There are drives that are hidden away and then there are drives that are so famous you just have to drive them. 17-Mile Drive is among those that are celebrated around the world for dramatic scenery where the sea, sky and coastline offer amazing views at every turn. And yet it also has those hidden away secrets that are worth taking your time to explore. So, this quintessential California drive offers the best of both. And to answer your question, yes, it is exactly 17 miles long. You can enter at several points and pay the entry fee, we suggest you begin at the southern end by Carmel, and drive northward toward Pacific Grove.
Take the Scenic 17-Mile Drive
First created in 1881, 17-Mile Drive is more than a destination. Many people call it home. Some of these lovely homes are easy to see as you drive along, while others are hidden behind the tall landscaping, or tucked over a ridge or hill. You can stay on 17-Mile Drive instead of getting lost in the maze of neighborhoods by simply following the red dashed line at the center of the roadway.
Golf is king here, as 17-Mile Drive takes you to Pebble Beach Golf Links. Founded in 1919, the course is always ranked among the very best in the world. Yes, golfers can play it even if they are not a member of the club. But golfing is not limited to Pebble Beach. The other courses include the Spyglass Hill Golf Course, The Links at Spanish Bay, the Del Monte Golf Course and the Peter Hay golf course. A somewhat secret tip is that the restaurants are open to the general public. We enjoyed lunch at the restaurant at the Spyglass Hill clubhouse, a wonderful setting overlooking a hillside view of towering pines. The renowned Lodge at Pebble Beach also has restaurants and quaint shops that welcome the public.
17-Mile Drive boasts a stand of Monterey Cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa), a protected endangered species of ancient trees. The Monterey Cypress species can be found in two locations only: Here along the Seventeen Mile Drive and at the Point Lobos headland. Portions of the drive take you past these beautiful trees that remind you of full sized bonsai trees. If the Monterey Cypress trees are the stars of the drive the leading luminary is The Lone Cypress. So much so that there are several parking areas near the Lone Cypress. Do take time to park, stroll to the overlook and make some memorable photos of the ancient tree that has stood guard where the land meets the sea for more than 250 years, on its rocky knoll. Among the facts one is very important: The Lone Cypress is copyrighted, and all commercial uses of its image are protected.
The section of the drive along the ocean course at Pebble Beach also has some pull off areas so that you can enjoy the views of the dramatic coastline, with its blue sky and sea, tawny cliffs, frothy white surf, and yes the lush green of the cypress trees. Those who pause and reflect upon the beauty are sometimes rewarded with sightings of migrating grey whales. Harbor seals, sea lions and elephant seals are more often seen. Fanshell Overlook lets you see seals on the beach. Spanish Bay is great for a stroll or picnic on the beach.
At the end of the drive you enter the town of Pacific Grove. Do not be surprised to see small herds of deer strolling through the town; they are very much at home in this lovely historic town of Victorian homes and seaside cottages.