Headed to Monterey Bay and looking for info on the best 17 Mile Drive stops?! This post has everything you need to know and more – how to get there, when to go, lots of FAQs, and of course all my favorite stops on the 17 Mile Drive. Plus a secret way to get your entrance fee reimbursed!
The 17 Mile Drive is one of the most scenic drives in not only California, but the world. And for good reason! There’s spectacular coastal visitas (that’s obvious!), ancient cypress trees, million dollar mansions, dramatic coastal cliffs, sunbathing seals and sea lions, and of course world-class iconic golf courses. Yup – including the ritzy Pebble Beach Golf Links! It’s kinda like California’s own version of the famous Road to Hana in Maui, Hawaii!
Trust me, there’s a reason more than 1.5 MILLION people drive the 17 Mile Drive each and every year. And since the drive passes through an exclusive neighborhood, you’ll need to pay an entrance fee. But for all the scenic beauty you get, I feel it’s more than worth it. No wonder they’ve got the funds to maintain it!
We first drove the 17 Mile Drive back in 2009 when we were visiting Noah’s sister in San Francisco. We made the 2-hour drive to Monterey/Carmel and back in just a day, and it was one of our favorite activities on our week-long trip.
Since that first visit, we’ve since moved to California (dreams do come true!!!). We now visit the Monterey Bay peninsula practically every year – yes, we love it that much! I’m sharing everything you need to know about the 17 Mile Drive, including the best 17 Mile Drive stops and an honest account on which ones you can skip if you’re pressed on time.
Important Info on Driving the 17 Mile Drive
What is the 17-Mile Drive?
First off, what is the 17 Mile Drive anyways?! And what’s so special about it?! For starters, it’s one of the most scenic road trips you could possibly take in California (although all of California is just so damn pretty). Plus, the 17 Mile Drive is one of the shortest California road trips at only 17 miles, haha (you can drive the whole thing in less than an hour if you really wanted). Yes, the 17 Mile Drive is just that – 17 miles of scenic road through Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove on the Monterey Peninsula in California.
Most of the privately owned 2-lane road hugs the coastline – passing famous golf courses (like the iconic Pebble Beach Golf Links), cypress groves, rocky beaches, seabirds and marine life, exclusive homes, and more scenic vista points than you could ever imagine. Plus million-dollars views of Monterey Bay. It’s spectacular – just like the rest of California (can you tell I’m a tad obsessed with my new(ish) home state?!).
Fun Fact: The 17 Mile Drive first opened in 1881 – to horse-drawn carriages! Things have definitely changed since then, but the beauty of the Monterey Peninsula remains the same.
Where is the 17 Mile Drive?
The 17 Mile Drive is located in Monterey County in Central California. It connects the towns of Pacific Grove and Carmel-by-the-Sea. It’s a great addition to any California coast road trip, and I declared it one of my favorite stops on the PCH (although it’s technically right off the 1).
Here’s approximate distances so you get an idea of how far it is from other popular spots in California:
- Monterey: 4 miles (~10 minutes)
- Carmel-by-the-Sea: 5 miles (~15 minutes)
- Santa Cruz: 45 miles (~50 minutes)
- San Jose: 75 miles (~1 hour, 15 minutes)
- San Francisco: 115 miles (~2 hours)
- San Luis Obispo: 145 miles (~2 ½ hours)
- Sacramento: 200 miles (~3 hours)
- Napa Valley: 175 miles (~3 hours)
- Los Angeles: 330 miles (~5 hours)
Entrances and Entrance Fee:
Yes, you need to pay to enter and drive the 17 mile drive. And rightfully so – with the number of people who make the drive, the county needs funds to maintain it! We wanna make sure everyone has the opportunity to see it in all its beautiful glory.
Cost: At the time of writing (June 2022), cars will need to pay $11.25 to enter the 17-mile drive. And while the drive is only open between sunrise and sunset to visitors, the gates are manned 24 hours a day. Sooo… don’t think about getting sneaky!
- Psst – Bicycles can enter for free, but motorcycles are absolutely prohibited.
Unfortunately, don’t count on using any special passes here. The 17 mile drive is not a National or State Park, so those passes will not work for entrance here.
Don’t worry, people with overnight hotel reservations along the route (The Lodge at Pebble Beach, The Inn at Spanish Bay, and Casa Palmero) do not need to pay the fine – you’ll need to show confirmation of this, just FYI. Of course, residents who live there and their guests are allowed in free of charge.
