The 17-Mile Drive through Pebble Beach in Monterey County is one of the most scenic road trips in California. The drive is known for its spectacular setting by the Pacific Ocean.
Connecting the towns of Pacific Grove and Carmel-by-the-Sea, the 17-Mile Drive should be at the top of your list of things to do in Monterey. It is also a nice add-on to a Carmel, Pacific Grove, or Big Sur itinerary.
While you can complete the 17-Mile Drive in a couple of hours, we suggest you allow as much time as you can spare, because the short drive features lots of things to see and do. You can even spend an entire day on this beautiful stretch of coast!
Considering the Pebble Beach 17-Mile Drive? Read on to learn what to expect, plus our tips for doing the drive.
What Can You Expect on the 17-Mile Drive?
Spectacular coastal vistas, of course! The coastline of ritzy Pebble Beach is one of the most beautiful on the US west coast.
White sandy beaches. Ancient cypresses. Dramatic rocks and cliffs. Wildflowers in season. The chance to spot whales, sea birds, and wildlife. Cool ocean breezes.
Add in the beautiful mansions that line the drive, the world-class golf courses, and excellent shopping and dining, and you have the perfect short road trip!
Start the 17-Mile Drive at the Pacific Grove gate and you will be able to cover the 17 stops in ascending order. That’s where we started, and it’s how we’ve described the stops here.
Other than the designated stops, the entire coastal stretch, between Spanish Bay and Pescadero Point, is worthy of exploration. Walk the trails, explore tidepools, and look for marine life and birds.
Want to experience the route on a fun and active guided tour? Consider this highly-rated 3-hour electric bike tour that takes you along the scenic coast of Pacific Grove and along the ocean stretch of the 17-Mile Drive. Kids can ride tandem. Book this tour now!
17 Mile Drive Stops: A Complete Guide
Stop 1: Take in the View from Shepherd’s Knoll
Shepherd’s Knoll is a quick photo stop. The viewpoint is named for Abraham D. Shepard, who designed the early scenic route in the upper forest.
The overlook affords panoramic views over the forests to Monterey Bay in the distance. On a clear day, the deep blue of the water makes a pleasing contrast to the rich green of the forests.
Stop 2: Admire Another Ocean Vista at Huckleberry Hill
Writers Robert Louis Stevenson and John Steinbeck reportedly frequented Huckleberry Hill, which offers another look at the ocean over the tops of trees.
On a clear day, you can see all the way across Monterey Bay to Santa Cruz. And yes, the hills here are reported to have huckleberry bushes!
A trail goes down the hill from the overlook, if you have the time to explore. We went down a little ways, but turned back because the trail was narrow and looked overgrown.
Stop 3: Enjoy Beautiful Spanish Bay Beach!
One of the most popular stops along the 17-Mile Drive, Spanish Bay Beach is pristine and so inviting that you could spend hours here.
The sand is blinding white, with rocky areas to the north.
The bay got its name because Spanish explorers camped here in 1769 while they were trying to find Monterey Bay, based on an old description.
Spanish Bay is one of the most beautiful beaches in Monterey County, so if you enjoy beaches, allow for adequate time here!
Walk the boardwalk trail through the coastal dunes to Moss Beach (south) or Asilomar Beach (north) and back. The walk allows you to take in the beautiful views, look for wildlife and birds, and enjoy wildflowers in season.
Spanish Bay Beach is perfect for sunbathing, picnicking, and sand play. You may see surfers in the water. Swimming is not advised, on account of dangerous currents.
The Links at Spanish Bay, one of the many golf courses in Pebble Beach, are just behind the coastal dunes.
Stop 4: Admire the Waves at The Restless Sea
The Restless Sea area is said to feature some of the most turbulent wave action along the Pebble Beach Coast, but it was not too restless when we visited on a nice June morning.
The views of the Pacific Ocean here are expansive, and in season, you will find them framed by golden wildflowers.
Look for sea birds and land birds: we saw blackbirds searching for crumbs!
Stop 5: Take in the Rugged Coastline at Point Joe
The granite rocks at Point Joe are stunning, with a variety of subtle colors and textures. The contrast of the tan and gold rocks and the blue ocean makes for splendid photos.
Point Joe is infamous at the site of numerous shipwrecks in days gone by, because seamen thought it was the entrance to Monterey Bay.
Stop 6: Admire the Beauty of China Rock
Chinese families built huts here in the late 19th century. Smoke from their cooking fires was baked into the rocks, and you can still see traces.
Today China Rock makes for a great photo op. The views out to the ocean are fantastic as well.
