If you’re a first-time visitor to the Carmel and Monterey area, 17-Mile Drive ($9/vehicle) can introduce you to some of the most beautiful and representative land and seascapes on the Central Coast. But don’t get too excited yet—long ago, the locally all-powerful Pebble Beach Corporation realized what a precious commodity they held in this road, and began charging a toll.
The good news is that when you pay your fee at the gatehouse, you’ll get a map of the drive that describes the parks and sights that you will pass as you make your way along the winding coastal road. These include the much-photographed Lone Cypress, the beaches of Spanish Bay, and Pebble Beach’s golf course, resort, and housing complex.
There are plenty of turnouts where you can stop to take photos of the stunning ocean and the iconic cypress trees. You can picnic at many of the formal beaches, most of which have basic restroom facilities and ample parking lots. The only food and gas to be had are at the Inn at Spanish Bay and the Lodge at Pebble Beach.
If you’re in a great hurry, you can get from one end of the 17-Mile Drive to the other in 20 minutes—but that would defeat the main purpose of taking 17-Mile Drive, which is to go slowly and stop often to enjoy the beauty of the area.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition