California’s 17-Mile Drive, said to be one of the world’s most scenic drives, is an essential Central Coast experience. Looping around the Monterey Peninsula, the private toll road offers stellar views of Monterey Bay and passes attractions such as the Lone Cypress, Bird Rock, the Del Monte Forest, and the famous Pebble Beach Golf Course.
The bulk of 17-Mile Drive is a winding road through upscale neighborhoods from Pacific Grove to Pebble Beach, and goes through forested areas, along the oceanfront, and past several golf courses. Some of the best places to stop and admire the view are at Cypress Point Lookout, where you can see harbor seals basking on sand and rocks; Spanish Bay, where you can follow a paved coastal trail to Asilomar State Beach; and the iconic Lone Cypress, which has stood on its rocky perch for more than 250 years.
As 17-Mile Drive is actually on private property, there is an entrance fee, which also gets you a map with all the points of interest clearly indicated with a brief description of each. If you want to skip the driving and just focus on the scenery, there are tours from San Francisco include transportation. The tour guide takes care of the navigating, and these tours often include stops at Monterey’s Cannery Row, Carmel-by-the-Sea, and other Monterey Peninsula attractions.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Experiencing 17-Mile Drive is a must-do for all first-time visitors to this section of California’s Central Coast.
- The drive takes about 20 minutes, but allow yourself at least two hours if you want to stop at the lookouts and take in the scenery.
- The Inn at Spanish Bay and the Lodge at Pebble Beach have the only services open to the public (gas station, restrooms, restaurants).
- Hotel or restaurant reservations along the drive will get you out of the non-resident fee.
- Bicycles travel free of charge; motorcycles are not allowed.
How to Get There
Pay the entrance fee at any of the five entrances—most often, where Highway 1 meets Highway 68, or the Carmel tollbooth on San Antonio Avenue.
When to Get There
Quite busy year-round, 17-Mile Drive is especially choked with visitors in the summer. Fall and spring are the best bets for clear skies; the summer fog is heavy in the morning and can sometimes linger all day, hampering views. The drive closes during major golf events; be sure to check online before departing.
Best Beaches Along the Drive
There are multiple spots to stop and stretch your legs along the drive. Whether you want a quick jaunt down to the frigid Pacific Ocean waters, a picnic lunch spot, or some soft sand on which to nap, you’ll find it here. Spanish Bay and Pebble Beach are favorites for travelers and locals alike.