If you’re traveling to California’s central coast you’ve probably heard of 17-Mile Drive. With its amazing views and lavish properties, it’s a great snapshot of the Monterey Peninsula’s natural beauty and history.
As experts on coastal cruises in classic cars, we thought you might like a local’s perspective on this scenic drive. Whether you’re enjoying the afternoon in one of our 1965 Mustang convertibles or driving the family minivan, this trip is a real treat.
For well over a century 17-Mile Drive has been known as one of America’s most scenic routes, showcasing the Monterey peninsula’s rocky shoreline and coastal forests. Cruising along the drive visitors will be treated to cypress trees hung heavy with Spanish moss, sea otters resting in coastal kelp forests, and sandy beaches nestled between rocky cliffsides.
For those with more cosmopolitan sensibilities, the drive fits world-class golf courses and elegant coastal properties between two delightful seaside towns full of excellent dining and shopping. No matter what your interests are, 17-Mile Drive is a must for visitors and locals alike.
Entrances to the 17-Mile Drive
The official Pebble Beach Company version of 17-Mile Drive is a loop that surrounds the golf courses and homes that make up Pebble Beach. There are four gates to get into Pebble Beach, but only three are connected to the official 17-Mile Drive so we’ll focus on those. The fourth, S.F.B. Morse Gate, is more aimed at residents than visitors. Any gate will do, but if you want the best experience (in our humble opinion) then look below for our recommended route.
Highway 1 Gate
Address: Highway 1 Gate 17 Mile Dr, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923
This gate is the easiest one to access directly from Highway 1. Going left after the gate will take you towards ford meadow and is the quickest way to the coast, while going right will take you through the cypress and pine forest towards Huckleberry Hill.
Address: Carmel Way, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923
Located on the southern end of Pebble beach, this gate connects to the bottom of Ocean Avenue in downtown Carmel.
Pacific Grove Gate
Address: 2790 17 Mile Dr, Pebble Beach, CA 93953
Located near the coast in the lovely little town of Pacific Grove, this is the gate you’ll enter if you follow our suggested route below.
Our Recommended Route
When the historic Del Monte Hotel opened in 1880 visitors would be treated to the original 17-Mile Drive, an all-day trip on a horse-drawn carriage that started at the hotel on the eastern end of Monterey and wound its way around the peninsula.
Coincidentally, our classic car showroom is located nearby and is a great place to start your trip. Open every day, and featuring cars from every decade since the 1920s, visiting our shop is like taking a trip back in time. Who knows, you might just find a classic rental car that’s the perfect accessory to your photo shoot or picnic in Pebble Beach.
To start your trip, follow signs for Cannery Row/ Monterey Bay Aquarium. This gives you a great view of historic Monterey and puts you onto Ocean View Boulevard, which is a gorgeous drive along the Monterey Peninsula that will lead directly to the Pacific Grove gate of 17-Mile drive.
Keep the ocean on your right and follow the coastline for about five miles. Going this direction is key because it puts you on the right side of the road, which gives you a better ocean view and easier access to all of the scenic turnouts along the drive.
Take particular note of Lover’s Point, the Point Pinos Lighthouse, and beautiful Asilomar Beach. Just after Asilomar you’ll see signs for the entrance to Pebble Beach and the beginning of 17-mile Drive.
Know Before You Go: 17-Mile Drive
No matter what gate you take there’s a fee of $11.25 to access Pebble Beach. If you spend more than $35 at a restaurant in Pebble Beach they’ll refund the gate fees, so find our restaurant recommendations a little later in this article.
Total Drive Time:
People typically spend about 2-3 hours on this drive.
Without stopping you could easily do the 17-Mile Drive in an hour, but that would entirely defeat the point of the trip. Give yourself about two hours if you just want to see the sights and take some pictures, about three hours if you want to add in lunch or a picnic, and about four hours if you’re a serious shopper.
Can You Stop?
Certainly! Most of the stops below have parking, although it can get crowded on summer weekends. If a pullout is full, there is definitely another one coming just a minute down the road.
Type of Drive:
Pebble Beach can be experienced as a scenic loop, or you can go in through one gate and exit through another. We love using 17-Mile drive to link Monterey and Carmel, which is a charming little seaside town with tons of great food and shopping. From there you can head back through the upper section of 17-Mile Drive, or get back on Highway 1 to explore Big Sur, Carmel Valley, or Monterey.