One of my favorite little local tips: If you spend $35 at one of the restaurants (which is, honestly, not hard to do… considering the high price of almost everything), you’ll get your $11.25 fee reimbursed! We did this last time – simply give your gate receipt to your server and they’ll deduct the entrance fee from your bill! It’s like getting that $35 cheeseburger/drink combo for $25 instead, woo!
There’s five different gates into the 17 Mile Drive:
- Pacific Grove Gate (off Sunset Drive)
- Country Club Gate (off Congress Avenue)
- S.F.B Morse Gate (off Sunset Drive)
- Highway 1 Gate (off Highway 1 and 68)
- Carmel Gate (off San Antonio Avenue)
We typically enter via the Pacific Grove Gate (and exit via the Carmel gate), and you probably will too if you’re coming from either Monterey or Pacific Grove. It’s by far the most popular gate. But there’s no wrong entrance; it may just be a bit more confusing to follow along if you don’t start at 17 Mile Drive Stop #1!
Other FAQS about the 17 Mile Drive
- How many stops are there? There are 17 marked stops on the 17 mile drive! Easy to remember, right!? There actually used to be 21 stops, but some stops have since been combined and Pebble Beach decided a few others weren’t worthy of making the list.
- How long is the drive? 17 miles, haha! Well, actually it’s just short of 17 miles, at 16.78 miles. The road is fully paved, in wonderful condition, and is super easy to drive.
- Is it a loop? Nope! The 17 Mile Drive is a two lane road and you can drive either north to south or south to north. There’s no “right” way to drive it. You can either exit at the nearest gate once you’re done (what most people do), or you can drive the route again and exit through the gate you entered (not necessary unless you wanna see certain stops again). We like driving north to south and ending at Pebble Beach Links. Driving this way you’ll also be closer to the water (better views as you drive) and it’ll be easier to pull over for all the stops.
- How fast can you go? Max 25mph. Speed racers, you’ll need to slow it down!
- Where can I park? At all of the 17 Mile Drive stops, you’ll find parking lots/areas. Some are smaller than others, so just wait your turn and be patient. If nothing is available in a while, you can always come back later if you wish. DO NOT park on the main road – this is extremely dangerous. Only park in designated parking spaces.
- Can I bring my drone? Nope, sorry! Drones are not allowed here in Pebble Beach or anywhere along the 17 Mile Drive.
- Are there bathrooms along the drive? Yes, thankfully! Bathrooms are marked on the map you’ll get at the gate once you pay admission. Most bathrooms are at the golf courses, plus there’s one at the Bird Rock/Seal Rock stop as well.
- Are there restaurants/food available? Yes, again, mostly at the golf courses. But do note these restaurants are rather pricey, although most of them have gorgeous views! Remember – If you spend more than $35 at particular restaurants, you can get your $11.25 17-mile drive entrance fee reimbursed. Check out Roy’s at Spanish Bay, The Bench at The Lodge, or Stillwater Bar and Grill for lunch, and most definitely STICKS at Spanish Bay Inn for sunset (listen to the bagpipes)!
- Can I picnic instead?! Yes! If you want to eat along the drive and not at one of the restaurants, feel free to bring a picnic! There’s picnic tables at certain stops, including Spanish Bay and Seal Rock. Probably best to bring a cooler, especially in the warmer months.
- What wildlife can you see? Expect to see plenty and plenty of wildlife along the 17 mile drive! We always see harbor seals, sea lions, and a whole lotta birds. Sea gulls, cormorants, and pelicans fly over the coastline, while common murre, sooty shearwater, and sanderling are along the shore. You may also see blacktail deer and even an otter if you’re lucky (although you’ll have a much better chance of spotting them at Morro Bay – they even hold hands and it’s the most adorable thing ever). Oh, and whales! More on those below.
- Whale Season: No matter the time of year, it’s possible to see whales along this portion of the California coast! How exciting! December through March is prime time to spot California Gray Whales, while Humpback and Blue Whales are more commonly seen from April to December. I will say though, winter is definitely whale season, so be on the lookout for them then!
- Gas Stations: There are no gas stations along the 17 Mile Drive (hey, it’s only 17 miles, haha). If you need to fill up, you’ll easily find stations in nearby Carmel, Monterey, or Pacific Grove. Gas is typically pretty expensive (like the rest of California), and Carmel in particular is a very affluent area.
