The famed 17 Mile Drive on the Monterey Peninsula is one of the most picturesque stretches of road on the planet. Although it is best known as the home of golf's ultimate shrine - Pebble Beach - there is plenty of spectacular scenery to be seen along the 17 Mile Drive, in addition to the fairways and greens.
We entered the 17 Mile Drive from the gate located on California's famed Highway 1. There are a few other gates located in various parts of the drive, with one in Pacific Grove to the north and another in Carmel to the south. While there is no official beginning or end to the drive - it is a circle after all - the guide map which the guard provided us showed the Highway 1 gate as the starting point for the various sites along the way.
|A shout out to 1/2 my family...|
At first, it seemed a little odd that the entries were called "gates" but as we made our way around the drive I soon understood the name....the area is essentially one giant gated neighborhood. For the privilege of passing through the gates, sightseers are charged a $9.75 fee per vehicle, which is waived for guests of the Pebble Beach resorts or those visiting residents. Which is good, because otherwise I would have to find new friends.
|The numbered signs for points of interest along the drive|
There are 21 points of interest on the map of 17 Mile Drive, the first of which that prompted us to pull over was Huckleberry Hill. This is one of the highest points in the Del Monte Forest, and offers a panoramic view to the Pacific below. Of course, given the overcast conditions, it was really just a bunch of trees.
After about 90 seconds of exploration, we continued on to the next stop, which was Poppy Hills Golf Course. If it has been your lifelong dream to visit the home of the Northern California Golf Association, then this is your lucky day. Otherwise, a drive by is all that's warranted here, but do slow down so as to prevent a blurry picture.
|No disrespect of course to the NCGA.|
It's worth noting that of the 21 landmarks on the drive, a half dozen or more are simply the various golf courses and resorts of Pebble Beach. Unless you're looking to decorate your golf bag with gear bearing the logos of all these clubs - golfers love to one up their pals - I would only plan on stopping at the big kahuna...Pebble Beach.
|A path along Spanish Bay|
The heart of 17 Mile Drive really begins when the route reaches Spanish Bay. Here we found a parking lot along the beach, and decided to head out on foot for a little exploring...
|I'm used to warnings at the beach, but not this one...|
|A popular place even on a cloudy day...|
|A hawk on the hunt at Spanish Bay golf course...|
Next up was two of the more popular spots along the 17 Mile Drive: Seal Rock and Bird Rock. The tour buses parked at these locations convinced us to keep on driving, but from what I hear there are lots of seals and birds. Instead, we pulled off at the Fanshell Overlook, which was tour bus free.
|No seals, no birds, no tourists...|
|Sea otter chowing down...|
|Not a bad spot for a little shack...|
We followed the red-dashed road through a grove of Monterey cypress trees which surrounded the path on both sides. This species of cypress is only found in two locations on the planet: the Monterey Peninsula and Point Lobos, which we visited earlier this same day.
|Like giant bonsai trees...|
Moving on, our next stop was a place not listed on the guide map, but I most definitely knew it was there. The 17 Mile Drive is famous as the home of Pebble Beach, but those who aren't golf addicts might be surprised to learn that this famed course isn't even the most highly regarded on the Monterey Peninsula. That distinction belongs to Cypress Point, which was designed by the same architect as Augusta National, and could go toe-to-toe with that storied club as the most exclusive in the country. This is more than likely as close as I'll ever get to its grounds....
|Attention Members: Please visit the "contact me" page above...|
Finally, we reached the most popular landmark on the 17 Mile Drive aside from Pebble Beach: The Lone Cypress. It's impossible to imagine any "Top 10 Most Beautiful Places on the Planet" list, without the Lone Cypress. Not to mention, the setting is every bit as mind boggling as it is inspiring. How can a cypress tree sprout from solid rock and survive the elements of the Pacific Ocean for 250 years?...
|Seriously, how does a tree grow out of a rock?|
The last points of interest on the 17 Mile Drive were located at our home for the next two evenings...The Lodge at Pebble Beach. While I may have suggested skipping the other golf courses on the route, this one should not be missed, even for non-golfers. Take a short walk from The Lodge down to the 18th fairway, and marvel at one of the most beautiful settings in all of sport.
|The 18th at Pebble...|
The 17 Mile Drive has more than earned its reputation as one of America's most scenic stretches of road. Although there is no shortage of equally spectacular scenery on Highway 1, it is still a must see for anyone making the trip up the coast. The $9.75 toll may be one of the most expensive in the country, but when the journey is complete I'm certain you'll agree, the 17 Mile Drive is worth every penny.
If You Go...
- Drive slow
- Pack a lunch
- Don't make a wrong turn into Cypress Point