When my cousin Jackie suggested stopping at Pebble Beach on our day trip from Carmel to Monterey, my first thought was “Nope.” How boring! I’ve never understood people’s obsession with golf. Especially the whole whispering/quiet clapping thing. I mean, if you’re a true pro, why can’t you concentrate if your fans are chatting or cheering? Baseball/football/soccer/basketball/volleyball players don’t require silence from the crowd in order to handle THEIR balls. Just sayin!
And while I was thinking through all of that in my head, my eyes must have glazed over. Realizing she was losing me, Jackie quickly mentioned something called the “17-Mile Drive” and assured me it was a scenic path worth exploring. Intrigued, I decided to trust her.
When we arrived at the entry gate, we paid our admission ($10.25 per vehicle, and they only accept cash) and starting following the red-dotted line that clearly marks the tour — a brilliant move, as it would be easy for the 1.5 million annual visitors to get lost in the maze of exclusive neighborhoods included on the route.
Top Points of Interest in Pebble Beach
I’m pleased to say Jackie wasn’t lying — passing through those gates was like walking through the wardrobe and into Narnia: We discovered a magical world filled with dramatic coastal cliffs, snow-white beaches, thick forests and yes, even the dreaded golf courses. Be prepared for driving at a leisurely pace, stopping frequently as you wind through the Del Monte Forest and along the Pacific coast, hopping in and out of your car to explore the 21 points of interest. And yes, the drive is 17 miles long.
Here are the 5 stops I enjoyed the most:
- Even though this stop doesn’t occur until midway through your drive, I simply must put The Lone Cyprus at the top of this list of must-sees. One of the most photographed trees in the world, the Lone Cypress is also one of California’s most enduring landmarks. The Monterey Cypress is native to just two locations in the world: the headlands at Cypress Point, and across Carmel Bay at Point Lobos. I could have stared at this solitary, yet resilient tree for hours, pondering how it has prevailed on its granite perch for more than 250 years.
- If you’re looking for wildlife, Bird Rock is the stop for you: It’s home to myriad shorebirds, harbor seals and sea lions. Why have they chosen this great little island to call home? Well, it wasn’t always such a great little island … it was actually super gross. The rock was encrusted in several feet of bird poop until 1930, when it was harvested as a fertilizer. Those smart sea lions took advantage of the newly cleaned perch, and have been sunbathing here ever since. A picnic area is one stop ahead, if you’d like to grab a snack while surrounded by a mix of marine and bird life.
- Cypress Point Lookout (two stops away from The Lone Cypress) offers one of the most dramatic views of the Pacific coastline. If you happen to be here at the crack of dawn, it’s the best place to catch a sunset thanks to its southwesterly view. But no matter the time of day, it’s just a breathtakingly picturesque spot worth checking out.
- Ready for lunch? Time for a stop at The Lodge, the heart of Pebble Beach and home to the world-famous Pebble Beach Golf Links. Built in 1919, it’s open to the public and offers several dining options. Overlooking the 18th hole, you’ll find The Bench and its eclectic menu. The food here is quite tasty, but the views of the golf course are truly glorious — yes, even I could appreciate this immaculate course on the edge of the Pacific. After we ate salads and ice cream (life’s all about balance, right?), we meandered around the property to stretch our legs.
- The Restless Sea is a somewhat chaotic vista point that immediately reminds you of the incredible power of the ocean. Here, you can see the offshore turbulence generated by the submerged terrain off Point Joe (another stop). The waves are constantly crashing into one another and into the rocks that surround the shoreline. Scientists think that the submerged rocks slow the water, causing waves to break early. Even though it was so restless, I found the sound of the sea soothing and the crashing waves mesmerizing.
There are several stops along the 17 Mile Drive that we skipped that I’d love to see on a future visit, including the stately trees at Crocker Grove, the panoramic Fanshell Beach and the boardwalk above the beach at Spanish Bay. While I’ll NEVER be a golf enthusiast, I can definitely see why Pebble Beach is so legendary. And I’m proud of myself for branching out of my comfort zone. Insert golf clap here. Shhhh, quieter.