When to Drive the 17 Mile Drive
Time of Day: Coastal Monterey Bay sees a thick marine layer in the morning, which usually burns off by afternoon. Again, the views along the 17-Mile Drive are best when the skies are clear, so… going in the afternoon will give you the best chances of clear skies!
Local Tip: There are live golf webcams online! They’re free – use them to check the current weather! The weather is finicky at best here, and I don’t recommend going when you can’t see much!
Time of Year: I’ll go into this in more detail below, but typically, the best time of year to visit the 17 Mile Drive is during Fall and Spring. Winter is usually the clearest, while the busiest time of year is from April to November. Whatever you do, pick a clear day. If you see it’ll be overcast or foggy, save the 17 mile drive for another day (and maybe go to the indoor aquarium instead).
Before visiting, check to make sure there aren’t any major festivals or large golf tournaments going on! The drive will be beyond packed (and it may even be closed depending on the event). Always check the Pebble Beach website ahead of time.
- Spring: The area is lush and green in the spring as all the plants thrive right after it rains. Expect to see wildflowers along the drive! This is probably my favorite time to visit Carmel/Pebble Beach and make all my favorite 17 Mile Drive stops.
- Winter: Most people are generally very surprised to hear this, but winters usually have the greatest number of clear days! Weather in California is wacky, y’all! Especially on the coast. Winter sunsets are also pretty spectacular, since, ya know, it’s typically pretty clear. If you’re visiting in the winter, make sure to keep your eyes peeled on the ocean as you may get to spot a few whales!
- Summer: Unfortunately, if you’re looking for those clear days, you might wanna skip the summer. This is when that California coastal marine layer hits the northern and central coast, including Pebble Beach/Carmel/Monterey. And this foggy mist can completely obstruct the beautiful view! The fog may burn off by mid-day, but there’s no guarantees! Us locals even have a name for it – May Gray, June Gloom. What a bummer, I know!
- Fall: The Central coast experiences Indian summers like we do here in San Francisco, meaning summer just comes later than most! Meaning, fall is a great time to make the 17 mile drive. Temps will be warm, the mornings are not as foggy, and it’s typically less crowded!
How Much Time to Allow for the 17 Mile Drive Stops
I’d give yourself at least 3 hours or so, which gives you plenty of time to drive and get out at about half the stops and take photos. While you can easily spend the whole day driving and stopping at every single stop, I don’t recommend it. Many of the stops are similar and the drive will feel monotonous if you get out all 17 times.
The best part of the 17 Mile Drive is you get to decide which stops to make! Kinda like a DIY adventure! It’s a great activity during your time on the Monterey Peninsula, or as part of a longer Pacific Coast Highway road trip.
If you don’t have that much time (1-2 hours), pick out a few stops you wanna check out and drive through the rest. My favorite stops are: Spanish Bay, Pebble Beach, Bird Rock, and Cypress Point Lookout. Although you really can’t miss The Lone Cypress as well – that’s one of the most iconic stops on the 17 Mile Drive!
What to Bring and Wear
The weather can change quickly here on the coast, so I recommend wearing layers that you can easily strip off if need be. It can be pretty cool next to the water; keep a jacket in the car just in case.
A few other things to keep in the car:
- Binoculars or a camera with a good zoom lens to better see marine life (there’s lots!)
- Picnic supplies if you’re planning to eat along the way (remember to dispose of garbage in bins – and if you don’t see any, please take your garbage with you and throw it out properly when you can). Lots of wildlife call this area home, and it’d be a shame to disturb their natural environment with our human trash.
- Sun protection, including sunscreen, sunglasses, and a sunhat
- Reusable water bottle; there’s not many places to fill up, so make sure to bring enough for the drive
- Water shoes if you wanna explore the tide pools (the rocks can be slippery)
- Camera, of course!
Do you need a car?
Technically, yes… but… you can do the 17-mile drive via bike (although motorcycles are not allowed) or on a group tour.
If you wanna cycle the 17-mile drive, you can either bring your own bike or rent one in Monterey. OR you can join this guided e-bike tour, which includes an e-bike (woooo less pedaling!), a helmet, and your very own guide. Read reviews and book tour here!
If you’re visiting San Francisco and just wanna head down to Carmel/Monterey for the day, this tour with stops along the 17-mile drive looks super fun! It even includes time at the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium! Read reviews and book your Monterey tour here!
