17 Mile Drive – What to See on the Scenic Drive of Pebble Beach

Written By: The Planet D

17 Mile Drive is one of the most scenic drives in the world. Located on the Highway 1 Coastal Route between Carmel by the Sea and Pacific Grove, this drive takes you through one of California’s most exclusive communities, Pebble Beach. Many people pay $10.25 to enter the famous route in Pebble Beach by car, but if you ride a bicycle along the 17-mile stretch, it’s free!

Don’t want to exert too much energy? Don’t worry, take an e-bike. It’s fast and easy and an excellent way to explore the 17-Mile Drive in Monterey. eBikes are electric bikes that let you use pedal power, but give an extra boost of speed with their electric motor to help you uphill and let you go faster with ease. We covered a lot of ground in our afternoon tour.

Motorcycles are not allowed on 17 Mile Drive, but that is the beauty of E-Biking, you can explore the beautiful road on two wheels with comfort and speed free of charge!

Things to See on 17 Mile Drive

For our e-biking trip along 17 Mile drive, we met at Big Sur Adventures in Pacific Grove where we were geared up with helmets, water, and state-of-the-art e-bikes.

Pacific Grove is just a five-minute drive from Monterey, so it is very easy to get to if you are staying in town. These E-bikes are fast. We averaged 20 miles (32km) an hour without having to do any hard work. If you want to zip around from place to place, the gears and throttle make it easy to hit top speeds, even going uphill. We barely broke a sweat.

17-mile drive Pacific Cove, California
17 Mile Drive starts in the beautiful Pacific Grove, California

17 Mile Drive from Pacific Grove to Carmel

There are so many things to see and do on 17 Mile Drive, but Ocean View Boulevard and Sunset Drive have a lot to see as well, so we suggest making an entire day trip to explore this scenic coastal drive. Here’s a breakdown of the points of interest on 17 Mile Drive and Ocean View Boulevard from Pacific Grove to Carmel by the Sea.

1. Lovers Point

Lovers Point in Pacific Grove
Lovers Point in Pacific Grove at the start of 17-mile drive ebiking adventure

Lovers Point is a picturesque beach with photogenic rocky outcrops. It’s a popular spot for locals to hang out and have picnics, play beach volleyball, or catch a wave.

Between Pacific Grove and the Gate to Pebble Beach, we stopped often and marveled at the beauty of the coast. There seemed to be one pull-off after another for cars to park and for people to get out and enjoy the views.

2. Pacific Grove Marine Gardens Conservation Area

17 mile drive beaches

At the Pacific Grove Marine Gardens Conservation Area, a group of sea otters caught our eye. At least a dozen of them were playing in the surf.

While exploring Monterey and Carmel by the Sea, we learned that by the 1920s sea otters were believed to be extinct due to overhunting. But 50 or so survived along the coast of Big Sur. Some people they lived at the famous Bixby Bridge area.

Today, sea otters are thriving in the area thanks to the efforts of the Monterey Bay Aquariums Sea Otter program. We watched at least a dozen of them swim in play in the surf and it was heartening to hear that they have returned.

But they still face a serious threat from oil spills and food availability. After several minutes of watching the cute little guys, we hopped on our e-bikes, put our gears on high, and zipped to the next stop.

Make sure to check out these other beautiful spots for photography along Big Sur. These are highlights you don’t want to miss!

3. John Denver Memorial

The John Denver Memorial 17 Mile Drive
The John Denver Memorial

It’s fascinating to hear of the movie stars and celebrities that frequented the areas of Carmel By the Sea, Monterey, Big Sur and Pacific Grove.

Clint Eastwood was the mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea in the 80s and nearly everyone we talked to had some sort of celebrity story to tell of their establishment or community.

In Pacific Grove, we learned that singer John Denver lived in the community for a year before his death. His plane crashed in the waters just off the coast of Pacific Grove and in 2007 a memorial was dedicated to the shores to celebrate his life.

4. Point Pinos Lighthouse

As we meandered past million-dollar houses our guide Joacquin pointed out the Point Pinos Lighthouse, the oldest still-operating lighthouse on the West Coast. It is still in use today to help navigate ships and they offer daily tours.

