Exploring Monterey Bay’s 17-Mile Drive

Exploring 17-Mile Drive on the Monterey Peninsula

Heralded as one of the most scenic routes in the world, 17-Mile Drive on the Monterey Peninsula is  a truly remarkable coastal trail. Situated 120 miles south of San Francisco, this winding, two-lane toll road within the luxurious gated community of Pebble Beach has been drawing visitors to the area for over 130 years. From the moment you arrive, it is immediately apparent why. 

Described by Robert Louis Stevenson as “the greatest meeting of land and sea in the world”, the Monterey Peninsula is lauded for its awe-inspiring ocean views, dramatic mountainous terrain and crashing surf. Unspoiled by commercial development, 17-Mile Drive is the perfect way to explore the unparalleled beauty of this historic area. An absolute must on any tour of California. 

With more than 20 points of particular interest along the well-marked, pedestrian-friendly route, one could certainly spend considerable time photographing and exploring 17-Mile Drive. The names of the sites alone are highly evocative and inspiring. Spanish Bay, Stillwater Cove, Del Monte Forest, Fanshell Overlook, Restless Sea and Seal Rock, to name but a few. To experience them firsthand, however, is both breathtaking and humbling. 

Fanshell Overlook – A stunning spot along the Monterey Bay Peninsula.

Most popular sites on 17-Mile Drive  

Of all the noteworthy attractions, the most popular sites on 17-Mile Drive are Cypress Point Lookout, the Lone Cypress, and the Ghost Tree. Located at the westernmost tip of Monterey Peninsula, Cypress Point Lookout commands spectacular views of the Pacific coastline. A favourite vista point for visitors. If you’re lucky, you may catch a glimpse of the harbour seals basking in the sun on nearby Fanshell Beach. An ideal place to see more marine life, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is located on the North-East of the peninsula and is home to more than 35,000 marine species from all over the world.

The famed Lone Cypress is one of the most iconic trees in California and the symbol of Pebble Beach. Standing tall upon a rugged coastal outcrop, this solitary cypress has survived the elements for over 250 years. So treasured and unique is this world-famous tree, it has even been trademarked. No visit to 17-Mile Drive is complete without basking in the glory and tenacity of this native Monterey cypress. Its survival is a remarkable display of nature’s endurance (with a little help from hidden steel supports). 

The Lone Cypress – The symbol of Pebble Beach.

Another distinctive tree along the route is the Ghost Tree, whose trunk has been bleached white from prolonged exposure to the coastal wind and ocean spray. The haunting silhouette of this perished tree is indeed ghostly, and somewhat sinister. Legend has it that the spectral image of the Lady in Lace appears on this stretch of road on dark, foggy nights. Whilst often attributed to a simple refraction of light, a spooky fable is far more captivating an explanation. Before you set off on this stunning trip. Why not indulge your inquisitive mind even further and take a trip over to Alcatraz Island where the famed Anglin brothers staged what is thought to be the only successful escape attempt from the legendary Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary.

Monterey Bay Aquarium – Home to over 35,000 marine species!

Best time of year to explore 17-Mile Drive 

The best time of year to explore 17-Mile Drive on the Monterey Peninsula is spring or autumn. The skies are clearer and the weather more temperate. During the summer months, the morning fog can hinder views, and the strong afternoon sun can take its toll on visitors from milder climes. Worth bearing in mind if you’re hoping to enjoy some of the area’s championship golf courses. 

Visitors are charged a fee of $10 per vehicle at the Pebble Beach entry gates. You will receive a brochure and map, outlining the significant points of interest along the route. Helpful tip: keep a hold of your receipt and you’ll be able to recoup the entrance fee if you spend more than $25 at one of the many renowned restaurants in the area. So for a captivating day trip, book your Monterey 17-Mile Drive with us here.

And just in case you’re wondering: yes, 17-Mile Drive is 17 miles long.

Monterey Cypress trees adorn the surroundings of Pebble Beach golf course.