Doing the Iconic Seventeen Mile Drive through Pebble Beach near the town of Monterey in California

17 mile drive guide through pebble beach in monterey california

January 21st, 2022

So what exactly is the Seventeen Mile Drive?

Seventeen Mile Drive is a scenic road by the California coast near the town of Monterey - but to just describe it so simply would be an gross understatement - it is a drive filled with a variety of sights from pristine beaches and breathtaking views of the rough and rugged California coast to indescribably enchanting groves of Cypress trees including the iconic "lone Cypress" perched on a cliff and pictured above - all of which make it arguably one of the best scenic drives to do anywhere - and an absolute must do destination if you are in or near Monterey in California. The drive is a private road through the gated community of Pebble Beach and there is a toll to enter the loop.

What will you see?: Scenic Seventeen Mile Drive with 17 marked attractions along the drive. Attractions range from meadows, forests and cliffside views to ocean front boardwalks and sights - and sounds - of wildlife like the barking sea lions which linger on some of the rocks off the shore. Beaches and even a few extremely highly rated golf courses with fantastic views of the pacific for those inclined. The highlight of the drive though is the Cypress grove with it's famous lone cypress tree standing like a sentinel in front of the sea.

Some other Seventeen Mile Drive details:

  • There are four entrance gates to the Seventeen Mile Drive - Pacific Grove gate in the town of Pacific Grove just adjacent Monterey, Highway 1 gate from the California 1 highway, SFB Morse Gate in between the two gates mentioned and finally the Carmel gate at the town of Carmel-by-the-Sea.
  • Tolls are collected when entering at the gates and a useful map handout is provided with the payment.
  • While not a strict recommendation - as an itinerary it makes to sense to start from the Pacific Grove gate in Monterey and exit at the Carmel gate to head on the Carmel by the sea so you work your way down from the heights to shore and save the best attraction - the Cypress trees - for the end. Of course, this is easier if you are in Monterey and not south, but it is an awesome drive regardless of which way you go.
  • The Pebble Beach area is renowned for some very picturesque gold clubs - something to consider as an additional activity on a visit if you like to golf.
  • There are a few luxury accommodations within the community as an option to stay longer than just the drive through the scenic road.

How much time to budget?: Half a day - especially if stopping at all the points. Expect to want to spend longer at some of the stops like the beach boardwalk, the sea lion points and the Cypress groves. Budget more time if doing other activities like golfing.

If you are in more of rush: My personal favorite stops - the Lone Cypress, Seal Rock, Point Joe/Restless Sea which are adjacent and Spanish Bay Beach.

Also: Watch for joggers and residents walking dogs especially on the sections of the road away from the shore line. Remember this is a gated community and be mindful of the residents going about their own activities. There are other roads and by ways leading to private homes in the community and it is possible to take a wrong turn - keep an eye for the signs to stick to the Seventeen Mile Drive.

From Pacific Grove gate to Huckleberry hill

As mentioned earlier, starting at the Pacific Grove gate is not a strict suggestion, but it is definitely the logical starting point if you are at Monterey. This guide follows the itinerary from here but you can read about the points of interest regardless of your direction.

17 mile drive pacific grove gate

Pacific Grove is a town connected to Monterey proper

At the entrance gate, follow the signs to make sure you go to the visitor lane and not the residents lane. After paying for your toll and collecting your handout, it is time to hit the drive - but exercise caution and please follow the posted speed limits - while the drive is both scenic and fun to do with all the hillside curves, there are often pedestrians doing activities on the road. Not to mention the fact that cars will often be stopped to see view points and vistas even if they aren't a marked spot.

Once you are past the initial entrance, watch for the signs to stay on the Seventeen Mile Drive. Again, as mentioned earlier, it will be easy to miss these turns and head into roads meant to access the residential homes. Your first destination will be Shepherd's Knoll, an overlook looking down on some fields and forests. While a pretty spot, this is not the most stunning sight on the drive and you might even be wondering about they hype here, but it gets better I promise. Continuing on from Shepherd's Knoll, the next marked spot on the map is the highest point of the drive - Huckleberry hill. Now things are starting to get more interesting scenery wise as you have some nice views of the forests and homes around the Pebble Beach community as well as the sea out in the distance - which is where you will be heading to next after the stop on the hill.

