17-Mile Drive Road Trip Guide: How to Make the Most of Your Trip

17 mile drive road trip guide

Get the most out of the 17-Mile Drive with our ultimate guide to the best stops and things to do on one of the most scenic drives in California.

Take a classic California road trip on the state’s most scenic route, the 17-Mile Drive. 

Follow the red-dashed line down the stretch of coastline connecting Pacific Grove with Carmel for serene forests, stunning ocean vistas, and iconic golf courses.

Don’t miss a single stop on your tour of this unique neighborhood, hidden away between the forest and the ocean. 

Along the way, you’ll find the best beaches of Monterey, one of the most photographed trees in California, and jaw-dropping mansions.

Whether you’re hoping to play a round of golf at Pebble Beach, want to watch the sun go down to the sound of bagpipes, or looking to cruise along the California coastline, you can find it all on the 17-Mile Drive. 

Follow this 17-Mile Drive itinerary for all the best stops and what to expect along this legendary drive!

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How to Make the Most of Your 17-Mile Drive Trip

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17-Mile Drive Map

Practical Info for the 17-Mile Drive

Starting point: Highway 1 Gate
Ending Point: Pacific Grove Gate
Distance: 16.78 miles
Cost: $11.25 per vehicle, free for cyclists and walkers. 
Estimated time to complete: Four hours, but you could spend longer.

Created as a tourist attraction for the Del Monte Hotel, the 17-Mile Drive opened in 1881 to day-trippers in horse carriages. 

The route varied slightly depending on the driver’s preference, but the idea was to show affluent guests the spectacular forests, coastal views, and beaches between Monterey and Carmel.

Much has changed in the past 150 years or so, but this spectacular drive remains popular with tourists visiting Carmel.

There are a total of five gates where you can pay a toll, pick up a map, and enter the exclusive gated community of Pebble Beach that the drive cuts through. 

The Pacific Grove Gate, off Sunset Drive, and the Highway 1 Gate, off Highway 1 and 68, are the most popular entrance points.

However, there are three more 17-Mile Drive entrance points. These include the Country Club Gate, S.F.B Morse Gate, H, and the Carmel Gate. 

If you plan to cycle the route, you should go through the Pacific Grove Gate. 

In terms of the 17-Mile Drive cost, there’s an $11.25 fee charged to vehicles entering any of the gates. 

With how flat the road is, biking the 17-Mile Drive is a great alternative to driving, and there are no fees charged to cyclists (or walkers). Just note that the road isn’t open to motorcyclists. 

For this route, I suggest starting at the Highway 1 Gate and ending at the Pacific Grove Gate. Pay the fee at the toll booth, grab a map, and follow the red dashes on the pavement to stay on the route. 

It’s a two-way road, so you can do this route north-to-south or south-to-north, but if you drive south, you’ll be closer to the ocean.

In this guide, I’ve included information on all the stops, but if you’d prefer to listen to an audio guide as you drive, you can download this self-guided tour that comes with a map. 

Both the audio tour above and this guide are self-guided tours, but there are other options if you don’t want to drive. 

You could take a one-day guided tour with pick-up and drop-off in San Francisco, which includes stops along the 17-Mile Drive, Monterey, and Carmel.

Or, you could enjoy the natural beauty of the 17-Mile Drive on an environmentally-friendly electric bike, with a tour guide to show you the best stops. Kids can ride tandem, making this a family-friendly option too.

Looking for more to do in the area? Read my complete guide to the best things to do in Monterey

Best 17-Mile Drive Stops

Shepherd’s Knoll

Why it’s worth stopping at: Located high on a hill, this scenic overlook is ideal for taking photographs that include both the Del Monte Forest and the Pacific Ocean.

The first stop I recommend making on the 17-Mile Drive is a quick but scenic one. 

Shepherd’s Knoll is an overlook through the Del Monte Forest pines to Monterey Bay and beyond. On a sunny day, this is a beautiful spot for a photo or to simply take in the view.

The vista is named for Abraham D. Shepard, a railroad builder who created part of this scenic route in the upper forest. 

Somewhere along the way, Shepherd became mistaken for Shepard – the place has nothing to do with actual sheep.

Huckleberry Hill

Why it’s worth stopping at: Huckleberry Hill is another photo opportunity that perhaps inspired classic literature. 

Huckleberry Hill is another stop along the 17-Mile Drive with a great vista. 

The green pine trees contrast beautifully with the blue ocean. Unlike the first stop, Huckleberry Hill is accurately named for the huckleberry shrubs that dot the hillside.

Pause for a moment to see if inspiration strikes: writers John Steinbeck and Robert Louis Stevenson were said to stroll these forests. 

