific coastline from Pacific Grove to Pebble Beach in the Monterey Peninsula is the scenic drive – 17 Mile Drive. It looks like a painting based on my photos yet it is only a snippet of what you’ll actually see if you are there standing at the coastal cliffs marveling at the view.
What is the drive about?
17-Mile Drive is a world-renowned scenic drive that offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, rocky cliffs, and cypress trees. This stunning drive takes you through one of the most scenic areas of California and is a must-visit destination for nature lovers, photographers, and road trip enthusiasts.
Where is 17 Mile Drive located?
The 17 Mile Drive is located on the scenic Monterey Peninsula. It is a 2-hour drive south of San Francisco or a 5-hour drive north of Los Angeles.
What will you see?
The scenic drive has some of the most amazing views you’ll ever get to see in your lifetime – especially if you make a stop at Pescadero Point. During the drive, you’ll get to pass through famous golf courses, mansions, picnic sites, and scenic attractions like the famous Lone Cypress.
TIPS FOR VISITING:
1. Enter the 17 Mile Drive from the north gate
Whether you want to make a stop at the various attractions or simply wish to enjoy the view in your car, make sure to enter the 17-mile Drive from the Pacific Grove Gate.
The 17 Mile Drive entrance at the Pacific Grove gate is the northernmost entrance so you will be traveling from the North to the South which will enable you to be on the coast side.
Entering from the Carmel gate (southernmost gate) means you’re on the other side of the road (opposite the coast) where there is no street parking, which will then ask you to make U-turns just to park to stop at the scenic attractions. Making U-turns can be dangerous and sometimes impossible.
Which 17-Mile Drive Entrance is Better?
These are the four entrances at 17 Mile Drive and I recommend entering from the Pacific Grove Gate. It is located on 17 Mile Drive and Sunset Dr. Another entrance is Country Club Gate located in the middle at Congress Ave. and Forest Lodge Rd. The 3rd entrance is the Samuel Morse Gate located at Hwy 68 and Samuel Morse Dr. While the 4th entrance is the Carmel Gate, located at the southmost end.
2. Get your $10.25 ready, cash only
As of 2023, admission to 17-Mile Drive is $11.25 per vehicle for non-residents of this gated community of mansions. The gate fee can be reimbursed with a purchase of $35 or more at all Pebble Beach Resorts restaurants, excluding Pebble Beach Market.
Admission for tour buses is $5.50 per passenger. Admission is complimentary for overnight guests of The Lodge at Pebble Beach, The Inn at Spanish Bay and Casa Palmero. The 17-Mile Drive gates are open to the public from sunrise to sunset. Motorcycles are prohibited.
3. Visit on a weekday if possible
With 1.5 million people visiting yearly, I recommend visiting on a weekday especially since there is only street parking available at scenic stops.
We drove through it on a Friday just before lunch and it was not that crowded giving us the chance to easily park at the limited number of street parking.
4. Attractions are numbered with a sign, watch out for them
There are 21 Points of Interest to vist. You will be given a map upon paying at the toll gate. The 17 Mile Drive map will show you stops of the attractions but with so many stops and with cars zooming fast, you won’t have time to study the map. So, I would suggest just looking out for these numbered markers on the road. #18 stop is my personal favorite – Pescadero Point!
5. Check Points of Interest before driving:
One of the most popular activities is golfing at Pebble Beach Golf Links, a world-renowned golf course that has hosted several major tournaments. Another popular activity is hiking and exploring the beaches, such as Spanish Bay and Asilomar State Beach, which offer opportunities for birdwatching, tidepooling, and surfing. Biking and cycling on the trails is also a great way to explore the drive, with several rental services available nearby. Dining and shopping at Pebble Beach resorts are also popular activities, with several restaurants and shops offering stunning ocean views.
- Shepherd’s Knoll
- Huckleberry Hill
- Poppy Hills Golf Course
- The Inn & Links at Spanish Bay
- Spanish Bay
- The Restless Sea
- Point Joe
- China Rock
- Bird Rick Hunt Course
- Bird Rock
- Seal Rock Picnic Area
- Spyglass Hill Golf Course
- Fanshell Overlook
- Cypress Point Lookout
- Crocker Grove
- The Lone Cypress
- The Ghost Tree
- Pescadero Point
- The Lodge at Pebble Beach
- Peter Hay Par-3 Golf Course
- Pebble Beach Equestrian Center
6. Stop at Fanshell Overlook
The pure white sand of the beach below is irresistible to harbor seals, who each spring return to bear their young. Closed during the harbor seal pupping season though – April 1 – June 1.
7. Visit on a clear day
You will be visiting for the view so make sure to visit on a clear day to truly appreciate it. There’s not much to see if it is too foggy. This is especially important if you want to take pictures of the Lone Cypress and the coastal cliffs.
8. Pack a Picnic or make a Restaurant reservation
There are various picnic stops along the way – one at Spanish Bay and another at the Seal Rock Picnic Area. The map or road markers will indicate them. You can also choose to dine at the restaurants which will enable you to reimburse your gate fee. Make sure to present your gate receipt to your server.
- The Lodge at Pebble Beach – Stillwater Bar & Grill, The Tap Room, The Bench, Gallery Cafe, and The Terrace Lounge.
- The Inn at Spanish Bay – Peppoli at Pebble Beach, Roy’s at Pebble Beach, STICKS, Traps, The Lobby Lounge, and Stave Wine Cellar
- additional dining – Soyglass Grill, and Pebble Beach Market*
* reimbursement of gate fee not provided for this restaurant
9. Set a few hours to enjoy it all and use the bathroom before you enter the gates
We entered just an hour before lunch time so we only got to visit 3 sites coz’ the kids were hungry after playing at Carmel Beach that morning.
10. Stop at the famous Lone Cypress
A Western icon, the Lone Cypress is one of the most photographed trees in North America. It stands on a granite hillside off the drive and is at least 250 years old. The cypress tree has been scarred by fire and has been held in place with cables for 65 years now.
The Lone Cypress, which was the midpoint of the original drive is one of the most photographed trees in the world.
11. Stop at Pescadero Point/ Ghost Tree – a must-see!
My favorite stop is Pescadero Point! See tree trunks bleached white from the wind – the Ghost Trees at Pescadero Point. Also, marvel at the view of rock formations and the Pacific waves from this beautiful cliff point with views of Carmel Bay and Stillwater Cove. This was my favorite stop of the 3 stops we made. Seriously breathtaking.
Once you exit at the Carmel Gate, you can continue on to see more scenic views by driving through or stopping at the coast of Carmel Beach (one-way going South – Scenic Road) and ending at Carmel River State Beach – a beach on one side and a river on another.
How long does it take to drive the 17-Mile Drive?
Driving the 17 Mile Drive usually takes around 1-2 hours, depending on how many stops you make along the way. The drive itself is approximately 17 miles long and has a speed limit of 25 miles per hour, which allows visitors to take their time and enjoy the stunning scenery. However, during peak tourist season or on weekends, the drive may take longer due to traffic congestion or crowds at popular viewpoints. I recommended planning ahead to avoid crowds and parking difficulties.
Is the drive scary?
The 17 Mile Drive is generally not considered a scary drive. Some portions of the drive can be narrow and winding, and there may be steep cliffs along the coastline, so it’s important to drive carefully and watch for other vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians. If you’ve driven through Big Sur, that I would consider scary and this one is nothing.
Is 17-Mile Drive Worth Visiting?
Totally! With stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, wildlife sightings, and an array of activities to do, the 17-Mile Drive is worth the visit and is one of the most beautiful areas in California and should be on everyone’s bucket list!