17 mile drive shepherds knoll

Shepherd's Knoll

17 mile drive huckleberry hill

Huckleberry Hill

Driving down to Spanish Bay Beach

From the hill you have few miles to go before the next numbered attraction on the map - Spanish Bay Beach - which is our destination. But definitely enjoy the drive through the road as it is pretty scenic and interesting here as you follow the winding curves down the hill past mansions of the Pebble Beach gated community. Along the way you should see signs for a couple of the gold courses as well. Eventually the road leaves the hills and drives straight to Pacific coast and a large parking area - and probably the crowds - will indicate you have arrived at Spanish Bay Beach - an area worth stopping for a bit longer to relax or enjoy a walk on the boardwalk. The section just off the parking area is pristine beach with relatively clear views of the ocean front. Go a bit further to the right and you should see the entrance to a boardwalk - follow this as long as you want to or have time to walk by some rough oceanside sections where you will probably see surfers trying to catch waves. To the inland side you should see the golf links.

17 mile drive spanish bay beach 1

17 mile drive spanish bay beach 2

The views at Spanish Bay Beach

17 mile drive spanish bay beach boardwalk

THe boardwalk along Spanish Bay Beach

Next up is a cluster of numbered spots on the map - so be prepared for short drives and multiple stops.

Restless Sea, Point Joe and the Rocks - China, Bird and Seal

The next few sections are a short distance away from Spanish Bay Beach and a few are clustered close together - the Restless Sea, Point Joe and China Rock - these could probably be visited by walking to each and back in a single stop rather than driving to each. Bird and Seal Rock likewise are relatively close together and they could make for another single stop and walk.

Primarily the name "restless sea" is indicative of the scenery of this section - the rocks around here are close to the shore and the loud waves breaking against them give the appearance of an ongoing storm. There are some of the most stunning views of the rugged pacific coast anywhere, not just here on Seventeen Mile Drive but anywhere along the California 1 pacific coast highway. So make the most the sights! As for the other highlights - there is a good chance you will see a large number of sea lions frolicking from the rocks in the distance near bird and seal rocks. Look for the area with the zoom lenses installed. If you have your own camera with a good enough zoom, you should be able to make them out either lounging on the rocks or even swimming.

17 mile drive restless sea

The restless sea along Seventeen Mile Drive

17 mile drive point joe

Point Joe

17 mile drive golf links

Golfing along the Seventeen Mile Drive at Pebble Beach

17 mile drive bird rock

Bird Rock out in the distance

17 mile drive bird rock sea lions

Sea Lions out on Bird Rock

17 mile drive sea lions swimming

Sea Lions swimming out by the rocks  along Seventeen Mile Drive

Fanshell Beach & the Cypresses

If you thought you have had your fill of scenic sights for the day - hold that - the best destination of the drive to the Cypress grove and the iconic lone Cypress is next. But just before that, there is another stop at the Fanshell beach. Yet another picturesque spot with great views of oceanside mansions along the shore. From Fanshell beach, there are few stops - first to the Cypress grove lookout point - an absolutely spectacular lookout at a great angle to view the enchanting beauty of the Cypress tress covering the high cliffside over the Pacific. It is hard to describe the beauty of this spot and sites like this and the grove at Point Lobos just south from here are some of truly unique spots anywhere in the world. From the Cypress view points, there is an opportunity to walk through the grove itself at Crocker before driving just a little more to the most iconic point in the whole drive - the Lone Cypress - standing watch along on it's majestic cliffside perch over the coast.

17 mile drive fanshell beach

The overlook at Fanshell Beach

17 mile drive beach mansions

Mansions by the sea at Seventeen Mile Drive

17 mile drive cypress point overlook

Cypress point overlook

17 mile drive lone cypress

The iconic Lone Cypress at Seventeen Mile Drive

Ending the drive at Carmel-by-the-Sea

Before you conclude your drive, there are a few more points of interest - the visitor center - a good pit stop but one which I personally skipped. There is yet another golf course - the pebble beach golf links which is the only one of the courses that make the numbered list in the map handout - I cannot personally tell why this is different but probably because it is the largest one by the visitor center. Around is an Equestrian Center which is a short diversion away, this too I personally skipped but definitely something to consider if horse riding aligns with your interests. I can't think of too many more scenic spots to go riding at. Also in the general vicinity by the visitor center is a spa offering as well. The last point of interest is a large field - Ford Meadow, just past the exit to Carmel via the Carmel gate. Once you are done with your stops, continue on the road to head back to where you started at the Pacific Grove gate or alternatively head to the Carmel gate and exit to the picturesque hilly little town of Carmel-by-the-sea and perhaps check out its many stores and cafes along the main street or its very scenic beach.

Hope you found this writeup useful.

17 mile drive carmel beach

The beach at Carmel-by-the-Sea