There’s a trail you can take down the hill from the lookout point if you want to explore the forest further.

S.F.B. Morse Botanical Reserve

Why it’s worth stopping at: Take a break from the car and stretch your legs with a peaceful forest hike.

Most of the 17-Mile Drive hugs the beautiful coastline, but it’s worthwhile to take a quick detour to hike in the forest. 

This trail at the S.F.B. Morse Botanical Reserve starts on Congress Rd., just after the junction with Bird Rock Rd. This is a three-mile, moderate loop through the Del Monte Forest.

Hikers can take their dog too, as long as they stay on a leash. 

Look out for wildflowers along the route, you might see calla lilies and other blooms in springtime. The reserve is named for the founder of Pebble Beach Resort, S.F.B. Morse.

The Inn at Spanish Bay

The Inn at Spanish Bay

Why it’s worth stopping at: Take part in a unique Pebble Beach tradition: listening to the sound of bagpipes as the sun goes down over the ocean.

Make a stop at the Inn at Spanish Bay, one of the luxury hotels at Pebble Beach Resort. 

If you’re traveling in the late afternoon, settle down in front of the fire pits on the patio and listen to the bagpiper, who plays every evening, rain or shine, as the sun sets.

The Spanish Bay Bagpiper starts in front of STICKS, the hotel’s restaurant, at 5:45 pm during Daylight Standard Time, or half an hour before sunset during the summer. 

The tradition started when the golf course creator, Tom Watson, quipped “Spanish Bay is so much like Scotland, you can almost hear the bagpipes.”

Spanish Bay Beach

Spanish Bay Beach

Why it’s worth stopping at: Stroll down the boardwalk on one of Monterey’s best beaches.

For you next stop, enjoy pausing for a moment by the water at Spanish Bay Beach

Spanish Bay Beach is a wide, sandy stretch popular with surfers. The beach is backed by dunes and the Links at Spanish Bay, one of the Pebble Beach golf courses.

There’s also a boardwalk leading to Moss Beach in the south or Asilomar Beach in the north through the white dunes.

Spanish explorers trying to find Monterey Bay camped here in 1769 and the beach is named for their visit. 

This is one of the prettiest beaches in Monterey County, perfect for a coastal stroll on a sunny afternoon. 

Dangerous rip currents create unsuitable conditions for swimming but it’s fun to watch the surfers.

Spanish Bay Beach is one of the most popular stops on the 17-Mile Drive, but you don’t even have to drive through the toll gates to access this public beach. 

If you want to take a stroll on the boardwalk without going on the full drive, park on Sunset Drive in Pacific Grove and walk along Asilomar State Beach until you arrive at Spanish Bay Beach.

The Restless Sea

The Restless Sea

Why it’s worth stopping at: Listen to the sound of the ocean crashing against the rocks and breathe in the fresh ocean air.

Pull over at the sign for The Restless Sea and check out the crashing waters at this stop. 

The Restless Sea is one of the most turbulent stretches of coastline in Pebble Beach, likely due to rocks hidden beneath the waves. 

This is a good spot to look out for birds and other wildlife, or simply appreciate the power of nature as the ocean roars around you.

Point Joe

Point Joe

Why it’s worth stopping at: Spot wildlife and take beautiful pictures at this scenic spot.

Often mistaken for the entrance to Monterey Bay, Point Joe is the site of many shipwrecks as unfortunate mariners looking for safe harbor instead encountered the jagged coastline. 

This is a beautiful spot for photography, as the granite rocks contrast the bright blue of the ocean. 

Point Joe is also a good place to spot wildlife since there’s a small telescope where you can view the surrounding rock formations.

In the 1900s, a man named Joe lived in a driftwood hut selling trinkets to tourists. Whether the spot is named for Joe, or Joe was named for the spot, is lost to history.

China Rock

China Rock

Why it’s worth stopping at: Check out the wildflowers and learn about the history of this area.

China Rock is a great stop for a photo of the ocean, framed by flower-covered rocks. 

The area is named for Chinese families who lived here in the 19th century. If you look closely, you can still see the black marks on some of the rocks made by smoke from their fires.

Bird Rock

Bird Rock

Why it’s worth stopping at: Spot birds and other wildlife at this offshore rock formation.

Bring your binoculars to Bird Rock, which is the best place on the 17-Mile Drive for wildlife spotting. 

Aside from pelicans and cormorants that swoop into the ocean, you’ll find adorable sea lions sunbathing on the smooth rock formations offshore.

Further out to sea, watch for grey whales spouting on their annual migration between March and November. 

