7 Unforgettable Backdrops on California's 17 Mile Drive

By: Susie Stauffer

California’s 17 Mile Drive winds along a dramatic coastline connected to the Pacific Coast Highway, a world-renowned coastal drive with a wealth of striking natural attractions. Pay a small fee to embark on the natural beauty of 17 Mile Drive, a road leading through oceanfront areas and alongside upscale neighborhoods. Leading through Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove, you’ll be treated to many famous sites including untouched Del Monte Forest, world-famous golf courses, incredible wildlife viewing, and some of California’s most pristine and impressive beaches where you can stay awhile and absorb the exquisiteness.


7. Pescadero Point & Ghost Trees

The gnarled, white trees within Pescadero Point are a major attraction along California’s 17-Mile Drive. These pale, ghostly trees are clustered along the coast at Pescadero Point, evoking images of ghosts for their eerie, usual appearance. The legend of Lady in Lace is a long-standing tale surrounding the most famous Ghost Tree on the Pebble Beach coast: the fable surrounds a woman’s image appearing on foggy, dark nights, in the middle 17-Mile Drive road, claimed to have been spotted by drivers on route. Many say the image is Dona Maria del Carmen Barreto, a previous land owner in Pebble Beach, while others suggest it’s simply refracted light. The sun-bleached Ghost Tree is also at a point of coast renowned among surfers to produce some of the biggest waves on the California Coast and the views south to Carmel are sublime.

Pescadero Point California

6. Spanish Bay

Spanish Bay is a point on 17-Mile Drive that is so scenic and inviting, stopping the car for a look around is practically a rite of passage. Here, the beach and rock-fringed coastline is especially awe-inspiring with alabaster sand, rocky peaks featuring sensational stand-alone trees, and a picnic area which provides a memorable spot for lunch or a snack. This is a place you won’t want to leave, and one that isn’t usually crowded considering how spread out 17-Mile Drive is. One of the most revered resorts, The Inn at Spanish Bay, sits on Carmel Bay along the southern coast of the Monterey Peninsula within the 17-Mile Drive gates. It overlooks the famous and world-class Links at Spanish Bay, one of the most dramatic golf courses in the country. You’ll pay a hefty fee to play the 4.5-hour course but it’s worth every penny.

The Inn at Spanish Bay California

5. Huckleberry Hill

Another way to stretch your legs along 17 Mile Drive and explore another beautiful backdrop is a stop at Huckleberry Hill to hike the nearly three kilometer trail near Monterey. Rated in difficulty as moderate, the trail is accessible throughout the year and used primarily for hiking (you’ll definitely see some dog-walkers here). The shore trail traverse the perimeter of the Monterey Pine Preserve–one of the biggest pine forests in the world– and makes for a short hike ideal for even smaller children who enjoy the outdoors. At Veteran’s Park, which is at the trail head, grab a map from the box before you begin and get ready to get your blood flowing along a few steeper sections. Extending 81-acres, Huckleberry Hill is a natural gem within walking and listening distance to bay side attractions and barking seals though the views from the ridge summit are mostly obstructed.

Photo by: The World of Dee J
Photo by: The World of Dee J

4. Point Pinos Lighthouse

The oldest lighthouse on California’s West Coast, Point Pinos Lighthouse, is in lovely Pacific Grove was built and began operating in 1855. First lit in the late 19th century, Point Pinos is not only the oldest lighthouse on the U.S. West Coast but the only continuously working of its kind. The light source is almost 90-feet above sea level and is a simple, one-kilowatt bulb which produces a beam visible for almost 16 nautical miles in favorable weather conditions. The lighthouse isn’t a typical sight either, it is built in appearance of a two-story house rather than a vaulting, tower-like building with a steep-pitched roof, white clapboard siding, and the light on top. Tours are available daily Monday through Sunday make your way to the top for incredible views during this iconic drive and take some time to explore the oceanfront property.

Point Pinos Lighthouse California


3. Cypress Point Lookout

Cypress Point Lookout is a bit deceiving, appearing to be a series of golf courses and upscale neighborhoods, but as you approach, it becomes evident this is another of the must-see points along 17 Mile Drive. At the bay area point, be prepared to stop for awhile and gaze out across the scene unfolding. Most times of year, the rocks are laden with sun-bathing harbor seals, a common sight along many points along the coast but not in quite such a stunning area. This is also the spot where The Lone Cypress is–a stand-alone green-topped Cypress tree that sits all alone atop a craggy peak with the ocean spread out behind it (one of the most photographed sites on the drive). If you’re lucky enough, peer beyond The Lone Cypress and you just might catch a glimpse of a whale pod swimming in the gleaming waters behind.

Cypress Point Lookout California

2. Pacific Grove

Artistic legacy, gorgeous Victorian homes, and beautiful marine-protected areas put Pacific Grove and its immense natural beauty on the map as a major 17-Mile Drive attraction. Many Victorian homes within the Monterey County city (the most per-capita in the United States) were renovated into stately B&Bs worth a look or an overnight stay. Much like Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea, Pacific Grove became a haven for artists, especially painters, in the late 19th century and following years for its incredibly inspirational backdrop. Beautiful and uplifting, many famous people have made Pacific Grove their home over the years including American writer John Steinbeck, Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson, and musician Frank Zappa. Pacific Grove is well known for mixed oak and pine forests, and marine habitats. At the town’s most southern point is a Monarch Butterfly breeding ground within a mixed forest in a residential area.

Pacific Grove California

1. Asilomar State Beach

Asilomar State Beach is definitely the best in the area, and surprisingly, hardly ever crowded. A part of the oceanfront is covered with scalable rocks– climb over and through them, to explore the beachfront and see the many ocean critters taking shelter from crashing waves. Making sand castles, collecting sea shells, and wildlife watching are fun family-friendly activities and a perfect way to stretch out if driving the coastal expanse and not just 17 Mile Drive. As with most points on route, it’s not uncommon to see whales swimming off the shore so keep a keen eye. There are some easy trails to hike within the vicinity too, another great way to get away from the car for awhile. If you happen to be passing near sunset, it’s completely worth staying on the beach for a colorful, end-of-the-day show and settling in to see a magnificent showing of stars.

Asilomar State Beach