Where to Stay Near the 17 Mile Drive:
Yes, you can stay right on the 17 Mile Drive itself, in Pebble Beach! There’s actually three options, although they’re all ridiculously pricey. But hey, you won’t need to pay the $11.25 entrance fee for the 17 Mile Drive, haha (anything helps, right?!). Hotels along the 17 Mile Drive include:
- The Lodge at Pebble Beach
- Case Palmero
- The Inn at Spanish Bay
If you aren’t looking to break the bank (I hear you!), plan to stay in one of these small towns nearby. Although, it’s important to note this is an expensive area of California in general, so finding true budget accommodations may be difficult. You’ll have more luck during the week (weekend prices can be insane).
- Carmel-by-the-Sea: One of our favorite little areas on the Central Coast, with tons of delicious restaurants, shopping, and a gorgeous beach at sunset.
- Monterey Bay: Home to the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, plus Cannery Row and Fisherman’s Wharf. Kinda touristy but always fun!
- Pacific Grove: Located right next to Monterey, this spot feels a bit more local with tons of seaside walks and charm. Another favorite of mine!
So let’s get started! Cruising down the California coastline we go – all the best 17 Mile Drive stops below! No one said I’m good with rhymes, haha.
Best 17 Mile Drive Stops
Pay your entrance fee and grab a map from the gate – the pamphlet gives a nice overview of the 17 stops on the 17 Mile Drive (and get this – there used to be 21 of them!).
When you get the map and pamphlet outlining each stop, I recommend deciding in advance which ones you wanna get out of the car for. This way you’re not tempted to get out all 17 times, which sounds ridiculously exhausting to me (especially if you have other things you want to do in Monterey/Carmel that day).
Once you’ve got your map and plan of action, we’re off to stop #1 of the 17 Mile Drive!
Stop #1 – Shepherd’s Knoll
Shepherd’s Knoll is the first official stop on the 17 Mile Drive! It gives great views of Monterey Bay and even the Santa Cruz mountains, but from kinda far away. To be completely honest, we typically skip this spot – it’s super underwhelming compared to most of the others (I’m all about transparency here!). So if you’re tight on time, keep on driving; you’re not missing much.
Or, if you’re on a mission to visit all the 17 Mile Drive stops, this will probably just be a quick photo spot. It’s best on a clear day so you can really see the blues of the bay!
Stop #2 – Huckleberry Hill
Wait – huckleberries?! YES! This stop on the 17 Mile Drive was named after all the native huckleberry bushes in this area. Although unfortunately you won’t be able to try any.
Being one of the highest elevations in the forest, there’s more stunning scenic views here through the trees. If you look real hard (and maybe squint real tight), you can even see Santa Cruz off in the distance. But again, in all honesty, this is one of those stops on the 17 Mile Drive I’d skip if you’re in a time crunch.
There’s rumors that John Steinbeck (you know, that famous writer who wrote Of Mice and Men) strolled around Huckleberry Hill! How wild is that?! Maybe you’ll get some literary inspiration to write your first book over here.
There’s apparently a trail that goes down the hill, but I heard it can get quite overgrown so we skipped it. And my husband doesn’t like to hike, so, ya know…
Stop #3 – Spanish Bay Beach and The Links at Spanish Bay
This is kinda a two-in-one, and one of my favorite 17 Mile Drive stops. There’s the Links at Spanish Bay (the golf course) and Spanish Bay Beach (which is, you guessed correctly, a beach!). We typically visit the beach during the day, and then come back at night for some drinks at the course in-house restaurant.
Spanish Bay Beach: Ohhh, Spanish Bay Beach. Easily one of my favorite stops on the 17-Mile Drive, even when we aren’t driving the entire route!
Why’s it called Spanish Bay Beach you ask?! Spanish explorer Don Gaspar de Portela and his crew camped over here (in 1769!) when they were searching for Monterey Bay.
Walk on the beautiful boardwalk trail if you wanna get some steps in. It wraps around the shoreline all the way to Moss Beach to the south or Asilomar Beach to the north. Remember – you’ll need to walk back to get to your car for the next stop, so don’t go too far!
Prefer to relax? No problem! Spanish Bay is a gorgeous beach with soft, white sand. However, it’s better for sunbathing and playing in the sand – it’s typically too dangerous for swimming due to the strong currents and riptides. Also, it may be covered in cairns (rock piles) when you visit, which makes for some fun photography.