These tan-and-grey rocks were once covered in a thick layer of guano, but the bird droppings were harvested in the 1930s for fertilizer. 

The sea lions appreciated the clean-up and enjoy sunning themselves on Bird Rock, barking and grunting at passers-by.

Seal Rock

Why it’s worth stopping at: Stretch your legs on this white sand beach and check out a colorful house.

The small beach at the mouth of Seal Rock Creek is ideal for a picnic or a stroll on the white sand.

Seal Rock is also perfect for exploring tidepools, where you can spot anemones, sea urchins, and other little creatures. 

Take a hike on the boardwalk to the whimsical Gingerbread House where you can take a snap of the scene.

This cute cottage at the entrance to Indian Village has a distinctive candy-colored roof and is straight out of a fairy tale.

Fanshell Overlook

Fanshell Overlook

Why it’s worth stopping at: If your timing is right, you might glimpse some adorable seal pups.

The Fanshell Overlook is another white sand beach on the 17-Mile Drive. 

You can take a walk on the beach unless it’s closed for harbor seal pupping season, between April and June. If the beach is closed for pupping, you can still take pictures from the overlook. 

Cypress Point Lookout

Cypress Point Lookout

Why it’s worth stopping at: Watch the sun dip into the ocean at this spectacular sunset spot.

Another great spot for a photo, Cypress Point Lookout is especially popular at sunset when the sun dips into the ocean, creating dazzling colors across the water.

The striking mega-mansions of 17-Mile Drive are also on show in this area. 

Originally built in the roaring 20s, the homes in this exclusive neighborhood rarely go on the market and when they do, some sell for upwards of $30 million.

Crocker Grove

Crocker Grove

Why it’s worth stopping at: Explore a unique Monterey cypress forest grove.

Crocker Grove is the location of the oldest and largest Monterey cypress trees in existence. 

The trees that grow in this beautiful forest are somewhat sheltered from the wind, so they grow straighter and taller.

There’s only one other Monterey cypress forest in the world, which you can find in Point Lobos State Reserve, just south of Carmel.

Crocker Grove is named for the railway magnate Charles Crocker, who built the original 17-Mile Drive.

Lone Cypress

Lone Cypress

Why it’s worth stopping at: The iconic Lone Cypress is possibly the most photographed tree in the world.

The Lone Cypress is the most famous and most photographed stop on the 17-Mile Drive. The small tree stands alone on a rocky outcrop, facing the vast Pacific Ocean. 

Although a branch snapped off during a storm in 2019, it’s still standing strong. The tree’s sculptural shape and romantic location create a dramatic photo.

The best place to get a shot of the 250-year-old tree is from the viewing platform, although the view is pretty good from the parking lot too.  

And although you won’t get the sun going down directly behind the tree due to its south-facing location, the setting sun casts a beautiful golden glow on the cliff face.

If you get a killer shot, don’t even think about trying to sell your photo – Pebble Beach Resorts will come after you! 

The tree is used as the Pebble Beach corporate logo and while sharing personal pictures is permitted, commercial photography is forbidden.

Pescadero Point

Pescadero Point

Why it’s worth stopping at: Check out the striking ghost trees of the 17-Mile Drive.

Pescadero Point also offers beautiful vistas of the ocean with trees in the foreground. 

Unlike the Lone Cypress, these trees didn’t survive the tough coastal conditions and all that remains are their ghostly, sun-bleached skeletons. 

Stroll the walkway and enjoy the views of the ghost trees, boulders, and wildflowers along the way. This is also a popular surfing point. In the winter, waves can get as big as 50 feet.

Pebble Beach Visitor Center

Pebble Beach Visitor Center

Why it’s worth stopping at: Learn why this area is so special at the visitor center.

The Pebble Beach Visitor Center is full of information about the history of the 17-Mile Drive and the Pebble Beach golf courses. It’s a good stop to learn more about this fascinating stretch of coastline.

At the center, you’ll find restrooms, a cafe, exhibitions, interactive maps of the 17-Mile Drive, and a deck with beautiful ocean views. 

The visitor center is open every day and is located across the road from The Lodge.

The Tap Room at Pebble Beach

Why it’s worth stopping at: This stylish bar and restaurant is a good refreshment break. 

Whether or not you’re a golfer, you can enjoy the legendary 19th hole at Pebble Beach. 

The Tap Room at The Lodge is renowned for its collection of historic golf memorabilia, celebrating the sport.

A wide selection of drinks are available and sports are shown on the big screens. The Tap Room is also a steakhouse if you’re feeling hungry. 

The Spa at Pebble Beach

Why it’s worth stopping at: Because you deserve some me-time.

