In addition to the Monterey Aquarium, the 17 Mile Drive is Monterey County’s signature attraction. While the aquarium provides an up close look at the creatures present in the Pacific Ocean, the 17 Mile Drive provides visitors with the big picture – sweeping and stunning views of the ocean, broken only by steep cliffs and majestic beaches. The 17 Mile Drive is a road that passes through some of the Monterey Peninsula’s signature attractions: Cypress Point, Bird Rock, Point Joe, Pescadero Point, Fanshell Beach & Seal Point. It is also worth noting that this drive is one of the most historic drives in all of California, as people have been attracted to the area since 1880, when the 17 Mile Road began as a carriage road for guests at Monterey's Hotel del Monte.
Today, the road is part of the Pebble Beach Resort, which is private property. As such, the Resort charges a ten dollar ($10.00) entrance fee to pass through the area; but this amount can be recouped should a visitor purchase souvenirs or eat at one of the establishments present along the route. From the North entrance (closest to Monterey), the road first passes Spanish Bay, a place where Gaspar de Portola and his crew camped in 1769. After Spanish Bay, the road provides two viewpoints at the Restless Sea, and Point Joe, both of which focus on the turbulent nature of the Pacific Ocean around the Monterey Peninsula, and the difficulties sailors faced in attempting to enter nearby Monterey Harbor. After Point Joe, the road stretches out and runs parallel along the Pacific Ocean for a little over a mile. During this stretch, visitors will have great opportunities to see wildlife in their native habitats at both Bird Rock and the Fanshell Overlook, which feature shorebirds and seals.
Although all of these early locations along the 17 Mile Drive are stunning in their own right, the three most popular locations occur after Fanshell Overlook. First, visitors will see the Cypress Point Lookout, which has great views of the Pacific and the coast. Second, visitors can stop and see the Lone Cypress, which is one of California’s most iconic trees. This cypress has sat above the Pacific for over 250 years, and is a popular destination for photographers as well the public. Finally, visitors will pass the Ghost Tree – a cypress that has been bleached white from exposure to the elements, and Pescadero Point before ending the 17 Mile Drive at the Lodge at Pebble Beach, which provides a great location to enjoy a meal, a round of golf, or just a quiet moment before heading into Carmel, California. If you are in Monterey, the 17 Mile Drive is an attraction that should not be missed.