Links at Spanish Bay: My recommendation? Skip the course on your initial drive and come back for sunset. There’s a bagpiper who closes down the course each night (it’s tradition!), so when I learned that, of course we adjusted our itinerary to fit it in!
Why a bagpiper? Spanish Bay is a Scottish-style golf course! When Tom Watson (one of the leading golf players in the world) proclaimed “Spanish Bay is so much like Scotland, you can almost hear the bagpipes.”, the rest was history!
We listened to the talented bagpiper and sipped our drinks as the sun went down. Stuffing a delicious burger into our mouths. Sitting around the fireplace. I can’t think of anything more serene than that night! Psst – a burger and drinks will put you over $35, so make sure to give your server your 17 Mile Drive entrance fee receipt to get reimbursed!
Some logistics: The bagpiper starts on the first tee at The Links at Spanish Bay in front of STICKS (the nearby Pebble Beach sports bar) and finishes 45 minutes later at the Spanish Bay fire pits (by the second green).
Plan to arrive at least half an hour before sunset during the summer to watch the nightly performance. Other times of year, the bagpiper starts around 5:45pm. Plan your day accordingly! It’d be a shame to miss out on this tradition!
Stop #4 – Restless Sea
This will be another quick stop on the 17 Mile Drive. And like its name implies, this is one of the most turbulent sections of coastline over here in Pebble Beach! Why? Most likely due to all the submerged rocks.
It’s wild – if you visit on a particular windy day, the waves will be continuously crashing into each other. You definitely can’t swim over here, but it does make for some interesting photography.
Stop #5 – Point Joe
Point Joe, Stop #5 on the 17 Mile Drive, is a great place for photos and wildlife spotting! Use the small telescope to see the seals even closer on the rugged coastline. Look closely and you might even see crystals (hardened magma that eventually turns into granite)!
While Point Joe is pretty to look at (with great views of the water and rocks), unfortunately, there have been plenty of shipwrecks here back in the day. It was often mistaken as the entrance to Monterey Bay (it’s not!), and many ships crashed on its rocky shores.
Point Joe overlooks the 14th hole of the MPCC Dunes Course, an iconic par 3 course with crashing waves and pelicans overhead. Absolutely gorgeous. You can even see golfers teeing off!
A little backstory on the name: Back in the early 1900s, a man lived in a driftwood hut over here. He would sell trinkets to the tourists stopping by. Was his name Joe? We’ll never know! But regardless, this stop on the 17 Mile Drive is named for that man!
Stop #6 – China Rock
More history! Chinese fishermen lived over here in the 19th century, and China Rock is now a symbol for that tiny village. Look closely and you may be able to see black marks on the rocks from the smoke of their cooking fires! Wild!
Nowadays, it’s a good spot to stretch your legs along the 17 Mile Drive and/or relax on the rocks overlooking the water. And plus, that clean ocean air… If you visit in the spring, you’ll see plenty of wildflowers at the base of the rock.
Stop #7 – Bird Rock
This is one of the best 17 Mile Drive stops for nature lovers! I sure love it! Tons of birds and boisterous sea lions. If you’re short on time, make Bird Rock a priority!
You’ll definitely wanna bring your binoculars or put a zoom lens on your camera to see the birds up close. The rock is actually just offshore in the water, so binoculars will definitely come in handy. You’ll see pelicans and cormorants swooping in the water, looking for a delicious seafood lunch.
Bird Rock used to be covered in a few feet of guano (bird poop!) in the 1930s, but it’s since been removed and is now used as a fertilizer. For what, I’m not entirely sure, haha.
And besides the birds, you can also usually see harbor seals sunbathing on the rocks, just lounging around. Visit in the winter or spring and you may even get to witness California Gray Whales out in the ocean during their migration down to Mexico! Look out for the spouts of water offshore!
Stop #8 – Seal Rock
Another spot buzzing with wildlife! Yes! With dozens among dozens of seals (probably more like hundreds), there’s a reason this spot is named Seal Rock!
You’ll know when you’ve arrived, trust me! That smell is absolutely horrid! Kinda like when we watched the sea lions in the La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego. Fun to watch but definitely very stinky!
Wanna see some tiny marine life? Check out the tidepools, where you can find sea anemones, sea urchins, sea slugs, crabs, and maybe even some starfish if you’re lucky.
It’s also a great spot on the 17 mile drive for a picnic. Before you head out, walk the boardwalk trail to the Gingerbread House – it’s super charming with a multi-colored roof.