Another way to get the gate fee waived for the 17-Mile Drive is to book yourself a relaxing spa treatment at The Spa at Pebble Beach. Try a relaxing flotation wrap, massage, or body scrub for an indulgent day out.

The spa also offers several golf-inspired treatments for a pre-game warm-up or to soothe sore muscles after a round. 

After your treatment, grab a refreshing drink at the juice bar and kick back by the outdoor pool or in the cozy conservatory.

The Spa is a popular destination, so book your service at least two weeks in advance of your visit.

Stillwater Cove

Why it’s worth stopping at: This sheltered beach is ideal for sunbathing, swimming and kayaking.

Turn off from the 17-Mile Drive onto Palmero Way for a quick detour to Stillwater Cove. 

The white sand beach is perfect for sunbathing or swimming, as it’s protected from the rough surf found at other beaches along this stretch of coast.

The quiet waters and kelp forest just offshore also make this a good spot for beginner divers. It’s also perfect for standup paddleboarding and kayaking

If you have time, Monterey-based Adventures by the Sea offers a guided two-hour kayak tour from Stillwater Cove Beach.

There are also two restrooms with hot showers next to the pier. Just note that Pebble Beach Golf Links backs onto the beach, so beware of flying golf balls!

Pebble Beach Golf Course

Pebble Beach Golf Course

Why it’s worth stopping at: Watch golfers play at one of the best courses in the world.

The links at Pebble Beach are world-famous and a bucket list course for golfers. 

If you want to play a round, be sure to reserve your time months in advance and be prepared to pay handsomely for the experience.

If you don’t have the time or inclination to play golf, it’s still fun to take a minute to watch the players. You might spot someone famous on the fairway.

Pebble Beach Equestrian Center

Why it’s worth stopping at: Taking a trail ride on horseback is an amazing way to connect with nature.

The Pebble Beach Equestrian Center offers private or group riding lessons, plus guided trail rides. 

With 27 miles of equestrian trails through the Del Monte Forest and along the coastline, taking a ride is a memorable way to experience this slice of California.

Be sure to book 48 hours in advance if you want to enjoy a trail ride or lesson.

Ford Meadow

Why it’s worth stopping at: Pause for a moment to appreciate the grass, wildflowers, and peace of this final stop.

Ford Meadow is your last stop on the 17-Mile Drive. 

This grassy open space is dotted with colorful wildflowers in the spring. The meadow is dedicated to Robert F. Ford, a generous donor to the Del Monte Conservancy.

Best Restaurants Near the 17-Mile Drive

Best Restaurants Near the 17-Mile Drive

There are a few places to eat along the 17-Mile Drive at the Pebble Beach resorts and the Pebble Beach Visitor Center cafe. 

As a bonus, if you spend $35 at any of the Pebble Beach resort restaurants, they’ll refund your entry fee.

Try Stillwater Bar and Grill, The Bench at The Lodge, or Roy’s at Spanish Bay Inn for a memorable lunch. 

If you eat at STICKS during sunset at Spanish Bay Inn, you can listen to the bagpiper play as the sun sets.

Alternatively, you could pack a lunch and enjoy a picnic at any point along the way. There are picnic benches between Point Joe and Seal Rock, or you can take a blanket and sit on the sand at Spanish Bay Beach.

If you prefer to eat before embarking on the 17-Mile Drive, there are plenty of great restaurants in Monterey and Carmel. Grab a sandwich from the 5th Avenue Deli in Carmel before hitting the road.

In Carmel, try La Bicyclette, a European-style bistro serving French and Italian cuisine from an ever-changing menu. 

If you’d like your lunch with an ocean view, head to Mission Ranch Inn, the traditional restaurant and hotel owned by actor and Carmel resident, Clint Eastwood.

Over in Monterey, fresh, sustainable seafood is the order of the day. Old Fisherman’s Grotto is a family-friendly establishment that has been consistently voted as one of the best restaurants in the area. 

Or you can head to The C Restaurant and Bar, which offers delicious food and killer views over the bay.

Best Time to Drive the 17-Mile Drive

Best Time to Drive the 17-Mile Drive

Check the Pebble Beach events calendar to see if any major events are going on at the time you want to visit. Don’t go during the U.S. Open (June) or the Pebble Beach Pro-Am (February), for example.

Monterey Car Week takes place in August, and unless you want to attend one of the events, this is another time that’s best avoided. 

It gets extremely busy in Monterey during these times and you may not be allowed to do the 17-Mile Drive at all.

The best time of year for fewer crowds and warmer weather is in September. The Monterey coast has the sunniest days during this month and less fog. 

