You may have heard of Pebble Beach before in relation to its world-famous golf courses AND playing host to the US Open, but did you know that it is open to the public if you wish to check off a bucket list item and play a round of golf?
If you are more inclined to exploring beaches and taking in stunning scenic coastal views as I am, then you will be more interested to discover 17-Mile Drive at Pebble Beach—home to one of the most scenic drives in the world.
Follow the red-dotted line to visit beautiful beaches, see dramatic cliffs, visit groves of trees, and photograph a coastal landscape that is simply enchanting.
Plan to spend the day leisurely exploring and taking pictures all along the coast.
“The forest is not a place to drive through in a hurry. It is a place to take your time and enjoy the magnificent views and the natural state of the forest.”Samuel F. B. Morse, Pebble Beach Resorts Founder
Discover 17-Mile Drive
17-Mile Drive can be reached from three different public access gates:
- Highway Gate 1 on the South end of Pebble Beach where you can visit Shepherd’s Knoll and Huckleberry Hill
- Pacific Grove Gate on the North where you’ll start at Spanish Bay Beach
- Carmel Gate where you can take in the Ford Meadow and then backtrack past the Pebble Beach Golf Links to start your exploration at the Visitor Center.
There is an entrance fee charged per vehicle if you wish to enter the private community of Pebble Beach and discover 17-Mile Drive.
Get Your Camera Ready
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Whatever your skill level with a camera, be prepared for some amazing photos in Pebble Beach.
Canon Powershot G1 – This camera is great if you leave the camera in AUTO mode and work well with a point and shoot.
Canon T8i – If you are just learning photography skills and want to switch back and forth between Auto, Aperture Priority, or Manual Mode, this makes a great entry level DSLR.
Canon 6d Mark II – A great camera for advanced photographers who are comfortable with shooting in Manual Mode. You’ll get some outstanding shots with this DSLR.
Smart Phone – Cameras on your phone nowadays are amazing. If this is your picture-taking device, you will surely capture some amazing images. I usually “tourist” with my DSLR around my neck and my Smart Phone in hand! And yes, I probably don’t “blend in” that well.
You may even wish to arrive early in the morning for the best photo opportunities. Whatever you choose as your camera as you discover 17-Mile Drive, you will want to have the battery charged and ready to go for the day!
Spanish Bay Beach
Capturing its name from the Spanish explorers who camped here in 1769 as they tried to find Monterey Bay, it is a wonder they chose to even leave.
Within the private community of Pebble Beach, Spanish Bay Beach is simply pristine and welcoming with soft sand, picnic tables, and views that stretch on for miles.
Stroll the wooden boardwalk above the snow-white beach of Spanish Bay going North or South.
The Links at Spanish Bay and the sand dunes add a beautiful backdrop to the beach.
This is one of the most turbulent sections of coastline in Pebble Beach as you drive along 17-Mile Drive. Waves converge from the north and the south upon each other and crash dramatically against rocks below the surface and along the shoreline.
The interpretive sign at the entrance to the Point Joe parking lot reads, “In the early 1900s, a man named Joe lived in a driftwood hut here, selling trinkets to tourists and tending goats.”
It is not known if the point was named for the man named “Joe” or if Point Joe is where the man lived and he took on the name after living there. In earlier days, Point Joe was often mistaken for Monterey Bay and became the site of many shipwrecks of unfortunate sailors trying to put in at Monterey Bay.
A small Chinese fishing village was established at China Rock in the 1800s long before Pebble Beach was created. If you look carefully, you can still see cooking smoke caked onto the rocks from this early settlement. Today, China Rock offers beautiful scenic views along 17-Mile Drive.
As you may have guessed, Bird Rock is home to a variety of birds, particularly pelicans and cormorants. Did you know that in 1930, four to five FEET of bird poop or guano was harvested from the rock for fertilizer?
Once the fertilizer was removed, sea lions took advantage of the popular perch and settled in for some sunbathing and have been there ever since making it a popular wildlife spot.
Depending on the time of year, you may not actually see any seals at Seal Rock, but this beautiful beach is a perfect chance for you to get out and explore as you discover 17-Mile Drive. You can check out the tide pools, stop for a picnic lunch, meditate to the sound of the ocean waves, or walk along the boardwalk to the Gingerbread House.
Since Fanshell Beach is a prime “pupping” habitat for harbor seals along the Central California Coast, you will likely see seals here. In the Spring, the female seals will be stretched out along the rocks basking in the sun. Baby seals are often born between the months of March and June along these secluded beaches.
Cypress Point Lookout
If you happen to be driving along and want to see 17-Mile Drive at sunset, Cypress Point Lookout offers a stunning vantage point. The backdrop of white sandy beaches and ocean waves make for amazing views.
You will also find seals along this section of beach. Many harbor seals return each spring to give birth here. The beach is closed from April 1 to June 1 for pupping season.
Home to one of the only two native Cypress forests in the world, Pebble Beach claims the oldest and largest Monterey Cypress living in the world in Crocker Grove. (The other forest is not too far away at Point Lobos State Park across Carmel Bay.)
Standing on the rocky outcrop, the Lone Cypress has been a sentinel figure for over 250 years. It has braved storms and winds as it overlooks the Pacific Ocean. It is the midpoint along 17-Mile Drive. The Lone Cypress Tree is also featured as the iconic logo of Pebble Beach Resorts.
Ghost Trees at Pescadero Point
The sun-bleached Cypress trees often have a spooky appearance to guests of Pebble Beach.
If you are into surfing, you may wish to note that the swells at this point can reach upwards of 50 feet in the winter months if the weather conditions are just right.
Whether it is the start of your journey to discover 17-Mile Drive or the end, be sure to plan for a stop at the Visitor Center where you can read the entire history of Pebble Beach as it grew from humble beginnings to a golf capital of the world. You will also find a small cafe, souvenirs, and restroom facilities.
If you bring your own snacks and a picnic lunch to eat along the way, don’t forget to pack Built Bar protein bars.
Bonus * Use Code SJTRAVELS at checkout for 10% off your Built Bar purchase.
Play a Round of Golf
After you spend the day discovering 17-Mile Drive, you may wish to think about golf next. If it has always been on your bucket list to play a round of golf at the legendary Pebble Beach golf courses, you have world class golf courses to choose from:
- Pebble Beach Golf Links – ranked the #1 public golf course in America
- Spyglass Hill Golf Course
- The Links at Spanish Bay
- Del Monte Golf Course
- The Hay – a 9-Hole Short Course designed by Tiger Woods and TGR Design
Accommodations at Pebble Beach
Looking for a little pampering after your drive? How about some luxurious amenities and world-class service?
Consider one of these amazing accommodations:
- Lodge at Pebble Beach – a stately lodge overlooking Pebble Beach Golf Links
- Fairway One at The Lodge – complete with 30 rooms and two four-bedroom golf cottages
- The Inn at Spanish Bay – overlooks the Links at Spanish Bay and the Pacific Ocean
- Casa Palmero – 24 suites in a Mediterranean style
- Pamper yourself at The Spa at Pebble Beach – a 5-star retreat
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Final Thoughts on How to Discover 17-Mile Drive and Pebble Beach in Amazing Photos
When you set out to discover 17-Mile Drive in Pebble Beach, you may not realize just how memorable and stunningly beautiful this section of the California coast will be.
Whether you take pictures of your journey all day long or catalog the pictures in your mind, you won’t soon forget the spray of the sea as it crashes against the rocky shoreline or the beautiful snow white beaches of Spanish Bay Beach.
Build memories for you and your family that will last forever.