Stop #9 – Fanshell Beach
Here’s another one of my favorite stops on the 17 Mile Drive – Fanshell Beach. Why, you ask? Baby seal pups (eeee – that’s me screaming in delight)! Harbor seals come to Fanshell Beach to have their pups in late Spring. And they are oh so adorable.
The beach is actually closed from April 1 to June 1 for Harbor Seal pupping season. While you won’t be able to take a walk on the beach then (for their safety of course), you can thankfully still take pictures from the Fanshell Beach Overlook. Other times of year you can head down to the striking white beach and hang out/relax. The sand is easily accessible down a short flight of stairs.
Fun fact: This is as far west as the 17-Mile Drive takes you!
Stop #10 – Cypress Point Lookout
Looking to catch sunset? This is the best place for sunset in all of Pebble Beach – it’s got a southwesterly view, so that’s a main reason why!
But whenever you visit Cypress Point Lookout, expect dramatic views of the Pacific coastline. And of course you’ll find a whole lotta cypress trees! I recommend making a short stop here on your drive, and then heading back here for sunset depending on the weather.
This lookout is protected by a wire fence since it’s basically a sheer drop on the other side! Be extra careful if you’re with kids! And there’s million dollar mega-mansions built in the Roaring Twenties over here (with some selling for as high as $30 million – whoa!)
Stop #11 – Crocker Grove
What makes Crocker Grove so special? It’s one of only TWO spots in the WORLD you can find native Monterey cypress trees. Yes, I said the world (the other spot is in nearby Point Lobos Natural Reserve just a few miles south). Here you’ll find the oldest and largest Monterey Cypress trees, named for Charles Crocker (who established the original 17 Mile Drive in 1881).
Monterey Cypresses have been growing in this 13-acre nature preserve for over 300 years. I have to admit we typically skip this stop on the 17 Mile Drive… although now that I’m thinking about it, I kinda wanna check it out next time. I have a feeling it won’t beat the redwoods near San Francisco though, including Muir Woods National Monument.
If you have more time in the area, head south to check out the other spot with a Monterey cypress forest – Point Lobos!
Stop #12 – The Lone Cypress
If you’ve done any research on the different stops on the 17 Mile Drive, I almost guarantee you’ve seen photos of The Lone Cypress. I mean, it’s one of the most photographed trees in the entire world!
Best place to take this iconic photo? The viewing platform! Although we loved the views from the parking lot as well.
Important tip: Don’t try and sell your photos of The Lone Cypress – commercial photography is actually forbidden here. Why?! It’s basically owned by Pebble Beach, and is the official logo of Pebble Beach Resorts!
Why’s it so special anyways?! This little Monterey Cypress tree is believed to be at least 250 years old, and has stood on its rocky little perch all these years! It’s truly one of California’s most iconic landmarks. Unfortunately, the tree lost a large branch in 2019 during a massive rainstorm, but it’s still living and standing tall! That’s why it looks much smaller than it originally did.
So whatever you do, don’t miss The Lone Cypress. It’s definitely the most famous of all the 17 Mile Drive stops.
Stop #13 – Ghost Trees at Pescadero Point
These Monterey cypress trees are nothing like the ones you’ll see at Crocker Grove. Their bark was completely stripped and bleached white from harsh winds and rainstorms. Kinda eerie and kinda spooky, with no leaves at all. Basically ghosts of cypresses that have died! Definitely one of the most unique Monterey cypresses I’ve ever seen!
Visiting in winter? Check out the waves below – they’re massive. Makes sense that the area used to be a famous (albeit very dangerous) surfing spot. Besides the unique and spooky trees, the areas got great views of Carmel Bay and Stillwater Cove.
Stop #14 – Pebble Beach Visitor Center
I was surprised to learn that the visitor center made it on the list of 17 Mile Drive stops. Am I the only one? But I mean, you’re here – may as well learn some history! There’s more than 20 exhibits about the history of the Pebble Beach golf courses and the 17-Mile Drive itself. Depending on the day, it may be nice to get indoors for a bit!
There’s also a gorgeous outdoor deck with views of Pebble Beach and the Pacific Ocean. Plus a shop with souvenirs and drinks (remember, stay hydrated!). And finally some restrooms!
Stop #15 – Pebble Beach Golf Links
Ohhh – this is what everyone thinks of when they hear Pebble Beach. The world-famous golf course! Avid golfers from around the world come all the way to Monterey Bay to play at Pebble Beach; it’s that special – even Barack Obama has played a few rounds here. And the grounds are absolutely immaculate – I mean they better be for the price!