The links Golf course is near the entrance to 17 Mile Drive near Spanish Bay
The Links Golf course is near the entrance to 17 Mile Drive near Spanish Bay

The Links Golf course is possibly one of the most beautiful settings for golf in the US. It was designed to protect and restore the native dunes along the coast to allow the plant to regrow. Because of the nursery built on-site, more than 100,000 native species are replanted each year.

The first Scottish Style golf course in America opened in 1987 was designed by five-time British Open champion Tom Watson. He noted that “Spanish Bay looked so much like Scotland, you could almost hear the bagpipe piping.” Ever since they’ve had pipers play as the course closes at sunset.

Golf Pebble Beach

There are several world-class golf courses at Pebble Beach and The Links at Spanish Bay was voted one of the Best Public Golf Courses in the nation. The 2019 US open was held at the Pebble Beach Golf and Links.

  • Other Golf Courses are:
    • Pebble Beach Golf and Links
    • Spyglass Hill Golf Course
    • Del Monte Golf Course
    • Pebble Beach Golf Academy

6. Spanish Bay

17 mile drive Spanish Bay

Spanish Bay is yet another scenic stop along a long stretch of beach. In the late 1700s, the Spanish camped here while searching for Monterey Bay. Confusion and sickness set in and 6 months later they returned having never found Monterey Bay. Little did they know, how close they were.

It wasn’t until a year later with another discovery party that they actually discovered Monterey Bay which was hidden in plain sight.

7. Pacific Grove Gate

We entered the Gates of Pebble Beach without incident as was past cars lined up to pay their entrance fee. Being on a bicycle, we had the freedom to explore the paid portion of 17 Mile Drive on our own.

Having our ebikes, we were driving faster than most cars stuck in traffic and getting to see all the top sites with ease. When you pick up a map of 17 Mile Drive, they offer 21 points of interest. Sure you can spend the day checking everything out, but there are realy only a few worthy stops.  These were our favourites.

9. China Rock

Looking over China rock along the 17 Mile Drive
Looking over China rock along the 17 Mile Drive

China Rock is another beautiful viewpoint on 17 Mile Drive. This was a Chinese community in the 1800s where they built small lean-to homes against the rocks.

10. Bird Rock

Bird Rock, along 17 Mile Drive, is a little smaller today.
Bird Rock, along 17 Mile Drive, is a little smaller today.

Our next stop was another beautiful lookout at Bird Rock. Joaquin told us that it used to be several inches higher but they cleared away all the bird poop.

Once they cleared the layer of dung away, the sea lions took over for a bit but now that the layer of white bird droppings have taken over again, it’s gone back to the birds offering great sightings for bird watchers.

11. Seal Rock

Seal Rock is a good picnic area and is a great spot to get out, stretch your legs and go for a walk. It was named for the harbor seals and sea lions that frequent the area.

12. The Lone Cypress

The Lone cypress on 17 Mile Drive
The Lone cypress on 17 Mile Drive

We were most looking forward to Cypress Point Lookout as it’s the photo that we’ve seen all over the Internet of 17 Mile Drive. But it ended up being a bit disappointing to us. It seems that most photographers have done their clever framing and positioning to make it seem more exciting than it is.

If you want to capture that iconic shot that is on most websites, walk over the fence and down onto a ledge that frames the tree by itself.

Even though we were disappointed, the Lone Cypress is still a must-stop on 17 Mile Drive. It is the symbol of Pebble Beach and the 250-year-old tree now has steel cables holding it up. If you manage to do the 17 Mile Drive in the near future, you must stop here for a look because you never know how much longer the Lone Cypress will last.

13. Ghost Tree

The Ghost Tree on 17 Mile Drive
The Ghost Tree on 17 Mile Drive

Just a little farther along the road was the Ghost Tree and that was a more impressive view for us. The sunset happens directly behind the Ghost Tree (in March anyway) and it makes for a beautiful scene.

