17 Mile Drive

17 Mile Drive
After a rainy morning, the sun comes out, and the bruised Pacific Ocean begins to heal. A lone and very fat seagull calmly sinks into a picnic table, creating ‘bird loaf’ as it settles down for a nap. The wind blows the smell of seawater across the gray sand. This tiny beach, barely a mile from the Spanish Bay golf course, is just one of the stops on the famed 17 Mile Drive in Pebble Beach, each one seemingly more beautiful than the last.

17 Mile Drive can be accessed at one of three main gates: Carmel, Pacific Grove, or Highway One midway between. The drive circles the extreme southwestern outcropping of the land that encircles Monterey Bay in Central California. Upon entering, visitors receive a map that details viewpoints as well as shopping and dining sites along the way. There is a charge for the drive that mirrors what residents pay as part of their ‘HOA’ fees – as this is a private area, the fees go to help maintain the roads and protect the dramatic Del Monte Forest and magnificent coastline.

Five golf courses are noted on the map, and there are many private putting green areas as well. The Northern California Golf Association makes its home here, and enthusiasts will relish the chance to walk in the footsteps of Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer, and other luminaries. To play at the Pebble Beach Golf Links costs four hundred and ninety-five dollars, with club rentals extra; those not staying at the inn will also pay for their golf cart. On the pricey side? The Inn at Spanish Bay offers a ‘twilight’ rate of one hundred and sixty-five dollars – such a bargain!

This is indeed the land of the beautiful people. Take the time to wander through the public areas of the Pebble Beach Lodge and check out the gift shops before heading to the Pebble Beach Market and assembling a lunch from the excellent deli offerings. Picnic tables dot the lawn for those who don’t want to picnic on the beach. Or else head indoors for an elegant, if pricey, meal; those who spend over thirty-five dollars at one of the sit-down restaurants here or at Spanish Bay will have their gate fee reimbursed.

Not into golf or the lifestyles of the rich and famous? The views alone are worth the cost of the drive. The famed “Lone Cypress” makes its home here, as do harbor seals who bear their young here in the spring. To protect these magnificent creatures, several stops along the way “close” from April through June, but drivers will hear the calls of pinniped families sunning themselves on the beaches. Photographers should bring tripods, different lenses, and any other equipment deemed necessary to capture the beauty of the coastline; the shifting light from fog to sun makes for incredible picture-taking opportunities. Beach enthusiasts will enjoy the area as well, although those from Southern California will find the shoreline cold by comparison.

Expect to spend from an hour and a half to the entire day traversing the drive. Seventeen miles doesn’t seem long, but visitors will stop, park, walk, and enjoy before returning to their cars and continuing on the way. This is one of the most celebrated areas in California; enjoy your stay!

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Monterey and Environs

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This content was written by Korie Beth Brown, Ph.D. . If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Korie Beth Brown, Ph.D. for details.