How to Experience 17-Mile Drive:
17-Mile Drive can be accessed by car or bicycle, but be aware that motorcycles are prohibited in Pebble Beach. Cycling can be a fun way to tour the area, and there are local bike rental companies in both Monterey and Carmel that rent both traditional and electric bicycles.
Be aware that while the coastal parts of the trip are relatively flat, the upper parts of the drive can be very steep and hilly, especially towards the Carmel side. There is also no dedicated bike lane so you’ll have to contend with visitor and resident traffic on the two-lane roads.
Cruising in a Classic Car
Of course, our favorite way to experience 17-Mile Drive is behind the wheel of a classic car! Our convertibles give you a clear view of your surroundings as the rumble of a V8 adds a soundtrack to the timeless scenery. Not to mention the amazing pictures you’ll be able to get with the Pacific Ocean and your vintage ride as a backdrop.
Places to Stop on the Drive
We’re going to organize these as if you’re following our recommended route, which will have you follow 17-Mile Drive to the right as it forks towards Spanish Bay.
- Spanish Bay Beach
- Point Joe/ Restless Sea
- China Rock
- Bird Rock
- Seal Rock Beach
- Fanshell Beach
- Cypress Point
- Crocker Grove
- The Lone Cypress
- Ghost Trees at Pescadero Point
- Pebble Beach Visitor Center
- Stillwater Cove Access via The Lodge at Pebble Beach
- Ford Meadow
- Shepherd’s Knoll
- Huckleberry Hill
Spanish Bay Beach
This beach is named after a 1769 landing by Spanish explorers who were looking for Monterey Bay. Due to some heavy exaggeration by a previous expedition it took them a whole year to find it, despite being less than 17 miles away. Can’t blame them for stopping here though, it’s a lovely white sand beach that’s a great place for a picnic or a stroll on the boardwalk trail.
Point Joe/ Restless Sea
The first in a series of turnouts along this rugged rocky coastline, Point Joe was home to a goatherd who sold trinkets to tourists in the early 1900’s. Looking out you can see crashing waves and rough seas caused by submerged rocks. Often mistaken for the mouth of Monterey Bay, Point Joe was once the scene of numerous shipwrecks.
Once the site of a 19th century Chinese fishing village, here you’ll find two scenic turnouts with parking and picnic benches.
This turnout features a restroom and picnic benches, making it a great place for a pit stop. Named after the offshore rock that houses scores of migrating and nesting seabirds, this is also a great place to spot seals and sea lions sunbathing.
Seal Rock Beach
Stop by this secluded beach at the mouth of Seal Rock Creek for a picnic or a walk. Nearby is Casitas deLemos, also known as The Gingerbread House, the former residence of artist, architect, and educator Pedro deLemos.
This lovely little stretch of beach is a popular haul out spot for harbor seals, who come in the spring to give birth and raise their pups. Privacy fencing is put up from March through June to protect the mothers and their young.
Cypress Point is home to a very exclusive, members only golf course. Nearby Sunset Point Overlook faces the southwest and is one of the best places in Pebble Beach to catch a sunset, as well as get a good view of a neighborhood of mansions built during the roaring twenties.
This grove is home to some of the largest and oldest Monterey Cypress trees in existence and is part of one of only two Monterey Cypress forests in the world.
The Lone Cypress
Here you’ll find the living symbol of Pebble Beach itself, a native Monterey Cypress taking root on a rocky outcrop. This magnificent symbol of tenacity was seeded sometime around 1750 and is likely older than the United States. This stop can get pretty crowded so snag a parking spot where you can and get some great pics with this iconic background.
Ghost Trees at Pescadero Point
With twisted trunks worn bare by coastal winds and sun these Monterey Cypress mark a legendary surf spot known as Ghost Trees. With the right conditions waves can reach heights of 50 feet before crashing into the rocky point. Triumph and tragedy have marked surfing at Pescadero point, and changes to local regulations means you’re unlikely to see anyone waiting in the lineup. Even without the enormous waves, the striking foliage makes this a worthwhile stop.
Pebble Beach Visitor Center
Opened just recently, this visitor center is a great place to learn more about the rich history of the area. It also features restrooms, picnic benches, and a market/deli, making it an excellent stop along your route.
Stillwater Cove Access via The Lodge at Pebble Beach
Though not highlighted on the official maps of Pebble Beach, there is actually public access to the shore at Stillwater Cove. Turn onto Palmero Way towards the Lodge at Pebble Beach and follow signs for coastal access on Cypress Drive. Park at the coastal access lot and be sure to obey posted parking signs. Stillwater cove features a lovely little beach and a picturesque pier surrounded by the rolling fields of Pebble Beach Golf Links. In the thick kelp forest here you’ll often see otters foraging for food and harbor seals hauled out on the rocky shore.