When we visited in the spring, wildflowers covered the area at the base of the rock formation.
Stop 7: Look for marine life and birds at Bird Rock
You will see lots of cormorants and pelicans at Bird Rock, which lies just offshore in the water. Binoculars or a zoom lens are helpful for an up close look.
The rock used to be covered in several feet of guano until it was removed for use as a fertilizer. Today, sea lions also use it as a sunbathing spot, and you will hear their barks as you approach.
Also look for harbor seals, other sea and land birds, and California gray whales out in the ocean during migration season: winter and spring.
Stop 8: Enjoy the beach at Seal Rock
Seal Rock Creek flows into the ocean at Seal Rock Creek Beach. Steps and pathways lead out onto the sand if you want to sunbathe, enjoy a picnic meal, or walk on the white sand.
There are tidepools you can explore here. Look for anemones, crabs, sea urchins, sea slugs, and other tiny inhabitants.
On the land side, snap a photo of the charming Gingerbread House with its multi-colored roof. If you have the time, you can walk the boardwalk trail to the house for a closer look.
Stop 9: Snap a Photo at Fanshell Overlook
Fanshell Beach is yet another of the pristine beaches that line the Pebble Beach coastline. In the spring, harbor seals are known to pup on this beach, so it may be off limits between April and June.
Fanshell Overlook offers expansive water views and is one of the best photo spots along the stunning 17-Mile Drive. Look for marine life and birds!
Stop 10: Take in the views at Cypress Point Lookout
While Cypress Point Lookout is especially spectacular at sunset, the views aren’t shabby at other times of the day either. Nearby Sunset Point features magnificent mansions.
The lookout faces southwest, and offers gorgeous views of the sun setting over the water, as well as the rocky coastline jutting out into the ocean.
Stop 11: Admire the Ancient Cypresses of Crocker Grove
Crocker Grove is one of only two spots where you can find native Monterey cypresses, the other being Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. The evergreen coniferous trees are beautiful.
The grove is named for Charles Crocker, a railroad magnate responsible for building the original 17-Mile Drive in the late 19th century.
Unlike right along the coastline, where Monterey cypresses tend to be bent on account of being sculpted by the wind, the cypresses in the slightly inland Crocker Grove stand straight and very tall.
Stop 12: Snap a Photo (or Three!) of The Lone Cypress
The Lone Cypress viewpoint is possibly the most famous stop on the 17-Mile Drive, and the stop most beloved of photographers: you’ve probably come across photos of the famous tree on Instagram.
The little tree is the official logo of Pebble Beach Resorts and has stood upon its perilous perch for more than 250 years, come rain, come shine.
There are a few other trees here, but the Lone Cypress can be photographed alone on the rock above the ocean, hence its abiding charm.
The Lone Cypress lost a branch in a rainstorm in 2019. But it is reported to be healthy and stable nevertheless, and it looked super picturesque at our most recent visit in June 2021!
Stop 13: Admire the Ghost Trees at Pescadero Point
One of our favorite stops on the 17-Mile Drive, Pescadero Point features stunning scenery, apart from the ghost cypresses.
There is a small walkway to stroll, and every step offers beautiful views of the gnarled trees, boulders, and the Pacific Ocean.
Pescadero Point is also a hot surfing spot. Swells as tall as 50 feet can be encountered here!
Stop 14: Stop by the Pebble Beach Visitor Center
Want to learn more about the history of Pebble Beach and its evolution into one of the premier golfing destinations on the planet? Stop by the Pebble Beach Visitor Center!
Inside the beautiful building, you will find a series of exhibits that document the history of Pebble Beach.
There are restrooms, a cafe where you can refuel, and a gorgeous deck with an ocean vista.
Stop 15: Play at the Pebble Beach Golf Links (or Watch!)
If you want to play a round at the world-famous Pebble Beach Golf Links (the weekend we visited, Barack Obama was playing here!), reserve well ahead of time and be prepared to pay a pretty penny.
But even if you do not wish to play, or you are short on time, you can enter and walk to the first hole to watch players tee off, or to the eighteenth, to see them wrap up their rounds.
Stop 16: Check out the Pebble Beach Equestrian Center
The Pebble Beach Equestrian Center offers horse grooming, training, and boarding.
You can take a private or group riding lesson here if you have the time, either on your own horse or on one of the rescue horses at the center.
You can also enjoy a guided trail ride: there are several miles of equestrian trails that allow you to explore the lovely Del Monte forest.
Some trails take you along the coast, with spectacular views of the ocean en route.
Reserve in advance by calling the center.