It’s a stark contrast to the Lone Cypress that is still living. This dead cypress tree with naked branches gives an ominous view of the sea. Legend has it the Lady in Lace can be seen at the Ghost Tree on foggy nights.

12. Mansions

Mansions dot the landscape along 17 Mile Drive
Mansions dot the landscape along 17 Mile Drive

There are 21 points of interest on the 17 Mile Drive route map, but none of them mention the $20-$40 million dollar mansions that line the shore. Dave and I couldn’t believe the number of multimillion-dollar homes and wondered, “who lives here?” How do so many people have such huge wealth?

The 17 mile drive houses are truly built for the rich and famous and it is fun to imagine who is hiding behind the high manicured hedges. We could have stopped for a peek at each property but that would have taken the entire day!

13. Pescadero Point

Walking along Pebble Beach at 17 Mile Drive
Walking along Pebble Beach at 17 Mile Drive

Before cycling 17 Mile Drive, we spent a day at Carmel By the Sea surfing with the Carmel Surf Company off its lovely long sandy beach. While there, our instructor pointed out Pebble Beach and we didn’t realize just how close the 17 Mile Drive was to where we started.

Stopping at Pescadero Point gave us lovely views of Carmel Bay and Stillwater cove. It was our last scenic view before cutting back into the Pebble Beach community and heading home to our stay at Carmel by the Sea.

14. Pebble Beach Visitor Center

The Pebble Beach Visitor Center traces the history of 17 Mile Drive from its beginnings as a carriage route in 1881. There are 20 exhibits with interactive maps, an outdoor patio and food and drinks.

  • Hours: 8am to 7pm.

15. Pebble Beach Food and Wine

If you happen to be in the area in April, the annual Pebble Beach Food & Wine even has been a tradition since 2008. More than 100 celebrity chefs partner with 250 wineries setting up tasting rooms for wine tastings and food pairings.

Where to Stay On 17 Mile Drive

Mission Ranch

Mission Ranch Carmel by the Sea

We even made the detour to visit Clint Eastwood’s famous ranch. The Mission Ranch dates back to the 1800s and was rescued by Eastwood while he was mayor of Carmel. Today it is a hotel and restaurant set on 22 acres with sheep grazing in the meadow.

It’s worth a trip just to say you’ve been there because it seems that everyone you meet from Big Sur to Monterey asks if you went to Clint Eastwood’s ranch.

The Hideaway

The Hideaway in Carmel By the Sea California

We ended our cycling trip at our boutique hotel The Hideaway located just a half a mile from the beach but also centrally located downtown.

After a ride through the Lodge at Pebble Beach and the Pebble Beach Golf Links, we were weaving our way through the quiet back streets of Carmel towards our lodging. We loved our hotel in Carmel and felt compelled to recommend it at a home base for your exploration of both 17 Mile Drive, and Carmel by the Sea

The Hideaway has luxurious rooms with fireplace and sitting area and we could have spent days relaxing in its quiet tranquility. There’s a beautiful sitting area outside and the manager told us that it is often toasty warm being secluded and sunny most of the day.

The beautiful Carmel Bay at Carmel by the Sea
The beautiful Carmel Bay at Carmel by the Sea

Inn at Spanish Bay – Located at the Links Golf Course, the Inn at Spanish Bay is a luxury retreat. All rooms have a cozy fireplace and there are many dining options available at this 5-star resort overlooking Spanish Bay

Lodge at Pebble Beach – The Lodge at Pebble Beach dates back to 1919. Renovated to 5-star luxury, the lodge is famous for overlooking the 18th hole of the impeccable golf course located on the sea.

Casa Palermo – Located at the Pebble Beach Golf and Links, this Mediterranean Style Accommodation has 24 elegant rooms with an award-winning spa, golf, and five-star amenities.

Where to Eat along 17 Mile Drive

La Balena Cucina Toscana

La Balena in Carmel by the Sea
La Balena in Carmel by the Sea

With its central location in Carmel, we were just a short walk from our dinner reservations at La Balena Cucina Toscana Carmel. Juniper Street seems to be the happening street for restaurants and cafes in Carmel and both The Hideaway and Labalena are situated on it.