My husband is dying to book the “Stay and Play” package. You stay in one of their stunning hotel rooms overlooking Pebble Beach, and then play a round (or two… or three) at Pebble Beach Golf Links. It’s a pretty penny for sure, so we’re saving it for a special occasion!
Wanna play? You’ll need to reserve wayyyy ahead of time (which thankfully gives you time to save up for it)!
If you’re not a golfer or just simply don’t have the time (or money) to play, you can watch players tee off at the first hole or finish up at the 18th. Just remember to be respectful and stay quiet as they’re hitting. Nobody wants to hear an obnoxious tourist as they’re playing one of their most expensive rounds in the world!
You used to be able to walk right onto the 18th hole, but now it’s understandably more controlled. You’re still able to take a photo right by the last hole, but in front of a wooden fence.
Stop #16 – Pebble Beach Equestrian Center
Horse lovers, you’re in luck! The Pebble Beach Equestrian Center offers guided trail rides – just make sure you call in advance and reserve your ride! Of course the views are to die for; you can assume anything with Pebble Beach in its name is top notch. Ride in the Del Monte forest and even along the coast with perfect Pacific Ocean views.
Even though we’ve driven the 17 Mile Drive plenty of times, we’ve never actually stopped at the equestrian center – whoops! We’re not huge fans of horses, so this never really intrigued us. But it’s a must for any horse lovers out there!
Stop #17 – Ford Meadow
Woooo – you made it! Ford Meadow is the last official stop on the 17 Mile Drive (named in honor of Robert F. Ford).
Ford Meadow is particularly beautiful in the spring, when it’s super green and there’s wildflowers out and about. If you visit too late in the year the meadow will start to look blah and brownish (we unfortunately don’t get much rain over here in California).
Is the 17 Mile Drive worth it?
The short answer: YES!
The longer answer? I think so? Although I really only think half the stops are all that wonderful, considering a bunch are kinda underwhelming if we’re being completely honest here. While the entire coastline along the 17 Mile Drive is beautiful, the free stretches are just as if not even more gorgeous. And the famed Big Sur is only 30 minutes south.
With all that being said, if it’s your first time visiting Monterey Bay and you’ve got time in your schedule, go for it! I think it also really depends on the weather – if it’s a foggy day I’d honestly skip the 17 Mile Drive altogether. But that’s your choice of course.
Other Things to do in the Area
- Hike in Point Lobos State Natural Reserve: While the entire reserve is beautiful, don’t miss China Cove and Bird Island Lookout (on the southern part of the park). They’re my two favorite spots in Point Lobos, and you won’t find clearer waters. Bring your binoculars for wildlife viewing! You may even see an orca and/or dolphin off the coast!
- Wander around Carmel-by-the-Sea: We never seem to get tired of Carmel (I even proclaimed to wanna move there a few years ago…). There’s gentle weather year round, rolling hills, powdery white-sanded dog-friendly (!!!) beaches, sea otters playing in the water, and the town’s just oozing with charm and character. Come here for a delicious lunch, to watch the sunset at the beach, and to check out all the cute architecture.
- Day Trip to Big Sur: There’s a reason Big Sur is known as one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in California. It’s downright GORGEOUS! Imagine seaside cliffs. Winding turns. Miles of misty coastline. Purple sand (yup!). That’s just a few of the things Big Sur is well-known for. And just one reason it’s on every list of the most beautiful places in California. Big Sur is one of my favorite places, not just in California, but everywhere! If you’ve never been, don’t miss it! All my favorites in Big Sur here!
- Monterey Bay Aquarium: If you’ve done any research, you’ve undoubtedly come across the famous aquarium. While it’s not a spot I’d visit on every visit to the Monterey Peninsula (it’s kinda pricey), if you’re intrigued by the underwater world and marine habits of Monterey Bay, go check it out. Those jellyfish wow me every time. And you can even see a real-life kelp forest.
- Calla Lily Valley (in season): Visiting the Monterey Peninsula in early spring? You need to check out the secret Calla Lily Valley (in full bloom from mid-February to early-March). There’s gorgeous white calla lilies blooming right by the ocean! Don’t miss it!
Hope this helps you plan out which 17 Mile Drive stops you wanna check out! Are you headed to the Monterey Bay peninsula anytime soon?!