Stop 17: Enjoy the Peaceful Ambience of Ford Meadow
Ford Meadow is a tranquil last stop on your way to California Highway 1. The meadow is named in honor of Robert F. Ford, who contributed to the Del Monte Conservancy.
The meadow looks beautiful in the spring, when it is green and dotted with wildflowers. When we visited in mid June, it was starting to lose its pretty green color.
Essential Facts About the 17 Mile Drive in Monterey Bay
Is the 17-Mile Drive really 17 miles?
The 17-Mile Drive is actually just short of 17 miles at 16.78 miles, and fully paved.
The road is one lane in each direction, and you can drive it north to south or south to north.
Where is the Entrance to the 17-Mile Drive?
There are five entrances to 17-Mile Drive. You can enter at any of the gates and drive past all the stops, exiting at the gate closest to where you finish.
The Pacific Grove Gate (off Sunset Drive) is one of the popular start points of the 17-Mile Drive. You will likely start at this entrance if you approach from Monterey or Pacific Grove.
The Country Club Gate is on Forest Lodge Road, off Congress Avenue.
The S.F.B Morse Gate is on Morse Drive, off Holman Highway.
The Highway 1 Gate is at Exit 399A. Exit the roundabout at the second exit and you will see signs for 17-Mile Drive. This is another popular entrance.
The Carmel Gate is on San Antonio Avenue in Carmel-by-the-Sea. It is the southern entrance to the scenic drive.
What is the cost of admission for the 17-Mile Drive?
The admission fee for the 17-Mile Drive in Pebble Beach is $11.25 per vehicle.
The cost of admission is reimbursed with a purchase of $35.00 or more at any of the restaurants at Pebble Beach Resorts, except Pebble Beach Market.
Good to know: At our most recent visit, only credit cards were being accepted. With your receipt, you receive a brochure that offers information on the stops along the famous drive.
While there is a fee to drive the route, you can walk or bicycle the route (or a part of it) for free. Motorcycles are not permitted on the route.
When is the 17-Mile Drive Open?
The 17-Mile Drive is open to the general public between sunrise and sunset year round. The entrance gates are staffed 24 hours a day.
More Facts About the Road and 17-Mile Route
The road is in excellent condition and easy to drive. Signage is easy to see and plentiful, and the route is marked with a red dotted line. At forks and other places where you might be confused, there are signs to indicate how to continue on the route.
There is quite a bit of parking at all stops, plus pullouts at other places along the ocean portion of the route, so it is easy to park to explore more or to get out and enjoy the views and take photos.
Each of the 17 stops along the drive is marked by more than one prominent sign, so you do not even need to refer to your brochure or a map. Plus, interpretive plaques offer lots of information about the geology, flora, and fauna.
Gas, Food and Drink
There is an electric vehicle charging station at Pebble Beach Resorts, and several gas stations in Pacific Grove or Carmel-by-the-Sea, should you need to fill before you begin the drive.
You can bring a picnic meal to enjoy on the 17-Mile Drive: there are lots of picnic tables all along the ocean portion of the route.
But Pebble Beach Resorts also boasts several excellent eateries if you wish to eat at a restaurant.
We love The Bench, which overlooks the 18th hole at Pebble Beach Golf Links and features oven or open-flame offerings. Their flatbreads are superb!
A Brief History of the 17-Mile Drive
Did you know that the 17-Mile Drive first became a scenic route all the way back in 1881, when carriages drove along the road?
The drive was created by the Hotel Del Monte, a luxury resort that opened in 1880 and was considered one of the best resorts in North America at the time.
The hotel offered the scenic drive as an attraction for their guests, and to encourage wealthy visitors to buy plots of land in the area.
The route, as it was then, took the entire day! It ran from the hotel, along the coastline of Pacific Grove, Pebble Beach, and Carmel, back to the Del Monte.
President Benjamin Harrison was one of the visitors that did the excursion in a horse-drawn carriage, in 1891. According to reports, he found the area very scenic.
In contrast, today’s route lies wholly within the Del Monte Forest.
In the early 1900s, the first automobiles traversed the route, and carriage rides were discontinued.
What is the best time of year to do the 17-Mile Drive?
As long as you pick a clear day, there really isn’t any bad time of year to enjoy the super scenic 17-Mile Drive.
We love doing the 17-Mile Drive in the spring, when California is lush green and there are wildflowers everywhere. Our most recent trip was in early June and the route looked spectacular, with golden wildflowers all along the drive.
In the winters, you will likely enjoy clear days and spectacular sunsets. Winter and spring are also times to look for migrating California gray whales in the ocean.