La Balena was our favourite meal of our entire trip through Big Sur and Lake Tahoe. The atmosphere was outstanding as we dined on their outdoor patio with heat lamps keeping us toasty warm. Run by Chef Emanuel Bartolini and his wife, the restaurant captures Tuscan cuisine beautifully.

Food carmel by the sea
The Beratta was to die for.

As you know we’ve spent a lot of time in Tuscany and felt completely at home eating fresh burrata with olive oil, gnocchi with truffles, and savoury spaghetti neri with clams, muscles, prawns in a tomato chili brodo.

Carmel by the Sea is a wonderful base for both exploring Monterey and Big Sur and our time there was some of the most pleasant days of our trip!

Pebble Beach Food

We didn’t eat in Pebble Beach, but there are plenty of options to eat for 17 mile drive restaurants and you will get your gate fee reimbursed if you eat at one of the restaurants. Most people picnic at one of the many beaches and picnic areas. So pack a lunch and make a day of it.

17 Mile Drive – The Details

We started at the 17 Mile drive entrance at the the Pebble Beach gate. If you are driving south from San Francisco along Highway 1 take the exit to CA 68 West towards Pebble Beach/Pacific Grove. You’ll then see signs for the Pacific Grove Pebble Beach Gate entrance.

How much does it cost to drive 17 Mile Drive?

If walking or cycling 17 Mile drive is free. The Cost for cars is $10.50 at the gate, but if you spend $35 at a restaurant, you can get your gate fee back.

Where do you start 17 Mile Drive?

From Big Sur Adventures in Monterey, we cycled around ocean view boulevard to sunset drive and made our way to the Pebble Beach Gate where 17 mile drive begins.

How long is 17 Mile drive to see?

You can zip through the 17 miles quickly, but we suggest three to four hours to see all the sights. Have lunch in Pebble beach and make a day of it. There are beaches, scenic views and plenty of places to catch sunset.

Is there accommodation on 17 mile drive.

There are three luxury Pebble Beach resorts in the 17 mile drive. The Inn at Spanish Bay, Casa Palmero and the Lodge at Pebble Beach.

17 Mile Drive Hours of Operation

17 Mile drive is open from sunrise to sunset to visitors, but if you are staying in one of the Pebble Beach resorts, you have access to it 24/7. The gates to Pebble Beach are patrolled 24 hours a day.

17 Mile Drive Cost

  • The cost is 10.50 for cars.
  • Walking and cycling is free.
  • Motorcycles are not allowed on 17 mile drive.
  • If you eat at one of the 17 mile drive restaurants, you will get your gate fee reimbursed.
  • For more information on 17 Mile Drive, Big Sur, Carmel, and Monterey, visit the See Monterey Website.
  • Ebiking tours of 17 Mile Drive, Big Sur, and Pacific Grove visit Big Sur Adventures.  Tour packages start at $59 per person.
  • For accommodations in Carmel by the Sea check out The Hideaway for reservations and prices.
17 mile Drive California

Our trip to California was in partnership with Visit California. For more information on California travel and itineraries, visit their website. As usual, all opinions are our own.

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About The Planet D

Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil are the owners and founders of The Planet D. After traveling to 115 countries, on all 7 continents over the past 13 years they have become one of the foremost experts in travel. Being recognized as top travel bloggers and influencers by the likes of Forbes Magazine, the Society of American Travel Writers and USA Today has allowed them to become leaders in their field.

Leave a Comment

5 thoughts on “17 Mile Drive – What to See on the Scenic Drive of Pebble Beach”

  1. Ebikes look super fun! cant wait to use them in other areas as well. Great article, cant wait to get out there some day.Cheers

  2. This is the first time I read about this birdwatching spot !
    I will surely give it a try when I’ll get to US, thanks !
    And much better if I can go there by bike 🙂

  3. What a great list! You shared great adventures and pictures in your trip!! These looks really great and awesome. Thank you so much for sharing a nice experiences..
    Keep sharing!