Although a bit colder, Monterey is also beautiful during the winter months or in April, when wildflowers burst into life.

As for the time of day, early morning would be the best time to avoid crowds. Sunset is the best time to take stunning photographs of the ocean, but expect everyone to have the same idea. 

The 17-Mile Drive is open to the public from sunrise to sunset.

Which Direction is Best for Driving the 17-Mile Drive?

Which Direction is Best for Driving the 17-Mile Drive?

Either way is fine! I’d recommend driving north to south in the order described by this guide so you can be closer to the water, which also makes pulling into stops easier. 

But you could easily do it in reverse. Or, if you’re short on time, skip the first three stops and start at the Pacific Grove Gate, driving south by the ocean.

What to Expect & Tips for Driving the 17-Mile Drive

What to Expect & Tips for Driving the 17-Mile Drive
  • Along the 17-Mile Drive, you can expect stunning vistas around every corner, beautiful beaches, ridiculous mansions, and world-renowned golf courses. You can also expect crowds and traffic, especially in the summer.
  • Although it’s only about 17 miles long, the route has so many places to pull over and stop, you should give yourself three to four hours to complete the drive. You could take all day if you want. As you’ve probably gathered from this article, there are lots of things to do on the 17-Mile Drive. 
  • Note the speed limit is 25 miles per hour for the entire route.
  • There are no gas stations along the way, so be sure to fill up before you enter the gates. You can find a Shell at 1201 Forest Ave in Pacific Grove and at the corner of San Carlos St and 5th Ave in Carmel-By-The-Sea. If you’re driving an electric vehicle, there are EV charge points at the Pebble Beach Visitor Center.
  • I’d also advise taking your camera, as there are a ton of photo opportunities along the way. Binoculars are also helpful to spot seals, sea lions, birds, and whales (especially in the migrating season from April to November).
  • If you’re planning to do the 17-mile scenic drive in the afternoon, aim to get to the Inn at Spanish Bay to watch the bagpiper play around sunset. Or head to the Lone Cypress for amazing shots of the ocean.
  • Pebble Beach is considered one of the best golf courses in the world and is priced accordingly. However, there are two cheaper 17-Mile Drive golf courses nearby with similar epic views if you want to enjoy a round without the hefty price tag.
  • One of my favorite 17-Mile Drive tips is this: you can get the entrance fee waived if you spend $35 at one of the Pebble Beach resorts. Stop for lunch, or stay the night for a luxurious break, and you can travel along the 17-Mile Drive for free.
  • If you’re wondering what to wear, I’d advise light layers. The Central California coast has a mild climate but can be surprisingly chilly when the fog rolls in, which happens regularly. It’s also full of microclimates, and you might be caught off guard by a sudden drop in temperature from one city to another. If you want to know exactly what’s going on, check out the live webcam at Pebble Beach to find out if you’re going to see sunshine or fog on your drive. In other words, plan for sunshine with sunglasses, sunscreen, and a hat, as well as cool ocean breezes and fog with a cozy fleece or light jacket.

Fun Facts About the 17-Mile Drive

Fun Facts About the 17-Mile Drive
  • More than 1.5 million visitors tour the 17-Mile Drive annually.
  • Pebble Beach was the first public golf course to stage the U.S. Open in 1972.
  • The Lone Cypress is believed to be 250 years old and is one of the most photographed trees in the world.
  • Between 1950-1956, the 17-Mile Drive was used as a racecourse.
  • The 17-Mile Drive was built by a railroad consortium as a tourist attraction to drive customers to a resort on the property, Hotel Del Monte.
  • Hotel Del Monte is now a postgraduate Naval school.
  • The entire Pebble Beach community, including the 17-Mile Drive, is owned by a group of investors that includes Clint Eastwood (who is also the former mayor of Carmel) and Arnold Palmer.
  • Robert Louis Stevenson was said to have been inspired by the local beaches and hills to write Treasure Island. Spyglass Hill Golf Course is named for the Spyglass Inn, where Long-John Silver works in the famous novel.

Where to Stay Near the 17-Mile Drive

Where to Stay Near the 17-Mile Drive

What to Pack for the 17-Mile Drive

what to pack for the 17 mile drive in pebble beach

Get your FREE California Travel Planner – including printable checklists and my favorite two-week itinerary for the state. 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah McDonald headshot

Sarah McDonald

Sarah McDonald is a travel writer based in the Bay Area. She writes for the national parenting website Red Tricycle and on her own family travel blog, Tiny Trailblazers. She loves exploring California’s outdoors and has a weakness for a national park gift shop.


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