Between the Carmel and Highway 1 gates you’ll find Ford Meadow, named after a prominent resident and generous donor to the Del Monte Forest Conservancy, which dedicates 625 acres to open spaces and protects more than 25% of Del Monte Forest from future development.
This spot offers a great view of the Monterey Bay from above.
On a clear day from this lookout, you might see Santa Cruz across the bay while getting a great view of huckleberry filled hills.
Recommended Vehicles for This Drive
Although Pebble Beach is a lovely place in its own right, the whole trip becomes magical when you’re behind the wheel of a classic rental car. Below are a few of our favorite rides for this trip. Because this is a mellower coastal cruise, we usually recommend an automatic car, and of course, a convertible top is a must with the Monterey Peninsula’s beautiful climate.
1954 Chevy Bel Air
Our 1954 Bel Air Custom is that perfect blend of iconic 50’s styling and modern convenience. An automatic 350 V8 rumbles through a custom exhaust to add your own percussion to the song of crashing waves while you view the coast from a wide-open convertible cockpit. The gleaming chrome and seafoam paint are the perfect companions for pictures that will make all of your pinup dreams come true.
1957 Porsche Speedster
What could be more at home in Pebble Beach than a sporty Porsche two-seater? Let out the clutch and this low-slung little coupe feels fast at any speed.
1965 Ford Mustang GT Convertible
An iconic classic car for an iconic drive, this Mustang convertible will feel right at home eating up the coastal miles, and with its newly re-done upholstery is an approachable classic perfect for photo shoots.
1961 VW 23-Window Microbus
Though not a normal convertible, the wraparound windows of this classic VW Bus will give you a glorious view of your surroundings, and the ragtop sunroof lets in the cool coastal air and California sunshine. With plenty of room on the bench seats for the whole family, this is the perfect picnic mobile.
What to See Along the Way
There’s so much to see along this little stretch of coastline so be sure to take your time and enjoy your surroundings. Coastal wildlife abounds and you can find seals, sea lions, and sea otters year-round, as well as migrating sea birds and local shorebirds.
The Monterey Bay is one of the only places in the world to see southern sea otters in the wild, so keep an eye out for fluffy figures resting wrapped up in kelp just offshore. Seals and sea lions are usually hanging out on rocky outcroppings or protected sandy beaches.
If you’re lucky, you might just catch a spout from a migrating whale, with Humpback whales migrating April through December and Gray whales migrating December through May. In the summer months a tall, straight spout means you might have just caught sight of a Blue whale, the largest animal to have ever lived.
Planning Meals on Your Drive
As you can see there are a number of lovely places along the route to enjoy a home-packed picnic or some sandwiches picked up at a deli in Monterey or Carmel, but Pebble Beach is also home to some world-class dining as well as more casual fare.
We’re going to focus on some spots that fit into a coastal cruise, but be sure to check out the Pebble Beach website to see a full list if you’re interested in fine dining. Making reservations is highly recommended. If you do decide to eat in Pebble Beach be sure to get the price of your gate admission taken off the meal.
This spot features both indoor and outdoor tables with an amazing view of the 18th hole at pebble beach as it slopes down into idyllic Stillwater Cove. With excellent classics like gourmet wood-fired pizzas or more exotic fare like Korean brisket sandwiches and duck fat potatoes, you really can’t go wrong here.
For more of a sports bar feel with comfort food classics check out Sticks at Spanish Bay. Outside tables also feature fire pits and an incredible view of the Pacific Ocean.
Pebble Beach Market
Featuring a selection of gourmet goodies and made-to-order sandwiches as well as picnic tables, this is a great casual stop in Pebble Beach.
When to Visit
The Monterey Peninsula has some beautiful weather year-round, with plenty of beautiful sunny days even in the winter. Our favorite time of year is late August through early October when the weather tends to be warmest. Be sure to check for major golf tournaments in pebble beach, which can close part or all of it to tourist traffic.
Here at Monterey Touring Vehicles, we know how lucky we are to live just minutes away from some of the most scenic drives in the world, and we started this business because we wanted to share that fortune with everyone. One of our half-day classic car rentals gives you plenty of time to enjoy 17-Mile Drive in style, or extend your classic car rental and make a day of it with a trip to Carmel Valley or Big Sur.