Summer is the time of year when you will likely experience the California coastal marine layer all along the northern and central coast, with Pebble Beach being no exception.
The fog can completely obstruct views, so if you drive the route in the summer, pick a clear day or time of day.
Fall brings warm temperatures, perfect for enjoying time at the beach and time by the ocean. The forests here are mainly coniferous, so they still look green.
Which direction is best for the 17-Mile Scenic drive?
You can do the 17-Mile Drive north to south or south to north. Honestly, it does not matter where you start. No matter which gate you begin the drive, you can visit each of the stops on the drive.
That said, if you start at Pacific Grove in the north, you will be driving the route on the side closest to the ocean, so passengers can enjoy spectacular water views en route from stop to stop.
The official brochure lists the stops from 1 to 17 starting in the north at Shepherd’s Knoll.
Map of the 17-Mile Drive through Pebble Beach
Tips for the 17-Mile Drive in Pebble Beach, California
Do the 17-Mile Drive on a Clear Bright Day
If your itinerary is flexible, choose a bright, fog-free time for the 17-Mile Drive. Since this drive is all about the ocean views, you want to avoid the infamous marine layer if you can.
You are most likely to encounter fog on summer mornings. If you visit in the summer, plan your drive for the afternoon, when the marine layer usually dissipates. Not always, though!
See and Hear the Bagpiper Play!
If you happen to be at Spanish Bay just before sunset, do not miss the opportunity to see and hear the Bagpiper at Spanish Bay play!
The bagpiper performance starts at the first tee at The Links at Spanish Bay in front of STICKS, and wraps up 45 minutes later at the Spanish Bay fire pits near the second green.
During Daylight Saving Time, the performance starts around 5:45 p.m. During Standard Time, the bagpiper starts about 30 minutes before sunset.
Allow Plenty of Time
If you just plan to do the drive, with brief photo stops, allow for about 1.5 to 2 hours, with an additional hour if you plan to eat a meal.
We suggest allowing more time than you think you will need, simply because the route is so scenic that you will want to linger at each stop.
If you can spare the time, you might want to allow half a day or even make it a full day trip: bring your beach gear.
With more time, you can walk some of the trails along the route, enjoy some time at one of the beautiful beaches, explore tide pools, look for birds and wildlife, and have a meal at one of the restaurants or enjoy a picnic.
Focus on the Ocean Stretch
The stops between Spanish Bay and Pescadero Point along the Pebble Beach Coast comprise the most scenic stretch of the drive.
If you are short on time, this is the stretch that offers the best natural vistas.
Expect to Share the Route with Other Visitors
The Pebble Beach 17-Mile Drive is hugely popular, and one of the most popular attractions on the Monterey peninsula.
Expect to share the route with other visitors on nice weather days, no matter the time of year.
Do the drive during the week rather than on the weekend if you prefer a quieter experience, and start early in the day if possible.
Bring layers and Water Shoes
It can be cool by the ocean year round, especially early or late in the day. Layers are always an excellent idea when you visit the northern or central coast of California.
If you plan to explore tidepools or venture onto the rocks by the shore, bring water shoes to protect your feet. Shoes with good grip are a must because the rocks can be slippery.
Bring your Camera and Binoculars
The scenery along the 17-Mile Drive is gorgeous, so you will want to take lots of photos. Serious hobby photographers will want to bring their gear!
If you enjoy photographing birds or wildlife, but don’t want to carry a heavy lens, consider a small-sized digital camera with a powerful zoom.
We use a camera that fits into our jacket pockets: the Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS70. It has a powerful 30X zoom and Leica lens, and takes great shots of birds and other small creatures.
Also bring your binoculars if you enjoy bird or wildlife viewing. We use the Celestron Trailseeker: they are waterproof and work great even in low light.
Good to know: Drones are not allowed along the 17-Mile Drive.
Planning to explore more of California? Check out some of our other articles on scenic drives!
- Artist’s Drive in Death Valley National Park
- Tioga Road through Yosemite National Park
- Whitney Portal Road in Lone Pine
- June Lake Loop in the Eastern Sierra
- Palms to Pines Scenic Byway
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2 thoughts on “17-Mile Drive: A Scenic Road Trip Through Pebble Beach, California”
We are planning on starting from the North end (staying in Monteray). Do we just turn around and drive the same 17 miles back, or is there another route to take back ?
Hi Danielle! Most people just drive it one way. When you exit at the Carmel end, you will take a regular route (Highway 1) to your next destination. If you wish to experience the drive in the reverse direction, do not exit out of the drive. Just past the last marker, reverse direction and drive back to the entrance you started from, which should ideally be the Pacific Grove entrance.